Rhode Island Car Accident Do's and Don'ts
Tips from an experienced Warwick car accident lawyer: Preparing in advance for the possibility of a car accident is smart, but there are things you should and shouldn’t do after you’ve been in a car accident, too. Here are the Do’s and Don’ts.
1. Do not Say Anything that Can be Used Against You
Do not say that the accident was your fault. Even if you feel that it was, you may be wrong and should leave that determination to your attorney. A good car accident lawyer may find that the accident wasn’t your fault even if you thought it was. So, remember that anything you say may be used against you. There will be a proper time to admit liability if you were at fault.
Except for in some very narrow circumstances, you aren’t in the best position to decide who is or isn’t responsible, particularly right after an accident when you may be frightened, angry, worried or even in shock. Sometimes people think they are at fault because they didn’t see the other vehicle before the collision, and they presume it’s because they weren’t being attentive enough. But what really happened is that the other car wasn’t observed because it came from somewhere it shouldn’t have been because it was speeding, in the wrong lane, etc.
If you admit responsibility before we get a chance to investigate, you may damage your own case and make it possible for the other party to collect against YOU. Even if you were partially at fault, Rhode Island is a pure comparative negligence state. That means a plaintiff is still able to recover damages even if he or she was at fault in contributing to the accident. For instance, if the plaintiff was 40 percent at fault, he or she would still be entitled to 60 percent of his or her damages. So let your lawyer figure out who is at fault and if you really had anything to do with causing the accident before you assume you did.
2. Do not Move the Vehicles
Do not move the vehicles until the police view the scene, unless it is unsafe to leave them where they are. Take pictures of the scene as soon as possible, even if the vehicles have been moved. Pay particular attention to skid marks and other evidence of the accident and take several pictures of damage to the vehicles involved or other property that was damaged.
How do you know if your accident is a situation where the cars should be moved? It’s about safety. If there are minor injuries but the location of the cars are not endangering anyone, you can leave them where they are. If the injuries are minor and your obstructing traffic, move them. If people have been seriously injured, including yourself, you need to leave the vehicles where they are so that first responders can treat the injured and the police can do an investigation.
3. Take Pictures
If you have to move the vehicles, and even if you don’t have to move the vehicles, take pictures if it is safe to do so and you are able to do so. If you need to ask a passenger or bystander to take them you should. Get as many pictures as possible.
I took a case to the Rhode Island Supreme Court several years ago in a case where the client was making a left into a parking lot and he got hit by a car that was speeding. The client couldn’t testify that the other car was speeding because he had been knocked out and couldn’t remember what happened. All he had was pictures the police took of the damage to the cars.
Another car accident lawyer had represented this client at trial and the judge threw the case out. The judge determined that it wasn’t legally possible for the pictures of the damages to establish the speed of the defendant without an expert to back that up.
I argued on appeal that the damage was so extensive that a jury would be qualified to find that a defendant was speeding based only on the pictures of the vehicles without the need for expert testimony and the Rhode Island Supreme Court agreed.
So, remember to take pictures if you ever are in an accident. They may be needed to prove damages and even liability especially if you have to move the cars before the police get there.
4. Talk to Your Car Accident Lawyer First
5. Put Your Health First
Visit your Doctors whenever necessary and tell them about all your complaints. Always tell your attorney when you plan to see a new doctor and give him the doctor’s name and address. Don’t delay in getting treatment. If you delay you can compromise your health as well as your claim.
It’s fine if it turns out that you don’t need much treatment and that you don’t even want to proceed with a claim. But if you delay your treatment and it turns out you do need help and you do want to bring a claim, the delay may make it difficult to prove the connection between the accident and your injuries, among other things. The delay could also complicate your treatment and recovery.
Certainly, the adjuster will argue that you could not have been very hurt if you didn’t get treatment for two weeks and that something else must have injured you and made you see a doctor. Your car accident lawyer will fight back, but do not be the one that gives the insurance company the ammunition they need to lower or even deny your claim.
6. Maintain Good Records for Your Car Accident Lawyer
Please keep accurate and detailed records of the following and provide them to your lawyer:
- Lost time and wages;
- Hospital, doctor, drug and other medical bills;
- Other losses directly resulting from your injury;
- Your complaints and progress in diary form, if possible;
- Keep Receipts.
All this information is essential to proving your case and maximizing your recovery.
7. Don't Give Statements
Do not appear or give statements before any court or administrative agency without first notifying your attorney so that you may be properly represented. This also falls under the “Anything you say can be used against you” rule. The last thing you want is for a traffic court to find you responsible for any part of the accident if your lawyer can help you avoid that. It can undermine your personal injury case.
8. Get Witnesses Info
Provide your attorney with the correct names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any and all witnesses of which you may learn. If you know that someone may be leaving the area soon please inform your attorney.
Witness statements can be compelling evidence and can make the difference between a winning and losing case. Adjusters will try to claim that there is a factual dispute as to who is at fault in an accident to reduce your settlement whenever they think they can get away with it. They will claim that it’s a “he said, she said.” A statement from a witness who can be proven to have seen the accident can resolve that dispute right away and prevent months of negotiation and even the possibility of a trial.
9. Keep Evidence
Give your attorney any negatives, (hey, some people still use film…) prints or digital copies of any photographs pertaining to the case which you may have. If you are hospitalized inform your attorney. If your injury requires a cast, brace, etc, please save it. Tell your car accident lawyer about any physical evidence that you know of that is not in your possession, such as a ladder that fell of a truck which started the chain of events that led to the collision that injured you.
Do not have anything repaired that has been damaged because of the accident until it has been examined or at least photographed. Part of your claim will be for compensation for damage to your car and possibly even the contents of your car. Make sure your car accident lawyer knows about the damage and approves any repairs before they are done.
10. Pay Doctor Bills the Right Way
Have your medical insurance pay as many of your bills as possible. They usually only pay a portion of the total bill but you are still entitled to claim the full amount of the bill as part of your settlement. In other words, if your bills total $20,000 your health insurance pays about $6500 and the rest is written off by the health care facilities and doctors. But that’s because of the premiums you pay and the person that hit you doesn’t get to benefit from that.
So when we make your demand we are allowed to claim the entire $20,000 in bills, pay back your health insurance only the $6500 that they paid and you get to keep the remaining $13,500 as part of a net settlement after costs and expenses. Also, inform your attorney of any type of insurance that you, your spouse, or a family member you are living with may have so he or she can inform you of your options.
Make sure your lawyer is aware of every health care facility and professional you treated with so that he or she may obtain all of your medical records and bills. They are an essential part of valuing and proving your claim.
Do Hire an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer
I’ve been representing people injured in car accidents for over 35 years. A car accident can be a minor incident in someone’s life but it can also be a major disaster or substantial setback. The personal injury laws are there to protect you and to make you whole when you’ve been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence. You only get one chance to successfully resolve your case. Don’t leave your chances to a settlement factory. If you’ve been injured in a car accident let me use my skills and experience to get you the compensation you need and deserve and to help you put your life back together.