There were 223,733 car accidents in Indiana in all of 2016, according to the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, of which 769 were fatal and nearly 53,000 involved serious personal injuries. Northern Indiana auto accident lawyers know the immediate aftermath of a crash can be, if nothing else, a bit chaotic and confusing. Obviously, if you are seriously hurt, your No. 1 priority is seeking prompt medical attention. Even if you don’t feel you have suffered major trauma, bear in mind injuries can be exacerbated when they aren’t treated right away.
Beyond that, there are a number of steps crash victims need to take in order to not only preserve their health but also preserve their rights and possible future civil claim. Indiana is a “fault” state when it comes to crashes, meaning you don’t have to recover personal injury protection benefits or meet a serious injury threshold before you can pursue damages against the at-fault driver. (This differs from the regulations in many no-fault auto accident states.)
Following these steps will help ensure you have evidence to substantiate your grounds for damages.
- Stop your vehicle. IC 9-26-1.1.1 requires every motorist involved in a crash – regardless of fault – to stop and stay as close to the scene as possible to allow for an exchange of names, registration numbers, driver’s licenses, and insurance information. In the event of an accident that results in injury or death, one is required to remain on scene to provide reasonable assistance to those injured or entrapped (i.e., call police, 911, etc.) and immediately give notice of the accident to law enforcement. Knowingly avoiding compliance is a misdemeanor, assuming no one is injured, but a hit-and-run is a felony if the crash involved an injury or death (again, regardless of fault).
- Call the police. As noted above, this is required if there is a serious injury or death, but it’s a good idea even if it doesn’t appear there are severe injuries because the report generated can be submitted to insurers as independent proof of your claim for damages.
- Make an accurate record. If the officer asks if you are injured and you aren’t sure, say you aren’t sure, rather than no. Sometimes crash-related injuries aren’t immediately apparent.
- Take photographs. Almost everyone now has smartphones that are equipped with cameras. It’s a smart idea after a collision to take some pictures of the scene, your vehicle, and the other vehicle. You should not interfere with the ongoing police investigation, but having your own evidence of the scene could later prove invaluable.
- Seek medical attention. This should be No. 1 on your list if you or someone else in either vehicle is seriously injured. It’s important to appreciate, though, that not all injuries are apparent right away. Sometimes people don’t report feeling any real pain until two or three days after the crash, particularly with injuries like whiplash and even traumatic brain injuries. Even relatively low-impact crashes could result in severe damage to your back or spinal cord. If you have lost consciousness for any amount of time, seeking medical attention is imperative, since this is indicative of a concussion or other closed head injury, which could worsen if not treated.
- Report the accident. Your insurance company should be notified as soon as possible. Most insurers require both immediate reporting and full cooperation. Many Indiana auto insurance policies offer medpay, which will cover medical bills for yourself and your passengers. If your auto insurance company has reason to believe the other party was at-fault, they can put a subrogation lien on those bills (which must be reduced by one-third to account for your attorney’s fees), and that will stake your insurer’s right to reclaiming their medical bill losses, which will be paid by the at-fault party’s insurer.
- Keep a file. You will want to stay organized, so keep all your crash-related documents and other information together in a single location.
- Contact an attorney. A Northern Indiana car accident attorney can help you protect your rights and help ensure valuable evidence isn’t destroyed. Insurers often want you to make a statement right away; consulting with an attorney first is important because he or she is going to know the issues that may arise and how to protect your chances of being fully compensated.
Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.
10 Things You Need to Do After a Car Accident, Staff Report, WISHTV
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