The very first thing someone should do if the accident just occurred and they believe they have suffered some injury is to tell the police officer that you really need to be seen in a hospital or an emergency room. That’s the place to get fully assessed and to have any x-rays taken that may be necessary and rule out fractures or something more serious that you’re not aware of. So if you think you’ve been injured in an accident, definitely call the police and request an ambulance to go to the hospital. If for some reason you don’t wish to go to the hospital by ambulance, get yourself there the same day and get fully checked out. That way, you’ll be able to completely describe what injuries you sustained to the emergency room doctors and get fully assessed. That’s the first step.
It’s necessary to tell the police your version of what occurred. If you’ve been injured, it’s also necessary to tell them that. With regard to whether or not you should always call the police, if you’re certain no one was injured and it’s a minor little fender bender, then you’re really not required to call the police. If you exchange documents with the other person and you get a sense that everything is above board and seems to be reasonable, then you can do without calling the police. Certainly if you’ve suffered an injury, though, that’s an automatic indication that you should be calling the police. That is no longer minor because you don’t even know the extent of the injury at that point.
Those things are certainly important, but they don’t necessarily mean that you don’t have a case. You don’t know who the police officer is going to believe when they hear the stories from each of the drivers. If for some reason you are simply not believed by the cop, they may or may not give you a ticket. They may also give you a ticket for something completely unrelated, like your registration or inspection being out of date. Those things have nothing to do with how the accident occurred. Even if you get a ticket involving what’s called a moving violation, that can be handled in municipal court in a variety of ways. One of them is to simply prove that it isn’t true, which can result in you being found not guilty; another is to plea bargain it down to something that doesn’t mean anything anymore, including something called a civil reservation, where the judge puts on the record that it cannot be used in any subsequent civil action. The mere fact that someone gets a ticket doesn’t mean it’s the end of the case. Particularly if there is a serious injury present, you should always talk to a skilled personal injury lawyer.
Your responsibility is to notify your insurance company. Always. Even if it is completely the other person’s fault, you really should be calling your company, reporting the accident, and running through their procedures so that you’re protected. With regard to notifying the other person’s insurance company, ordinarily the lawyer will take care of that. That’s about the very first thing that I do once a client is signed to our office.
That’s an interesting question. I never really inquired or even paid attention to that. If, during my discussion with the client or the initial couple of phone calls, they indicate to me that they didn’t notify their insurance company, then I would encourage them to do so. I think what you’d find more often is the rare occasion when a client calls you before they call the doctor, which happens especially for clients I have represented in the past who may just want to double-check with me about what kind of doctor they should be seeing. More often than not, when I’ve spoken with someone, they have already been seen by a doctor, but I have worked both ways, of course.
I really don’t think you should give them any kind of a statement. Especially if you have nothing in writing from them, tell them to write you a letter putting in writing what their request is but that you’re not going to talk to them. At that point, if you’ve retained an attorney, direct them to that attorney and let the attorney deal with it. You should not be giving a statement to the other insurance company without representation.
It really depends on when they make that determination. If you’re getting a knee-jerk reaction right after you’ve notified them of the claim, I wouldn’t put too much stock in that until we’ve had a chance to complete our investigation and gather all the details that we need to present the case. That might include photographs, witness statements, other investigative reports, and things like that. So if that kind of a denial happens right away, I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in that. If that denial occurs after we’ve done our job and presented everything to the insurance company, then it’s very simple. At that point, you have to determine whether it needs to go into suit, meaning placed with the courts. There are, at times, reasons why they are denying that case. It does happen occasionally that they are right. Insurance companies are rarely right, but sometimes they are.
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