Experienced Car Accident Attorney Fighting for Accident Victims throughout Wisconsin
As a Janesville car accident lawyer, I am here to help you fight for justice. Outlined below are some crucial tips on what to do and what not to do when you are involved in a car crash.
So you got into a car crash in Janesville, what do you do next?
Seven Things to Do After Your Car Crash
1. Pull Over to a Safe Area
Before you do anything else, pull over to a safe area. If you can’t pull over to a safe area, stay in your car until the police arrive. Don’t try to run across a highway or busy street because you may be more injured than you realize. But if your car is drive-able, it is best to get to a safe place out of the flow of traffic so that you avoid getting into a second crash. Sometimes people think that they need to stay in the same position as when the crash happened, but that is not true.
2. Call the Police
Don’t give into peer pressure. Don’t try to handle this crash by yourself. Call the non-emergency number for the local police department right away to report the crash. The Janesville Police non-emergency number is 608.757.2244. Beloit’s non-emergency number is 608.364.6807. If you’re on the highway, you can call the Wisconsin Highway Patrol at 608.374.0513.
Sometimes the other driver will insist that he will “handle everything” and there is no reason to call the police. This often means the driver does not have auto insurance or has a suspended license. Even if the other driver shows you an insurance card, there is no way to confirm the policy is actually in effect without calling the insurance company. Don’t risk it. Call the police and insist that the other driver wait for the police to arrive. Police officers are professional accident reporters. An official police report will be invaluable to helping you prove that the other driver is liable and will help you win your case.
Tell the police officer everything. Don’t minimize the impact or your injuries. If you are hurt, tell the police officer that you are hurt. If it was a big impact, tell the police officer it was a big impact. Finally, make sure you give your detailed version of the crash to the police officer. The police officer will document whether the drivers were injured and advise which driver he believes to be at fault. When it comes time to settle your injury case, the police report is a very important piece of evidence that will impact your case.
3. Take a Photo of the Other Driver’s License Plate
Immediately after calling the police, take out your phone and take a photo of the other driver’s license plate. If the other driver tries to flee the scene of the crash to avoid responsibility, you will have a way to find him. Take a photo of the other driver’s car too. That information will help the police catch him, if he tries to flee. If the other driver provides his auto insurance card, take a photo of both sides of the card and make sure that the policy is up to date and in effect.
4. Document the Damage to your Car
It is important to immediately document all the damage to your car. If you forget to report some of the damage, there will be no way to prove that the crash caused the damage (rather than some subsequent car accident). Take lots of photos of every dent and scratch. Check under the hood for damage to your engine. Look under the car for damage to the car’s frame or axles. Take careful notes of all of the damage that you find to your car and then organize your notes into a clear, typed summary. A clear, thorough summary will help you get full compensation for your property damage. The State of Wisconsin only requires drivers to carry $10,000 in property damage coverage. According to USA Today (https://goo.gl/N7Rv3c) the average cost of a new car is $33,560. Unfortunately, the responsible driver may not have sufficient insurance coverage to fix your car. A good car accident attorney can help you find other insurance policies that may provide coverage for your car. Make sure that your personal injury lawyer will help guide you through the property damage part of your claim.
5. Document any Evidence in the Road
This is the hardest step. However it could be crucial to proving liability in a disputed case. Only if it is safe to do so and if the road is completely blocked off, take pictures of any broken car parts or shattered glass left in the road. Zoom out to provide context of where the crash happened. If there are any tire skids in the street, take detailed photos to show where the car started to skid and where it came to a stop. Again, zoom out to provide context for where the crash happened. Again, only do this if it is safe. Don’t go into traffic to get these pictures. If possible, ask the police officer to take the pictures for you on her camera or help you get the photographs.
6. Write down Witness Information
Independent witness statements are very persuasive evidence in disputed liability cases. Police officers have limited time and often need to go to their next call for service. Take down the name, phone number and email address for any witnesses who saw the crash. Getting as much contact information is important because people move, change their phone number or get a new email address.
7. Get Checked out at the Hospital
If you are seriously injured, you need to go to the hospital. If you have concussion symptoms or internal pain, it is especially important to get immediate medical attention. If you don’t have health insurance, you should still go to the hospital and explain that you were in an auto crash and there will hopefully be auto insurance coverage for your injuries.
Don’t Do These Seven Things
1. Talk to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
The other driver’s insurance company does not care about you. When they call you, they have two goals: 1) Assess the extent of their liability. 2) Minimize their damages. Number one is straightforward. Insurance companies want to manage their risk and know how much money to set aside for each claim. Number two is less obvious. Insurance companies record all of their calls. Their second goal is to get the injured person to minimize their damages on the phone. Then, when it is time to settle the claim, they can use the recorded original statement against the injured person. For example, people regularly say, “it’s not that bad” or “I’m sure I’ll be okay in a few days.” If you are more seriously injured and require physical therapy or other future treatment, statements like these will make it harder to recover for your future medical expenses. Instead, politely tell the insurance company that you would prefer to communicate with them in writing only and that you are going to hire a car accident attorney.
2. Act Tough When You are Really Hurt
If you try to act tough after getting into a car crash, you may not be able to fully recover for your injuries. For example, if you are seriously hurt, but you declined necessary medical treatment, then it may be difficult to recover for that necessary medical treatment at a later point. The insurance company will argue that there was some other intervening event that must of caused the injury. As the injured person, you ultimately have the burden of proof for all of your claims. Doctor’s notes and records (close in time to the injury) are the best evidence to prove your injury claims. If you’re not seriously hurt, don’t go the emergency room. That is wasteful and can be considered insurance fraud. But if you are seriously hurt, seek out professional medical attention as soon as you can.
