Automobile accidents can be costly and cause lasting injuries. If an individual knows what to do before, during, and after an automobile accident, they can save money, protect their rights, and have the best chance at obtaining damages for their injuries.

How Do You Protect Yourself Before an Auto Accident Happens?

It is essential to keep certain items on hand in an individual’s vehicle in the event an accident occurs, including:

  • A copy of their insurance information;
  • A pen and paper for taking notes;
  • A copy of their vehicle registration;
  • A camera, now most phones have this capability; and
  • A flashlight.

What Kind of Insurance Should I Have?

There are many different types of automobile insurance. It is important for an individual to evaluate the different available types of insurance and to find the one that best suits their needs.

The available options for automobile insurance include:

  • Liability insurance;
  • Property damage liability insurance;
  • Bodily injury liability insurance;
  • Collision coverage;
  • Comprehensive coverage;
  • Personal injury protection; and
  • Uninsured or underinsured motorist protection.

Liability insurance covers an individual in the event that they are involved in an automobile accident and they are determined to be at fault. Liability insurance will cover most of the costs associated with repairing property damage as well as any medical bills which result from the accident.

However, if an individual is involved in an accident where the costs exceed the coverage of their liability insurance, the individual will be required to pay the difference out of their own pocket.

Property damage liability insurance pays for the damage which is done to another vehicle in an accident. This type of insurance applies if the individual is at fault for the accident.

A bodily injury liability policy covers the medical expenses of individuals who are injured in an accident for which the individual is at fault. It covers the expenses for individuals as well as all of the occupants of the other vehicle.

Collision coverage pays for repairs which are made to an individual’s vehicle. If their vehicle is completely totaled, collision coverage will pay for the value of the vehicle at the time of the accident.

Comprehensive coverage is insurance coverage for damage which does not result from an automobile accident. Examples of these issues would include:

  • Weather damage;
  • Hitting a deer or other animal; or
  • If the vehicle was stolen.

Personal injury protection insurance covers costs which are related to personal injuries resulting from an automobile accident. Under this coverage, an individual’s medical bills and the medical bills of any passengers are paid through the individual’s insurance company regardless of who is at fault.

Uninsured or underinsured motorist protection provides coverage against other uninsured drivers. Even though state laws mandate that drivers must be insured, many drivers still do not have insurance.

If an automobile accident occurs and another individual is legally responsible for the damages which are related to the accident, the insured driver will not receive any compensation if the other driver does not have coverage. Uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance helps a driver with costs related to an accident.

What Should I Do if I am in an Accident?

It is most important to preserve as much evidence as possible following an automobile accident in case the individual wishes to file a personal injury lawsuit against another driver or if another driver files a lawsuit against them.

In addition, an individual should remember the following:

  • It is important to identify all the drivers involved in the accident. Important information to record includes:
    • driver’s licenses;
    • names;
    • addresses;
    • telephone numbers; and
    • their insurance carrier and policy number;
  • If there were any passengers in the vehicle, it is important to obtain their information as well because they could be useful as witnesses in subsequent lawsuits;
  • It is important to identify pedestrians and witnesses because they may be useful in any trials resulting from personal injury lawsuits;
  • If an individual is capable of doing so, it is important to record all of the facts surrounding the accident. It is often helpful to write down as much information relating to the accident as possible. Some important facts include:
    • when and where the accident took place;
    • the weather conditions;
    • the directions the cars were heading; and
    • how the accident occurred.

How Do I Prove Fault in an Auto Accident?

After an automobile accident has occurred and an individual has been injured, it is important to establish what party is at fault, so an individual can recover damages. Once fault is determined, the individual can likely recover from the other driver’s insurance company.

If law enforcement was called to the accident or arrived at the scene of the accident, they will make a written accident report. An individual can usually contact the department where the accident occurred in order to obtain a copy of the police report as evidence. In some jurisdictions, there is a small fee to receive a copy of the report.

There are some types of accidents in which another driver is found at fault almost 100% of the time and an insurance company will typically not dispute the issue. For example, in a rear end collision, the driver in the rear car who hit the first vehicle from behind is nearly always at fault. In addition, an individual who is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is typically always at fault for any accidents which occur.

When Am I Liable for Another Person’s Driving?

There are certain situations in which an individual may be liable for another’s driving. In these cases, the law assigns fault to an individual even though they were not driving the vehicle at the time the accident occurred.

In an employer-employee relationship, fault may be established when an individual is an employer and an employee is driving. If an employee is performing their job duties in the course of their employment, the employer may be liable for the employee’s wrongful acts, including negligent driving.

Family members may be liable for other family members’ driving under the theory of negligent entrustment. This theory establishes liability for a parent when the lend a vehicle to a minor knowing that the child is inexperienced, rekcless, or incompetent. The family purpose doctrine provides that when a vehicle is purchased for general use by the family, the owner of the vehicle is liable for the negligent driving of any family member who uses the vehicle.

If an individual lends their vehicle to another individual whom they know is reckless, unfit, or incompetent the individual is liable for their negligent driving if they cause an automobile accident under the legal theory of negligent entrustment. The individual who files a lawsuit based on this theory must show that the individual who lent the vehicle knew or should have known that the driver was incompetent at the time they gave permission to use the vehicle.

What Should I Do after an Auto Accident?

If an individual is injured in an automobile accident and that accident was not their fault, it is important to negotiate with the insurance company of the driver who was at fault so they can be property compensated for their injuries. Typically, the negotiation process begins with a demand letter to the insurance company.

A demand letter typically states a monetary amount which provides a starting point for the negotiation process. It is important for an individual to know the value of their injuries and losses before putting an amount in the demand letter.

The majority of insurance companies will try to settle outside of court instead of going to trial. It is important that, if an individual decides to settle their claim, that they do so for an amount which reasonably covers their medical costs as well as other losses. If an insurance company fails to offer a favorable settlement, an individual can sue the insurance company in court to recover for their losses.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

It is essential to have the assistance of a car accident attorney if you have been involved in an automobile accident. It is important to contact your attorney as soon as possible following the accident in order to preserve evidence for your claim. Your attorney can help you negotiate with the insurance company to obtain the amount you need to cover your losses.