If you have been involved in an accident as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, the following information will help you understand how to act to protect your interests.
What To Do In Case Of an Accident
If at all possible, gather as much information as you can about the accident. How it happened. Who was involved. The make and/or model of the other car and its license plate number. The names, phone numbers and addresses of any witnesses. The color of the traffic light, if there was one. Obviously this is not always so easy to do, especially if you have been seriously injured. It is always a good idea to call the police and wait at the scene until they arrive. Remember, no matter how good you think your memory is, information written down at, or close to, the time of the accident is always more accurate than information recalled at some later time and distance. You should also keep in mind that anything you say to anyone following the accident will be admissible and is not hearsay.
The Type of Vehicle Can Make a Big Difference
All vehicles are not treated the same under the law. Although all vehicles must obey traffic safety laws, certain vehicles are not considered as motor vehicles and are subject to different laws which may affect the rights of injured individuals. For example, buses are treated the same as cars. Trolleys are not. And trains are regulated by federal law, not state law. Perhaps the most important differences for you have to do with how medical benefits are determined and any immunities available to municipal owners. These are issues you should discuss with your lawyer.
Medical Attention for Injuries
If you are injured in a transportation accident, you must seek medical attention. Regardless of whether or not you have a claim, for your own benefit, you should go to a hospital or doctor for an examination. This accomplishes two goals. First, it allows for peace of mind. Dont rely on neighbors or home remedies. Let trained medical professionals evaluate the effect of the accident on your mind, body and spirit. Second, if you are injured, a visit to a health care professional will document the injury and support your claim. Very often an injury will not appear immediately. With the type of injuries suffered in transportation accidents, pain might not appear for 12 to 48 hours following the accident. Whenever symptoms appear, do yourself a favor and go to the doctor. If you do not have a family doctor, find one either by going to a hospital, a hospital emergency room, or by using the phone book, your health insurance's provider directory, or a doctor referral service in your area.
The Maze of Insurance Factors
whether or not you own an automobile;
whether that vehicle is insured;
whether you are covered under someone elses auto insurance policy;
whether you are considered "full tort" or "limited tort"(that is, whether your insurance company effectively convinced you to sign away your rights to sue for pain and suffering for the promise of slightly lower policy premiums);
whether the other vehicle is insured;
whether you are eligible for limited benefits through an assigned claims plan; and
whether you contributed to the cause of the accident.
Whether you are a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, automobile insurance will play an important role in your recovery. Your rights to recover will be affected by the following:
These are all issues you should discuss with your lawyer to fully understand your particular situation.
Recovering for Your Injuries
Negligence laws are based on compensating injured individuals who are injured as the result of someone elses lack of reasonable care. Compensation is supposed to make the injured individual whole again. It is not supposed to punish the negligent party. Typically, claims are evaluated on the type of injury and the effect it had on the individual. Disruption in the ability to conduct your normal activities of daily living, as well as wage loss and the loss of lifes pleasures, are the measure of an individuals damages.
Finding a Lawyer
Be very careful in selecting a lawyer to help you. Make sure that the lawyer practices personal injury law. Each area of the law is different and requires experience and special knowledge to effectively represent a clients best interests. You do not deserve to feel helpless after having chosen a lawyer. Remember, you were a victim once already in the accident.
This informational piece was prepared by Monheit, Silverman & Fodera. If you would like more information on this topic, call us at (800) 220-LAW1, or use the "Do I Have A Case?" button on this web site.