3. Take Some Blame
If you voluntarily take some fault for the car crash, you will not be able to recover 100% of your damages. People hate conflict. In a contested liability case, it is easy to attempt to compromise with the other driver and tell the police officer or insurance company that maybe this was just “both of our fault.” Even if it isn’t true. These kinds of niceties will hurt your case. The police officer will document that you admitted fault for the crash. The other driver will stick to his or her story and you will damage your case. Don’t be rude or start a fight. Just calmly explain your side of the story to the police officer. Resist the natural human urge to take some fault for the crash, just because you feel bad or to avoid conflict. Caveat, don’t lie or make up facts. If the crash is your fault, then tell the truth and take responsibility for the crash. It’s the right thing to do.
4. Ignore Your Doctor’s Advice
If you ignore the doctor’s advice, the insurance company will argue that you are partially responsible for your own injures. In Wisconsin, injured people have a legal duty to mitigate (or minimize) their damages. That duty includes following the doctor’s orders. So if the doctor says that you should be non-weight bearing for 48 hours, then you should be non-weight bearing for 48 hours. Your most important job is to get better as fast as possible. Read all of the hospital’s exit paperwork and carefully follow the doctor’s instructions.
5. Leave your Car in the Tow Yard
Tow yards will charge you every day that your car remains unclaimed. If your car is unmovable, you do not have to allow the tow truck to take your car to their own storage yard of choice. Insist that they tow the car to your local body shop or dealership. If you don’t have a trusted body shop, then ask them to tow the car to your house. If you leave your car in the tow yard for weeks or months, the daily storage fees could eventually exceed the value of the car. The tow company may try to have your car deemed abandoned and then sell your car at auction to satisfy the fees. Don’t let this happen. Take charge of where your car gets towed while you are still at the scene of the crash.
6. Forget about your Co-Pays
Even though you were in a car crash, you are still responsible for your co-pays and deductibles. Even though there may eventually be an auto insurance settlement that pays for some of the medical bills, you still must stay current on your patient financial responsibilities until the case settles. The hospital will not wait for the auto insurance money and may refer your account to collections. Your attorney doesn’t have the ability to pay these bills for you. Keep your credit in good condition and set up a payment plan with the hospital right away.
7. Wait to Call an Injury Lawyer
If you wait to call an injury lawyer until after you’ve already taken a settlement from the insurance company, then it is probably too late for the Paul Benson Law Firm to help you. If you call the Paul Benson Law Firm at the beginning of your case, he can help guide you through every step in your case and maximize the value of your case.
How much is my case worth?
1. Who is at Fault?
The allocation of fault or liability is the most important factor for determining the value of your case. Your total damages could be One Million Dollars, but if the other party is found to have no fault, then your case is worth zero dollars. An experienced auto injury lawyer can help with the liability determination from the very beginning of your case.
2. Medical Expenses
If you are injured in a car crash, you are entitled to be compensated for your reasonable medical expenses. In Wisconsin, this is not limited to the copay or deductible, but you are entitled to the entirety of the billed charges. If you do not hire an injury lawyer, the auto insurance company may try to convince you to only accept enough money to cover your out of pocket expenses.
3. Pain and Suffering
In Wisconsin, you are entitled to financial compensation for your pain and suffering. An experienced car crash lawyer can help you articulate and argue for your pain and suffering claim. In many cases, this can be the most valuable component of your injury case. Arguing for your own pain and suffering money can be awkward and difficult. Hire a professional trial lawyer to help you make the most of your pain and suffering claim.
4. Lost Wages
If you have to miss time from work, you may be entitled to your lost wages. It is important to document all of your missed time. Ideally, your employer will provide a letter stating the amount of time you missed from work. However, because you will recover your gross lost wages, rather than your normal net wages, you could be responsible for income taxes.
5. Other Damages, Permanent Injuries, Future Pain and Suffering
In addition to the above, you may also be entitled to emotional damages, future medical expenses, future pain and suffering or money for any permanent injuries or scarring. A local Wisconsin car accident lawyer can help you recover for all your damages.
Do I need a Personal Injury Lawyer for my Car Crash?
Whether to hire a lawyer to handle your car crash injury case is not an easy decision. While a lawyer can often significantly increase the amount of money you receive, giving up a chunk of your total settlement can seem expensive. Here are a few things to consider.
The Insurance Company Doesn’t Want You to Hire a Lawyer
Here is an easy test: Suggest to the insurance adjuster that you are thinking about hiring an injury lawyer to represent you in your car accident case. I guarantee that they will try to talk you out of it. Now ask yourself, why? The other driver’s insurance company does not have your best interest in mind. The insurance adjuster’s only goal is to settle your case for the least amount of money possible. The insurance company knows that you are an easy, cheap settlement without a lawyer. The insurance company will gladly take advantage of you if you don’t have an attorney.
A Good Injury Lawyer will Pay for Himself
An experienced injury attorney will be able to significantly increase the value of your case. I negotiate with your medical providers and health plan to make sure that the hospital doesn’t eat up all of your settlement money. I argue for the maximum amount of pain and suffering money. I am practiced and effective at articulating my clients’ pain and suffering claims and I know how to find hidden insurance coverage for your damages.
Call the Paul Benson Law Firm
I have devoted my professional life to representing good people who have been injured as Janesville car accident attorney. Call or email me today to talk about your case. I always review cases for free. My phone number is 608.352.8010 and my email address is [email protected].