The average American will be involved in one or two automobile collisions in their lifetime. If you are ever involved in an automobile collision there are certain steps you can take to protect your financial and health interests.
First, call 911 immediately. There are several reasons for doing so. Even if you are at fault for the collision it is important to have a disinterested party memorialize your story and the other driver’s story. In the moment after an adrenaline pumping experience, people are more likely to be honest about what they did and saw. The further away from the moment, the more likely the other person might intentionally or unintentionally change their story. Additionally, if anyone has been seriously injured, immediate medical attention can avoid further injury or even save a life.
Failure to report a collision on a public highway can carry criminal penalties in some jurisdictions, especially if you are at fault in any way for the collision. Some jurisdictions consider the failure to report as a “hit and run” charge which could mean jail time for drivers who fail to report a collision.
Your own insurance company might also deny your claim or wrongly assign fault to you for property damage or bodily injury without a police report. Your insurance company handles millions of claims a year and relies heavily on documentation from law enforcement and healthcare providers in determining whether your insurance policy covers your collision. For financial and health reasons, always report an automobile collision immediately.
Second, seek medical attention immediately. If you have health insurance that covers emergency room visits, this is your best option for immediate treatment from a medical and financial standpoint. Automobile collisions occur suddenly, without warning, and cause your body to release adrenaline; your body could even be in shock due to severe injury resulting in you feeling fine and looking fine for an hour or two even though you may have sustained serious internal injury.
Alternatively make an appointment as soon as you can with your primary care physician or a local walk-in clinic physician. Some injuries may not feel painful until the next day or two. Proactively seeing a physician can reduce the cost of medical bills and also preserve evidence of your injury. Judges in California courts often deny medical bills in automobile collision cases when the first visit to the doctor is weeks or months after you were injured in an automobile collision.
Third, if you have private health insurance or governmental health insurance make sure you see providers within your network. Using your health insurance will reduce your out of pocket expenses significantly and increase your personal injury net recovery. In the event that you do not have a valid personal injury claim, your medical expenses will be limited to your plan coinsurance or co-payments. If you do not use your health insurance for your medical treatment you could be left with thousands in medical bills and creditors calling at every hour.
If you do not know which healthcare providers are within your insurance network, there is usually a phone number on the back of your health insurance card that you can call. Operators at this number can give you a list of healthcare providers near your home or place of work. Always verify with the healthcare provider when making your appointment that they accept your health insurance to confirm that you will be covered.
Fourth, and finally, consult with an attorney as soon as you feel able to. Even if you have not taken any of the actions described in this article, a good attorney will be able to provide a plan of action to preserve and pursue your personal injury claim. Bring something to take notes with while you speak to an attorney so you have a written record of what you said and what your attorney tells you.
Remember, an initial consultation with any California attorney is considered a privileged communication. This means that the attorney cannot reveal anything you have discussed without your express permission. Our attorneys keep all client conversations private and even if you decide not to hire Russell & Lazarus as your personal injury attorneys your information and conversation will never be revealed to any outside people or organizations.
If you received a traffic citation as a result of the Long Beach auto collision, you should still consult with an attorney as a citation is not always an indicator of fault and wrongly issued citations can be dismissed or reduced to limit their impact on your personal injury case.