KANSAS CITY OFFICE
4717 Grand, Suite 820
Kansas City, Missouri 64112
1021 E. Walnut
Springfield, Missouri 65806
PERSONAL INJURY AND WRONGFUL DEATH LAWYERS
Hopefully you will never need this brochure but in case you do, time spent now considering what to do in case of an automobile accident will avoid legal, financial and personal problems that can result from any accident. If you are involved in an accident don’t panic, stay clam, remember the following advice, and call a lawyer – it’s free!
1. Stop at the Scene : Never leave the scene of an accident unless a medical emergency requires you to do so. Usually it is better to wait for an ambulance and trained medical personnel to arrive. You should remain at the scene until you have given your name and address to a police officer or at least the other driver. Leaving the scene of an accident in which you were involved does not look good and may even subject you to criminal penalties.
2. Get Help : Call 911 to report where the accident occurred and if anyone is hurt so police and ambulance(s) can be dispatched if necessary. If these numbers are not available call the nearest law enforcement office and hospital or dial “0” for operator assistance.
3. Give Help : Attend to the immediate needs of the injured to the extent you are able. Do not move anyone unless it is necessary to prevent more serious injury. Unless you have had appropriate medical training, limit your aid to basic emergency measures involving bleeding, breathing and shock that you can handle.
4. Warn Others : Take immediate steps to prevent further injury, first by warning other drivers of the accident and second, by moving vehicles, but only if necessary. If you cannot do this because you are injured or are helping others ask someone else to signal oncoming vehicles from a safe position. Use flares, reflectors, flashlights or even vehicle lights, particularly at night.
5. Report the Accident : Tell the responding highway patrol officer, county sheriff/deputy or local police officer your name and address and show your driver’s license and insurance card. That is all you must do under the law of most states, although depending upon the situation you might want to describe the accident and any injuries. This is a judgment call on your part as cooperation will be well received by the officer who may later be a witness, while refusal to provide information could be perceived as an attempt to avoid fault for the accident. Whatever you do, do not admit any responsibility for the accident to the investigating officer and certainly never discuss the accident with anyone else. Even a statement as simple as “I’m sorry” can be interpreted as an admission of fault which you may later regret. There is plenty of time later to sort out the facts and determine the extent of each party’s responsibility. You should not sign any papers at the scene, except an agreement to appear in court if you are given a traffic ticket.
6. Obtain Accident Information : Use the accompanying Accident Information Card to record information necessary to protect your legal rights. In addition to obtaining this basic information, you should also write a detailed description of how the accident occurred which you can rely on later if you forget any facts. Pay particular attention to what each driver did wrong as the laws in most states allow you to recover a portion of your damages to the extent someone else was partly to blame for the accident. Include a map of the accident scene showing the direction of the vehicle(s) before the accident and the positions at which they came to rest. If you have a camera, take pictures at the scene, vehicles and people, or ask someone else to do so. If you cannot obtain photographs immediately following the accident someone should return to the scene as soon as possible to properly record all physical evidence, some of which will soon disappear such as debris or skid marks.
7. Tow Damaged Vehicles : If your car is not drivable, you must have it towed from the scene. The investigating officer will usually call for a tow truck but it is your responsibility to pay for this service. Ask the towing company how much it will cost, tell the tow driver where to take your car, and be sure to get the company’s name, address and telephone number if you do not go with it. Never sell or otherwise dispose of your vehicle if you are considering a claim for personal injury as the nature and extent of its damage will be important in proving your claims. In some instances, loss or destruction of your vehicle will destroy your claim.
8. Call your Insurance Agent : You should promptly report the accident to your insurance agent as some companies have time requirements that could affect whether or not you are covered for any claims. If you are asked to give a statement or otherwise describe the accident or your injuries please be reminded of the proverbial saying: “What you say can and will be used against you!” It is a good idea to consult a lawyer before making any kind of comment regarding the accident, particularly if you have a personal injury claim. Statements, even to your own insurance company, may later be obtained by the other side and certainly will be used to defend a claim for uninsured/underinsured coverage on your own policy.
9. See a Doctor : It is a very good idea to see a doctor immediately if you are injured in any way. Do not make any general comments at the scene about your physical condition other than to describe your symptoms to medical personnel. If asked, “Are you all right?” simply respond “I do not know, I will have to wait and see.” Because you may not know the extent of any injuries it is best to get checked out, preferably in the emergency room or if not, within a few days of the accident. The more time that passes between the accident and any medical care, the less likely your doctor will attribute your complaints to the accident, a crucial issue. If your symptoms persist despite receiving medical care, it is also very important that you see the right doctor – a specialist for the type of injury you have. You can ask the emergency room physician, health care provider or your family doctor for a referral. Be sure to tell any doctor you see that you were involved in an automobile accident and describe as accurately as possible what happened to you physically and how you have felt since then. However, do not discuss any legal claims you might have with your physician.
10. File an Accident Report : Many states require that you file a written report with the department responsible for motor vehicles within a certain period after the date of an accident. Ask the investigating officer whether you need to do this or call the appropriate agency for information and any forms to complete. Again, you should consult a lawyer first since this report will also constitute a record of what happened and may result in admissions that could affect your legal rights.
11. Pay Nothing : Do not pay any money unless your lawyer tells you to do so. Any payment may be construed as an admission of fault and without getting an appropriate release, it will not relieve you of liability. If you have liability coverage your insurance company will step in to defend you and either settle claims or pay any judgment against you to the extent of your coverage.
12. Call a Lawyer : “Those who do not know their legal rights lose them.” Talk to a lawyer before talking to anyone else about the accident. Many attorneys will provide information and answer questions, including an initial evaluation of your claim, without any cost or obligation to you. Otherwise, important evidence may be lost, unnecessary admissions may be made, or the insurance company may back you into a weak negotiating position. Then, if you later decide to hire an attorney, you will have avoided these common mistakes which could harm your case.
The purpose of this brochure is to help you if you are involved in an automobile accident. However, the information provided is general in nature and will not apply to all situations. Our best advice is to consult an attorney regarding your specific situation.
SHOULD YOU HIRE A LAWYER?
The more serious your injuries or the more complicated your claims, the more you will need the assistance of an attorney to explain your rights, represent your interests and obtain fair compensation. Most people are unaware of all the rights they have as a result of being injured in an automobile accident, beyond the obvious claim against the responsible driver. For instance, uninsured and underinsured motorist claims against your own insurance company are often overlooked and other claims may exist in many accidents, such as those against the vehicle owner, the driver’s employer, and the manufacturers of defective vehicles. Finally, remember that for all claims there are Statues of Limitations which destroy your legal rights if they are not pursued within a specific time period – no exceptions. So call a lawyer not only to understand your legal rights, but also to find out how long you have to pursue your claim before you lose it!
ACCIDENT INFORMATION CARD
If you are involved in an automobile accident, it is very important that you obtain as much basic information as possible, regardless of who was at fault.
Fill out this form at the scene of the accident or as soon afterwards as possible.
If you or a family member were recently injured in an car accident, contact the Kansas City auto accident injury lawyers of Monsees & Mayer P.C. today.