AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT CHECKLIST

You are stopped at a red light or in traffic minding your own business and POW, a car slams into the rear of your car. Your body is thrown back and forth even with a seatbelt on. Your low back and neck hits the rear of the driver’s seat, sometimes your head hits the side window, depending on the strength of the hit. Seatbelts can also fracture your pelvis.

FIRST: CALL THE POLICE & AMBULANCE

The first thing you should do is not get out of the car and call 911 for the police. This will automatically get emergency personnel to the scene. If you have passengers in the car, find out if they are injured and if so, tell that to the police so that more than one ambulance may be needed at the scene.

If you have less severe injuries, the police are needed to verify how the accident happened. Never, never leave the scene of the accident before the police arrive. What normally occurs is that the driver of the car that hit you will try to convince you not to call the police. I have some cases where no police were called and the culprit who hits your car in the rear, changes the facts. One such case, the culprit driver claimed the injured party backed up into him, instead of the real facts, the culprit hit you in the rear.

The police and the ambulance personnel will document the fact of the accident and verify that you are injured at the scene. Never refuse medical help. Most times you are in shock and cannot feel your injuries. Be sure to go to the hospital where a medical professional can determine the extent of your injuries. If you do not do this and go for medical treatment in 2 or 3 weeks after the accident, the culprit’s insurance company will claim you were not severely injured or not injured at all, claiming your injuries came from something other than the car accident and may not entertain your claim.

SECOND: TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS TO SUBSTANTIATE DAMAGE TO YOUR VEHICLE and INJURIES

If you are able physically to get out of your vehicle, immediately take photographs (normally everyone has a cellphone that can be used) and document the extent of the property damage to both vehicles. One of the biggest defenses used by insurance companies is that the damage is so small that the impact could not have caused your injuries. GEICO, who insured the greatest number of automobiles in New York will immediately give you or your attorney, a letter saying a bio mechanical engineer has determined that because there is little or no damage to your vehicle, you could not have sustained personal injuries. If you have photographs of the damage, this can contradict the insurance company’s claims of little or no damage to your vehicle.

While you are taking photographs with your cellphone, take photographs of your visible injuries, especially if you are bleeding to document your injuries and need for medical attention. The contents of the photographs will document the accident scene, the damage to your vehicle and your injuries. As the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words”. As long as the injured party can state the photographs accurately portray and depict the vehicles or the injuries at the time of the accident, the photographs will be used as evidence during litigation.

THIRD: GET CONTACT INFORMATION

After the photographs are taken, get as much information from the culprit as to why the accident occurred. Do not give any information about what you did (i.e. I stopped short). Describe the accident in short and precise terms to the police for the police report and tell them about your injuries. As you are getting contact information from the other driver, make sure you get the name, telephone number and address as to any witnesses. Juries believe independent witnesses far more than the parties involved in the accident. Make sure you get all the insurance information of the other vehicle. If you cannot get out of your car, the police should get all the information needed. Make sure you get the police incident number so that you or your attorney can get the full police accident report.

FOURTH: REMOVAL OF ALL VALUABLES FROM YOU CAR

After taking down all of the information and photographs of the vehicles, you should remove all valuable possessions in your car. You would be surprised how many people find items missing after their car is towed to a garage or auto body shop. Also, get the name and address of the towing company where your car will end up.

FIFTH: TREATMENT FOR INJURIES

Get treatment for your injuries immediately to document the injuries and most importantly, to get the proper medical treatment to start the healing process. Your attorney will need medical reports to substantiate the treatment which lead to larger settlements. The attorney will use those medical reports to prove your injuries to the culprit’s insurance company and for the jury, if the case goes to trial.

This is especially needed in New York which has a verbal threshold before you can sue. The New York no-fault law requires you to have permanent injuries before you can sue. The old soft tissue or whiplash injuries are not listed in the no-fault statute and you cannot sue for the injuries. For back and neck injuries, you have to be treated for at least 90 out of the first 180 days following the accident or have a permanent injury such as a disc herniation causing nerve damage. You must also document the restriction in movement by your doctor. Other injuries that are listed in the no-fault statute, for which you can sue, are fractures, dismemberment, death, significant disfigurement (scars).

SIXTH: PROPERTY DAMAGE ESTIMATE

If you own a car, you want to make sure you get a property damage estimate immediately following the accident. If the car is totaled, you still need the estimate that rendered your car totaled. The written estimate will substantiate the extent of the property damage to have your vehicle fixed and it will substantiate the seriousness of the damage that caused your personal injuries (i.e. under carriage damage) which cannot be seen in photographs but proves the extent of the property damage under your vehicle. You should always get your own auto body shop to give you an estimate because the insurance company’s estimate by the culprit’s insurance company will fail to report all of the damage and can be refuted by your own estimate.

SEVENTH: FIND A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY

Finally, find a personal injury attorney in your area. Most attorneys say they handle personal injury work but in reality, they refer the case to a personal injury attorney who does this kind of law all the time like The Law Offices of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC. Make sure the attorney is experienced in handling personal injury lawsuits themselves. Ask them how many personal injury cases they have handled from start to finish of trial. The Law Offices of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC has handled plaintiff (the person injured) personal injury cases for 21 years since the firm was formed and Dominick J. Robustelli has handled thousands of plaintiff personal injury cases during the last 39 years.

If you or a love one has been injured in an automobile accident, call the Law Firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800 or contact us at our web page at White Plains-Injury-Lawyers.com or directly at djrobolaw@aol.com