Accidents don’t just happen to other people. In fact, the average a driver in the United States has a 30 percent chance of being involved in a car accident. When you are in a car accident in Louisiana, you need to know what steps to take to file a successful claim. Remember, there are three primary times when you should be thinking about your claim. The first is immediately following the accident, the second is following your seeking medical care, and the third is after you report the accident to your insurance company.
You have an obligation following a car accident in Louisiana to stop at the scene, verify the condition of everyone involved in the accident, exchange information with the drivers involved and call the police. If any passenger or driver has suffered an injury, you should also provide assistance and aid to the victim if it is possible. Make sure whenever possible the cars involved are removed from the line of traffic.
When contacting law enforcement or 911, make sure you give them a specific location to ensure they can locate the scene as quickly as possible. Calls to 911 should also include information about any injuries, so they are prepared when they arrive at the scene.
When discussing the accident with others at the scene, or law enforcement, make sure you are not accepting any fault for the accident. Keep in mind, the other driver can use simple statements like “I am sorry I did not see you” against you if you file a claim. When giving a report to law enforcement, stick to the facts and avoid opinions.
Documentation matters when filing an insurance claim. While the police report will contain a lot of detail, the more evidence you can collect at the scene on your own, the better to support your claim. Assuming you are not seriously injured, you should take photos at the scene. In addition to photos of the vehicles involved, it would also be helpful to have photographs of surrounding street signs such as speed limit, or other hazard signs.
Keep in mind, photographs will also provide your insurance company with other important information. Weather conditions, traffic signals, and even the demeanor of the other driver can provide your insurance agent with a great deal of information.
Whenever possible, you should speak with any witness to the accident. Obtaining their contact information will be helpful when filing a claim with your insurer. Additionally, you want to make sure you have statements as to what occurred just prior to and immediately following the accident. Witness statements will go a long way into establishing what occurred along with your own recollection.
Regardless of how minor you believe your injuries to be, you must seek medical attention following a Louisiana car accident. One issue which often is forgotten is our body reacts to stress by flooding our systems with hormones. Adrenaline is released into our system and as a result, symptoms of an injury are often masked in the immediate aftermath of a car accident.
Make sure when seeking medical care, the attending medical team is aware you have been involved in an accident. This will ensure the proper testing is done to rule out injuries such as internal bleeding or other internal injuries which may not be evident.
All drivers in Louisiana are required to carry a minimum amount of insurance. Each registered vehicle must have a minimum of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident coverage for bodily injury liability. Additionally, insurance must also include a minimum of $25,000 property damage. Louisiana follows an “at fault” model which means that the driver who caused the accident is responsible for paying the claim to victims.
Even if the accident was not your fault, you should contact your insurance company as soon possible after seeking medical care. Reporting the accident to your insurance company protects you — this will allow your agent to understand the accident from your point of view as well as prevent the other driver and their insurer from attempting to blame you.
After you have contacted your insurer, you should contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company as well. Chances are the driver will have notified them, and your insurance company may also notify them, but it is never a bad idea to do so on your own and begin the claim process.
Keep in mind, any time you are speaking with a representative from an insurance company, innocent questions may not be as innocent as they sound. This goes for your own insurer as well as the other driver’s insurer. Do not render opinions, stick with facts, avoid indicating “I feel fine”, and above all, make sure you do not leave any impression you were partially at fault for the accident.
After speaking with the insurance company, you should contact a Louisiana car accident attorney immediately. There are several reasons for this including protecting yourself from the typical tactics insurers will use to reduce the amount of compensation you receive for your injuries. An attorney will help navigate the complexities of the Louisiana personal injury statutes which include helping you understand negligence, informing you of the various options which are available to you in an accident case where you have suffered injuries, and can negotiate on your behalf with the insurance company.
Even if you feel you are on the mend, make sure you follow all instructions from your medical team. They understand how much time you will need to recover from your physical injuries and the associated trauma.
While you are recovering, you should keep notes of any changes in your physical condition. It is also helpful to make note of any emotional changes as it is not uncommon for victims to suffer post-accident emotional trauma. These changes in your physical and mental state will also help your physician ensure the treatment they are providing is appropriate for your needs.
Documenting visits to the doctor and other specialists is also important. Keep track of all your medical costs including any special equipment like braces, crutches, or wheelchairs as those costs may be part of a final settlement. Carefully track costs of prescription drugs as well as any tests your doctor may order.
After you and your car accident attorney have decided the best course of action, you can begin focusing entirely on your recovery while your attorney does the negotiating on your behalf. Remember, the insurance company is going to attempt to pay as little as possible so they may make an initial offer which will not be final, regardless of what they tell you. Any time an insurance adjuster contacts you, you should refer them to your attorney. Avoid signing any documents provided by the insurer because you could be agreeing to waiving certain rights. The insurer may also attempt to have you make a recorded statement — refer them to your attorney.
Accidents can be frightening, and an insurance adjuster is not in the business of making sure your rights are protected — they are there to protect the insurance company. Contact the Law Office of John W. Redmann, LLC as soon as possible after being involved in an accident. You can reach us by calling (504) 500-5000 or by filling out our online contact form.