What information should I obtain immediately following an accident?

The first thing you should do in an accident is seek medical attention if you are injured.  Then, if you are able, you should collect as much of the following as you can:

  • The name, phone number, address from all drivers involved and passengers if any.
  • License plate numbers from each car involved.
  • Insurance information for all drivers involved including insurance carrier, policy number and insurance phone number.
  • Phone numbers and addresses of any witnesses.
  • A copy of the police report.
  • Note if anyone was cited by the police for causing the accident.
  • Note if anyone said “I’m sorry” or “It was my fault” because I was tired/running late/reaching for something/on medication/drinking etc.
  • Take pictures of the scene of the accident, including injuries and property damage.

What should I avoid doing if I am in an accident?

  • Do not speak to the other party’s insurance company until you retain an attorney.
  • Do not answer any questions by outside parties such as “are you okay?”.
  • Do not say things like “I’m sorry,” “It was my fault,” “I’m not hurt,” “I’m fine.”  These simple words will likely be used against you later.
  • You are required to cooperate with YOUR insurance company, giving them honest information about the facts of the accident.  With any possible injuries you can state you are unsure to the extent of injuries and are awaiting examination by your medical provider.

When should I contact an attorney?

You should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible while the details of the accident are still fresh in your mind.  Once you hire an attorney you can tell the insurance companies to call your attorney for any information regarding the accident.  This will protect you from saying anything that might hurt your case.  Additionally, if your accident requires additional investigation, it is important to have an attorney to hire private investigators and forensic experts to gather all the possible evidence from witnesses, the vehicles and the scene of the accident before sensitive information is destroyed.

Should I seek medical attention even if I’m okay?

I recommend being evaluated by a doctor after any type of accident.  This will help to document any injuries or potential injuries to ensure you are compensated for any future treatment you may need for injuries caused by the accident.

If you’re not noticeably injured immediately after the accident, you may still be injured and not realize it.  Some injuries may not present themselves until 12 or so hours after the accident.  By that time many people decide to let it heal itself if it’s not immediately too bad.  If pain and injury persist and it has taken weeks to get proper medical treatment, it is much more difficult to obtain compensation.

Even the smallest feeling of dizziness or soreness should be reported to a medical care provider, even if it seems silly at the time.  Minor changes in the way you feel can be the first signs of something more serious, which only a medical professional may pick up on.

Whose insurance is responsible to pay for my damages?

That depends on who is at fault for the accident.  If you are not at fault for the accident then the other driver’s insurance company is responsible to pay for any and all of your damages caused by the accident including both property damages and personal injury.  However, the insurance company is limited to pay out the maximum of the insured’s liability coverage amount.  Keep in mind that the minimum State requirement for liability coverage is $15,000 in the State of Arizona.

If you have UIM (under insured / un-insured) coverage, and the at fault driver’s insurance policy limits does not cover the total cost of your damages, you will have a claim against your own insurance policy.

If the accident is your fault, your own insurance company will cover damages for the driver you hit up to the policy limits of your insurance policy.  Your policy will not cover your personal injury damages.  However, if you have med pay coverage, you may collect for any medical bills you incur up to the med pay limits, even if you are at fault.

What if the other driver is not insured?

If the other driver is at fault for the accident and they are uninsured, hopefully you have UM (un-insured motorist) insurance coverage.  If you do,  your attorney will make a claim on your behalf against your insurance company.

If you have collision coverage, your insurance carrier will also cover property damage up to your property damage limits.

What if the insurance company is offering me less than I owe to the Bank for my vehicle that was totaled?

The insurance company is obligated to pay you the current fair market value to replace the vehicle.  This does mean that you may be personally liable for any difference in what you owe for the vehicle and what you received.  If you have GAP insurance with your vehicle loan, then you will be covered for any difference, or gap, in the amount you received and the amount you owe.

If you do not have insurance, your attorney may be able to help negotiate with your lien holder to accept the amount of the insurance company’s payoff as the paid in full amount for the lien.  Otherwise, you will be responsible for the difference.

What if the other driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident?

Driving while intoxicated is not only illegal, but would be considered grossly negligent conduct and the intoxicated driver is also liable for punitive damages.  If you think the other driver may be intoxicated, make sure you mention this to the police preparing the accident report.