If you are involved in an auto accident caused by another driver, it is a very stressful experience.
This article is written from the standpoint of the person who did not cause the accident, and provides some guidelines.
Move Your Vehicle if Possible
If your vehicle can be driven, and if it is in a dangerous area, make sure to move it over to as safe a location as possible, or exit the car and remain in a safe location, if there is one. If you are still able to function, you must exchange your name, your insurance information and your driver’s license information with the other driver (unless the police arrive and take care of this for you). Call 911 if it is a serious accident or if emergency medical attention is required. It can help your case if the other driver is cited for the accident. However, by and large, liability is clear in the overwhelming majority of automobile collisions. Naturally, check to see if the other driver and any other people involved are ok, or if they require medical attention.
Preserve the Evidence
If there are witnesses, get their names and contact information if possible. If you are able, take pictures of the scene from all angles. Even if you moved your vehicle to the side, take pictures of the vehicles, the damage, any debris, and the skid marks. Take pictures of the inside of your vehicle – often drinks, and various personal objects are tossed around the passenger compartment as a result of the collision.
Make an Accident Report
Make an appropriate accident report to the DMV. In Oregon, you have 3 days to do this if the property damage is over $1500, or if there are injuries.
Report to Your Insurance Company
Make a report to your insurance carrier regarding the accident. Under the personal injury protection provisions (or PIP), your own insurer will cover your reasonable and necessary medical expenses caused by the collision, and will also cover some of the wage loss if there is any. You should cooperate with your own insurance company.
Don’t Talk to the Other Insurance Company Unless…
However, until you are ready to settle a claim, it is recommended that you do not talk to the other insurance company regarding your personal injury claim. If you need to deal with the other insurance company on the collision damage aspect (the damage to your vehicle) then do so, but confine the discussion to what is necessary to resolve that property damage claim. Regarding the personal injury claim, tell them that you will be in contact with them when you are ready to make a claim. It does not hurt to tell them that you plan to consult with an attorney.
Get to the Emergency Room, Chiropractor or Doctor
If you are hurting at the scene, it is a good idea to go to urgent care or the ER as soon as possible. The ER will use up a lot more of your PIP coverage, however. But, if a concussion is suspected, or the injuries are believed to be more serious, then the ER is likely a better place to go for evaluation or treatment.
If immediate care is not required, but you are sore from the collision, it is a good idea to go to the doctor within 48 hours. This will establish a written medical record that you were having problems caused by the collision, in case the problems persist and require further treatment.
Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney
If you were hurt, talk to a personal injury attorney. Those consultations are free. Usually, you will receive more money out of the claim if you are represented by an experienced personal injury attorney, but you can make that determination during the consultation.
In general, if you are over eighteen years of age, then you have two years in Oregon to settle your case or file a lawsuit, and three years in Washington. However, there are other issues that can arise, such as tort claim notices to public bodies that have to be made much sooner in order to preserve your rights in some cases. So, it is best to consult with an attorney at least within three months after the collision. In general, the sooner the better.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information. It is not to be construed as legal advice. Anyone wishing to receive legal advice should schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney.