After a traumatic car accident, you may find yourself in shock. Perhaps you are angry or sad. You may be in pain and find it difficult to move. Accidents certainly do not put you in a frame of mind to prepare a legal case. Nonetheless, the things you do and say in the hours and days following your accident can have serious implications on any legal actions down the road. If you want to maximize your potential compensation, here are some best practices.
Write Everything Down
Pain can be amorphous. If you are in pain from a recent accident, it is very real for you right now, but who remembers precisely how painful something was ten to twelve months after the pain is gone? How do you define it or classify it in a way that will meaningfully convey to a jury what you went through? It is quite difficult. The best thing to do is to take notes about your injuries. Keeping a regular journal in which you jot down pain triggering events, the intensity, and duration will help a lot. Those details give the description authenticity. Do not forget to include any anxiety or loss of sleep. A small bump or “crick” in the neck may seem too insignificant to document, but you should write it down anyway. And talk to your doctor about the things you have written.
Begin making notes immediately if the aftermath of the accident causes you to miss social events, vacation, work hours, or other types of appointments. Finally, be sure to document all the details regarding the accident itself. Write down what happened. What was the weather? Was it dark outside? Who may have witnessed the accident? These notes will be especially helpful for your Motor Vehicle Operator Crash Report, which is due within five days of the accident under Massachusetts law.
If anyone talks to you about the accident, including the police officer, insurance adjusters, or healthcare workers, make sure to note the content of every conversation. The voice notation feature on most phones work just fine for this.
Do not agree to simply exchange information with the other driver and leave the scene of the accident. Call the police and wait. The police officer will conduct an information exchange that will make it more difficult for the other driver to lie about his or her insurance or contact information. If you have a friend who is nearby and can make it, call your friend. Have the friend observe and document. Notify your insurance company right away, even if the ultimate claim will lie with the other driver’s insurance company. Massachusetts is a no-fault state, meaning that your own insurance company is most likely first in line to pay damages.
This is a simple one that is often overlooked. Most people have phones with cameras in them and can easily snap photographs of the accident. Don’t be shy. If you can move about and get pictures of the damages from several angles, this will add power to your claims later on. It is quite difficult for an insurance adjuster to argue with photographs.