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Car Accidents On Thursday, February 20, 2020
By Attorneys Charles P. Reed and James E. Ringold of Loughlin FitzGerald, P.C.
Whether it’s a small fender bender or a serious crash, a car accident can be overwhelming to anyone. However, if you keep a few simple—but important—things in mind, you can put yourself in the best position possible for the days, weeks, and months after the accident.
Immediately after the accident, check yourself, your passengers, and the occupants of the other vehicle(s), making sure that everyone is safe and not seriously injured. You should render assistance, as needed.
You or someone with you should call 911 as soon as possible to notify them of the accident. You should never leave the scene of an accident, however minor. Preferably, you should not move the vehicles from the scene until the police arrive. However, if you feel that you location is unsafe, consider pulling to the side of the road or into a nearby parking lot.
Nearly everyone has a cellphone these days and, while you should never use it while driving, a cellphone can be an immense help after an accident. Use it to call 911. Then, as soon as possible, take a photograph of the license plate(s) of any other cars involved in the accident. No matter what else happens, this should help identify any other drivers involved and document the physical damage to the vehicles.
Once you’ve done that, speak with the other driver and get their name, address, phone number, and insurance information (along with their license plate number, which you’ve already photographed). Keeping a pen, paper, and flashlight in your glove compartment can help in these moments, but you can also write yourself a note, text, or email in your phone to save the information. This information can be critical to filing a claim and determining who is at fault.
Your phone can also be a big help documenting the accident scene, the cars, and any damage or injuries. Photograph everything. A picture is worth a thousand words: you’ll never regret having too many photos, but you might kick yourself once you’ve left the scene if you didn’t photograph something. These photos can be of great help in contested claims, both in proving what happened and in demonstrating the severity of the crash.
When the police arrive, tell them exactly what happened. If any part of your body is hurting, be sure to tell them that too. The police should document any complaints of injuries in their report, and a record that you had pain or other problems immediately after the accident can be a big help to your case down the line.
If the police offer you or others in your car medical assistance, take it. Some people ignore their medical needs after an accident, but this doesn’t help anyone. In fact, the shock and adrenaline of an accident may mask your pain at first, so even if you don’t think you have a problem, we always recommend having a medical professional check to make sure you don’t have a medical problem. The Connecticut Department of Public Health reports that motor vehicle crashes resulted in 191,984 emergency room visits from 2007 to 2013—over 27,000 per year—so you are not alone.
Keep track of the name of the hospital or other facility that treats you. If the doctors write you a prescription, fill it. If they recommend a follow-up or refer you to another doctor, go to that appointment as well. Some people worry about the medical bills and skimp on the care they need, but your biggest job after an accident is to get better.
If the accident occurred while you were in the course of your employment, Worker’s Compensation should pay your medical bills. In that event, notify your employer immediately of the accident.
If the accident did not occur in the course of your employment, your car insurer may pay the first portion of your bills through something called “MedPay”—up to the limit for that coverage, which is commonly one-, five-, or ten-thousand dollars—if you bought it as part of your insurance policy. After MedPay—or if you do not have MedPay—submit your medical bills to your health insurer for them to pay. Even if you don’t have health insurance, an attorney may be able to help make an arrangement with your doctors so you can get the medical care you need, with the bills paid at the conclusion of your case from your final settlement or award.
Hopefully, the other driver is responsible and has insurance. Since January 1, 2018, Connecticut requires drivers to have a minimum of $25,000 (per person) in insurance for bodily injuries they may cause. People can buy insurance with much greater protections, but unfortunately many drivers only carry that minimum, which may not be enough if they cause you a serious injury.
What if the other driver does not have insurance?
Most Connecticut car insurance policies include what is called “uninsured motorist” (UM) insurance. This insurance protects you against other drivers who have no insurance or who leave the scene without being identified. With this type of protection, your own insurer stands in place of the other driver. So, even if you’re hurt and the other driver has no insurance, but you do? You may be able to make a claim against your own UM insurance for the accident.
What happens if the other driver has minimum limits coverage, which may not be enough?
Most Connecticut auto insurance policies also include protection against other drivers who do not have enough insurance, called “underinsured motorist” (UIM) insurance. With UIM, you collect the limits of the other driver’s insurance and then—if your UIM insurance has higher policy limits than the other driver’s insurance—you can make a claim against your own UIM protection.
When you make a claim, regular UIM policy limits are reduced by the limits of the other driver’s insurance. However, if you bought UIM “conversion” coverage, that limit is not so-reduced. For example, say you suffered $125,000 of damages—including medical and other bills, lost wages, permanent injuries, and your pain and suffering—and the other driver had $25,000 in insurance. If you had no UIM (which is rare), then it is likely that you could collect only $25,000 from the other driver’s insurer. If you had regular, non-conversion UIM with $100,000 limits, that limit would be reduced by the $25,000 from the other driver’s insurer and you could collect up to another $75,000 from your UIM coverage, for a total of $100,000. Finally, if you had $100,000 of UIM conversion coverage, you could collect the full $100,000 without that reduction, for a total of $125,000.
Your health is your first priority, but you should also keep your car in mind after an accident. If you carry collision coverage, your own insurance should pay for your repairs. Even if you don’t, the other, at-fault driver’s insurance should pay for your property damage and any rental bills you might incur. However, their insurer might contest responsibility at first, in which case you may have to pay for repairs and/or a rental, at least initially. If you do, save your receipts. Like your medical bills, a knowledgeable attorney can help you recover those costs from the at-fault driver and their insurer. One tip to keep in mind: cars will often begin to collect storage charges if you leave them at a garage or lot for too long. So, if your car isn’t fixed right away, we would recommend moving it to your home while you sort these issues out, to avoid those charges.
We know insurance can be complicated, but a skilled attorney can help answer your questions.
Hire a Skilled, Local, Personal Injury Attorney to Help You With Your Claim
In the days after an accident, we strongly suggest that you contact a local personal injury attorney to represent you. A qualified attorney can protect your interests, handle the insurance adjusters, answer your questions, and help you get the full compensation you deserve for your injuries. You never want to give a statement to the wrongdoer’s insurance company without the benefit of an attorney.
Personal injury attorneys like us work on what’s called a “contingency” basis, meaning we are paid a percentage of whatever you receive if and when you win your case, plus any costs we advanced while prosecuting your case. This means you owe nothing up front or along the way. A local attorney is particularly helpful, making appointments and meetings quicker and easier. We also specialize in car accident claims.
If you are involved in an accident, we know there are many options out there. We here at Loughlin FitzGerald—a firm with deep Wallingford roots—would be honored if you considered us. Please feel free to call us—Attorney Charles Reed, a Martindale-Hubbell AV-rated personal injury attorney with nearly 30 years of experience, or his colleague Attorney James Ringold, a fellow Wallingford resident—at 203-265-2035 to discuss your case.