The basics are: Get treated for your injury by the right doctors. Get a lawyer – you will wind up getting one anyway – so you don’t have to worry about talking to the insurance company. Your lawyer should find out what insurance is available.
You can make the initial decisions to do these things real quickly, and, if you have medical insurance, without much initial outlay of cash. Most health insurance will at least get you treated by the doctor; you may be billed for deductibles and copays later, but we should be able to get you that money back from the other side’s insurance eventually. Nothing is more important than your health.
Establishing fault is crucial. Usually, the circumstances are not seriously disputed. But your lawyer has to be alert.
The first investigation results are usually found on the police report or accident report. If you have had a car accident in the recent past, someone has probably mailed you one within a week after the accident.
This is the police officer’s report of what he or she found at the scene – the location of any damage on the cars, the conditions of the road, what the people in the accident said about how it happened, the location of any debris on the road, skid marks, weather conditions, speed limits, etc. Usually, the officer makes a conclusion as to who is responsible for the accident.
Sometimes, people make statements to their own insurance companies that do not appear on the report. These statements are confidential, and usually you are not allowed to find out what they said.
But if the police report is inconclusive, and the insurance company pays the vehicle damage, it is a sign that the insurance company does not intend to dispute fault.
If serious injuries are involved, it is a good idea to hire an investigator and maybe even an engineer. Even if it looks like there is no question of fault.
Why does it make sense to have an investigation performed, even if the other driver got a ticket? A bunch of reasons. 1) The court at the trial of your damages case won’t let the ticket into evidence. 2) If they think it will be expensive, the insurance company will perform its own investigation, and come up with things you didn’t even realize were there: the “black boxes” from both cars; skid marks; witness statments from passengers.
I have used licensed detectives to call up witnesses to obtain statements. In one case, I asked the investigator to call up the investigating officer to find out why she said that a truck had drifted left of center on a curve. The officer told the investigator that the truck driver had admitted going left of center – but had not included this statement in the report. The case settled in six figures!
If nothing else works, sometimes just writing the insurance company, and asserting: “It is my understanding that liability is not in dispute; if this is incorrect, please let me know why” is enough to get them talking.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. Establishing the other side’s fault is the first thing I think about when I talk to the people I represent. If you want to talk about this with an experienced Lawyer – call me at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.