Automobile Accidents

IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT ANY OF THE FOLLOWING PLEASE CONTACT WILTON MARBLE AT (423) 303-8469 OR  wilmarble@gmail.com.

Automobile Accidents

If you are injured in an automobile accident, you need to know your rights. Automobile accidents are stressful. In the heat of the moment mistakes can be made that will cost you later. Also, adding to the stress, insurance companies can be difficult to deal with and the process can take a long time.

If you are involved in an automobile accident there are several things that you need to do. The police and/or emergency services need to be called. Usually calling 911 is the easiest way to accomplish this. Even if there are no injuries this needs to be done as the police will send someone to fill out an accident report which should document the fact that an accident occurred, who was involved and their insurance information, where and when the accident occurred, the location on the street of the vehicles and damage to the vehicles, the time of day, street/weather conditions etc. Without an accident report it is usually much harder to get an insurance company to honor your claim. Without an accident report you may not even know the true name, address or insurance company of the other driver. Without an accident report an unscrupulous other driver may later claim that you fled the scene (“hit and run” for which you could potentially face criminal charges). You need an accident report.

You also need to check yourself and any of your passengers for injury. If you can safely do so you need to check the other driver and any of their passengers for injury. This may result in information you should relay to 911 or the police.

Unless it is an emergency do not move the vehicles until directed to do so by the police. This makes an investigation of the accident more difficult.

If you can safely do so, do take pictures of both vehicles and the scene of the accident. You should walk around both vehicles taking numerous pictures from every angle as well as close up pictures of damage to both vehicles. You should also take at least a few pictures from farther away that show the whole scene. These pictures can be valuable to determine who was at fault and to document any damage to the vehicles. In this day and age of photo capable cell phones this is a very easy step that is often overlooked.

You should not discuss/argue with the other driver about what caused the accident. These statements are often admissible in court and often come back to haunt you.

DISCLAIMER: The above is generalized advice and given for informational purposes only. The above is no substitute for the services of a qualified attorney. Every case is fact dependent and there are exceptions to every statement above. 

Therefore, rather than relying on the above alone, you should seek the services of a qualified attorney.

You should get medical treatment if you are injured. Many times your injury will not be apparent at the scene. You may feel ok at the time of the accident and then wake up the next day in pain. This could indicate a serious injury and if you do not get treatment the injury could be exacerbated or your recovery delayed. If you do get medical treatment be sure to tell the doctor/hospital about the automobile accident. This may seem obvious but the medical records need to mention the automobile accident otherwise the insurance company may balk at paying the bill. You should tell the doctor/hospital about every body part that is hurting. If you tell the doctor about your shoulder but neglect to tell him/her about your knee this may make it more difficult to get the bills relating to the knee paid. You should not exaggerate your pain. This almost always finds its way into the medical records (doctors use terms like “symptom magnification”) and will damage your case. Most health care providers will ask you to express your pain on a 1 – 10 scale with 1 being almost no pain and 10 being excruciating pain. Examples of a 10 would be a pregnant women giving birth with no anesthesia or a person having their arm crushed. If you, with a straight face, can calmly state that you are a 10 then you probably are not. Try to not miss your doctor’s appointments. This will slow down your recovery and harm your case.

If you do not have health insurance but need treatment you should consult with an attorney. I have had cases where I provided the client with a “letter of protection” or lien against any recovery that the client can take to the doctor and that states that the doctor has a right to be paid out of any recovery the client gets from the at-fault insurance company. You may have to go to several doctors to find one that will treat you this way but having an attorney will make the process far easier as it reassures the doctor that eventually the doctor will get paid.

In the days following the accident you should reread or check your insurance policy. You may have underinsured/unisured coverage. If the other driver has no insurance or your damages exceed the other driver’s policy limitations then you may be able to file a claim with your underinsured/uninsured policy. If the other driver fled the scene you may be able to file a claim under your underinsured/uninsured policy. You may also have a “med pay” or “PIP” provision in your insurance. This would allow you to file a claim and get your medical bills paid before they go to a collection agency and damage your credit. (Typically the other driver’s insurance company is going to want to wait until your treatment is finished and then pay all the bills at once. If your treatment takes a while this can result in some of the earlier medical bills going to a collection agency and damaging your credit). If you file a claim with your insurance company under a med pay or PIP provision then your insurance can pay (and prevent collection activity) and then be reimbursed at the end of the case by the other insurance company. If you are unsure about what your policy says then you will want to call your agent and discuss with them.

DISCLAIMER: The above is generalized advice and given for informational purposes only. The above is no substitute for the services of a qualified attorney. Every case is fact dependent and there are exceptions to every statement above. 

Therefore, rather than relying on the above alone, you should seek the services of a qualified attorney.

In the days following the accident you should research the “blue book” value of your vehicle. Typically the at-fault insurance company must pay the “cost of repairs” to your vehicle OR the fair market value of your vehicle before the accident whichever is LOWER. So if repairs to your vehicle would cost $4,000 and the blue book value of your car is $2,500 the insurance company is going to pay the $2,500 (minus any salvage value of the vehicle). If you do not know the blue book value of your vehicle then you are at a serious disadvantage in negotiating with the insurance company. Kbb.com (http://www.kbb.com/) and nada.com (http://www.nada.com/) are two excellent websites to find the blue book value of your car. Make sure you include all options your car has when doing this. For example, the type of wheels your vehicle has can increase its blue book value.

You should consult with an attorney. Most attorneys, myself included, offer free consultations and so there is no reason not to get free advice from people who frequently handle these type of situations. Many attorneys, myself included, will take these type of cases on a contingency fee basis. This means no, or very little, up-front costs to you. Also in my fee agreements, you owe me nothing if you do not get a recovery. Some attorneys, myself included, may even arrange to come to you.  To get the most out of your free consultation you should bring every piece of paper that has anything to do with your automobile accident with you to the consultation. This would include a copy of the accident report, a copy of your automobile insurance and health insurance, copies of any medical records or bills for the treatment received, estimates to repair your vehicle and any pictures you may have of the vehicles or accident scene.

You should be very careful about what you say on Facebook and other social media. Lawyers love Facebook because of some of the incredibly stupid things people will say on Facebook. And even if you do not say something stupid someone else can say it on your page and you can be harmed by it. For example if you are claiming a back injury that makes it hard for you to even walk and one of your Facebook “friends” posts a picture of you water-skiing that could come back to haunt you. You should not be talking about the case at all on Facebook and should not be talking about your case to anyone other than your lawyer.

IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT ANY OF THE ABOVE PLEASE CONTACT WILTON MARBLE AT (423) 303-8469 OR  wilmarble@gmail.com.

DISCLAIMER: The above is generalized advice and given for informational purposes only. The above is no substitute for the services of a qualified attorney. Every case is fact dependent and there are exceptions to every statement above. 

Therefore, rather than relying on the above alone, you should seek the services of a qualified attorney.