What to Do After a Car Accident in Michigan
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
If you have ever been in a car accident, you will know how chaotic and confusing the aftermath can be. It is often the case that, initially at least, you are in a state of shock, and your initial focus is on any injuries suffered by you or your passengers. Our nation’s roads are getting busier every year, which means they are also getting more dangerous. Michigan’s roads saw over 75,000 injuries and 974 fatalities in 2018 alone. And as more vehicles appear on our roads and highways, the chances of being involved in an accident increases.
But when an accident occurs, and if you are able to, then there are certain steps you should always take that can ensure any insurance or personal injury claims go as smoothly as possible.
1.Don’t Leave The Scene
You should never leave the scene of an accident unless the police have advised that you can leave or if it is a minor fender bender that has not required the attendance of police. But even when only a minor collision, ensure you have followed the other necessary steps in this list.
The first action you should always take is to see if anyone needs medical treatment. If you and any passengers have not been injured, then proceed to check on the occupants of other vehicles involved in the accident. If there are any injuries, immediately call 911 and ask for paramedics unless someone else has already called.
3.Call the Police
If you did not call 911 to request an ambulance (and thus requesting police attendance at the same time) you must call the police if the following apply:
i. Where the accident has resulted in injuries or death(s).
ii. Where more than $1000 of property damage has occured.
iii. Where an unattended vehicle has been damaged or property when the owner cannot be found.
You may also want to call the police if you suspect that one of the other drivers is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Failing to report an accident can have serious consequences. If you “hit and run” from an accident with no injuries, you could face a suspended license, a misdemeanor conviction, and a fine. If you do the same from an accident where someone has died or been seriously injured, you could face a felony conviction that carries a maximum 15-year jail sentence and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Having a police report can be vital to any future action. Any accident report may identify an at fault driver and may be the basis for you to pursue a third party claim in certain circumstances for pain and suffering.
By making sure you have all pertinent information from the other parties, you will usually help the insurance companies to process any claims quicker. The information you should always collect includes: drivers’ names, contact details, license plate numbers, insurance company details. As well as the information from other drivers, also collect contact information from any witnesses as their testimony may be vital in cases where liability is questioned.
Many drivers now choose to have dash cams installed on their vehicles. The footage from these cameras provide fantastic evidence, not only in the event of an accident but in several other scenarios too. They have also proven to be a great tool in the fight against insurance fraud, something the FBI estimates costs over $40 billion per year. Those costs are then passed on to ordinary drivers with an extra $400-700 per year. Given the extortionate rates of car insurance in our state, this is something we all want to see dealt with.
Whether you have a dashcam or not, record as much of the accident scene as you can. Take photographs of the positioning of all vehicles, of road and weather conditions, and of any other factors that may have affected the accident such as bad signage or obstructions & hazards in the roadway.
6.Stay Calm Throughout
One thing to remember from the start is to not lose your temper. It is understandable, especially if you feel the accident was not your fault, for you to be upset. But losing your temper will not do you, or your case, any favors at all. In fact, if you lose your temper and resort to violence, you may face criminal charges from police.
After the Accident
The steps above offer crucial advice for what to do at the scene of the accident but what else should you do in the days – or weeks – following the accident?
1.Talk to Your Insurance Company
You should talk to your insurance company as soon as possible. The sooner you advider them of the details of the accident, the quicker they can begin to process any claim. Be completely honest with them, even if you were more at fault for the accident than other drivers.
2.Talk to a Lawyer
It is also advisable to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. With the upcoming changes in Michigan’s no fault policies, a complicated system could get a whole lot more complicated. Having a personal injury lawyer on board from the start can help with issues with insurance companies as well as any third party claims you can pursue or which are pursued against you. If another party has filed a lawsuit against you, having an existing attorney client relationship can be of huge benefit.
3.Record All Medical Treatment
While medical records and medical bills are good paper evidence of what treatment you have received both initially and ongoing, sometimes more evidence can be helpful. If you have decided to pursue a third party claim for pain and suffering, then recording photographs of the different stages of your treatment and how injuries progress can be a lot of help to your lawyer.
Videos can be very helpful too. Michigan requires that to pursue non-economic damages (ie pain and suffering) you must meet the state’s threshold injury requirement. These requirements include “death”, “serious impairment of body function,” or “permanent serious disfigurement.” For the latter two, video evidence of how the injury has impacted on your daily life or how it has led to a loss of quality of life can be crucial in any court case.
4.Get More Than One Quote
As far as any claim for property damage is concerned, always obtain more than one quote. Insurance companies do not like paying out money under any circumstances and if you only submit one quote for repairs or replacement, then they will likely delay the claim and ask for more quotes. By submitting two or three, you can help prevent any delay.
5.Don’t Discuss Your Accident
One piece of advice we urge clients to follow is to avoid discussing – or posting pictures of – your accident on any social media platform. Insurance investigators love social media as a source of potential evidence for refusing or reducing claims. They have even been known to bring up old pictures of an accident victim to try and show their injuries are not as serious as claimed, even when the photograph predates the accident.
While we understand that many people love their social media accounts and that you want to reassure friends and family that you are fine, the best advice we can give is to avoid discussion of the accident and any injuries altogether. If you feel you must post, keep any references brief and factual.
6.Beware of Settlement Offers
We all know that insurance companies do not exist to help people. They are in business to make money for their shareholders and as such, they do not like to easily pay out claims. This means that any initial settlement may be less than you expected or are entitled to. It is best to always seek legal advice on any early settlement offer you receive. If your law firm thinks the offer is a lowball one, then they can negotiate with your insurance company for a better offer.
Some Final Thoughts
Dealing with a car accident can be stressful and exhausting. Not only may you have to deal with the medical treatment for your injuries, but you also have to face what seems like an endless amount of paperwork and questions. Knowing the steps to follow after an accident can drastically reduce the amount of stress you may face and can make the whole process smoother.
Cochran, Kroll & Associates are one of the leading firms of car accident attorneys in Michigan. We have successfully fought thousands of car accident cases and won positive outcomes for our clients. We offer a free initial appointment which you can book by calling us at 1-866-MICH-LAW. Or why not use our online consultation form to leave us some details and one of our team will get back in touch with you.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.