Car Accidents FAQs - Part 1
Car accident scene documentation with a smartphone has really made it easy to obtain evidence that can be used later to prove legal liability and other issues. As an auto accident lawyer who has handled thousands of injury claims over the past 20 years, I can remember the days of trying to take photographs of vehicle damage in a tow yard after the fact. Now, all this type of physical accident scene evidence can be documented “on the spot” with that little device most of us carry around in our pockets, the “smartphone”.
- Photograph Property Damage: The two, major issues of contention in auto accident claims are usually: (a) who is legally at fault for the incident; and (b) was the impact significant enough to cause bodily harm. Both of these hinge, in large part on the physical damage to the vehicles. For example, if there is clear damage to the rear of a car and the front of the car behind them, this would be indication of a rear end collision. If the damage is not extremely evident on the rear of the front car but, the whole front end and hood is demolished on the rear car, this could indicate a high level of impact. For these reasons, it is important to take digital photographs with your phone of all vehicles involved in the collision and from multiple angles and straight on and from close up and further away. If the air bags deployed, this should also be documented by taking photos of the deployed bag(s).
- Photograph of the License, Registration and Proof of Insurance: Let’s face it, when you are involved in an auto accident, it is a very traumatic event. Rather than relying upon simply writing down a driver’s license number, insurance company name, insurance company policy number and phone number and the registration information and take the risk of “shaky nerves” causing you to make a mistake, simply take a photo. Lay each item down separately or together if they will fit in the shot. Do this on a flat surface like a hood or car seat and make sure your phone focuses in and clearly shows all information in a legible manner. This will also give you the added benefit of having a photograph of the person who hit you by way of their driver’s license.
- Take Photos of the Accident Scene: The placement of the vehicles when they ultimately came to rest and the evidence of skid marks on the road, can play a big role in reconstructing what happened at a later date. Taking photos of the debris and where it rests in relation to the wrecked vehicles can also be helpful. If you have time, you may also want to photograph the signs and signals from the vantage point of where you were just prior to the crash (For example: If you were facing a traffic light or street signs that directed the flow of traffic and another vehicle violated these rules).
- Take a Video of Witnesses Willing to Provide a Statement at the Scene: If you need verification of something like a blown stop sign or someone running a red light, third party witnesses like nearby motorists or pedestrians who saw what happened leading up to impact and following can be very helpful later. While some people may feel uncomfortable going “on record”, many more are willing to help someone in need. In the video, you should ask for the persons full name (spelled out), address and best phone number to contact them later in addition to asking them what they saw, heard or observed.
- Taking Pictures of Injuries: Bodily harm that is immediately apparent such as cuts, scrapes, bruises, lacerations should be photographed. You should also take pictures of the wounds as they heal over time.
Once you have obtained photos, video, or other information from the scene of the auto crash, it is important to provide this to an attorney as soon as possible if you intend to seek compensation for personal injuries. Why? First, the lawyer will preserve this evidence and do a digital back up. Second, the lawyer will review the evidence and decide if all or part of the evidence may be used in the prosecution of the accident claim. Finally, the attorney can provide this type of physical evidence to experts such as accident reconstructionists, biomechanical experts and medical experts and they may be able to use this as a part of the basis for any opinion regarding liability or causation of injuries. No one ever wants to be involved in an accident and documenting the scene is not the highest priority but, it can provide crucial evidence and with the advent of modern technology, has become easier than ever to do so, why not do it if at all possible!Additional Resources
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute provides that the state of California had 1,807 fatalities  caused by single vehicle accidents in 2013. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Traffic Safety Facts  provides that in fatal crashes in 2012, 79 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were totally ejected from vehicles were killed. Ejection from the vehicle is one of the most injurious events that can happen to a person in an accident. In passenger cars, 18 percent of fatally injured occupants were ejected (totally or partially) from the vehicle, while 34 percent of those killed in light trucks were ejected. The report further states that seat belts are effective in preventing total ejections. Lap/shoulder seat belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. In 2012 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 12,174 lives of passenger vehicle occupants.
California seat belt law is described in section 27315 of the Vehicle Code and provides that, in a private passenger vehicle, the driver and all passengers are required to be secured by a safety belt. Section 27360 of the Vehicle Code spells out the requirements for very young children. Under this statute, children must ride in the back seat of the vehicle and be in a child safety seat, unless they are age six or older or weigh 60 pounds or more.Los Angeles Automobile Accident Lawyers
It is important for all drivers and passengers to use safety belts in order to remain safe, to reduce the risk of injury or death in a vehicle accident and to fully comply with the terms of the California Safety Belt Law. Even if you are wearing a safety belt, you may be involved in a vehicle accident and sustain serious injuries. If that occurs to yourself or someone you know, it is important to speak to a Los Angeles automobile accident attorney. The Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC, APC has represented victims of vehicle accidents all over the state of California and offers free initial consultations on these matters. We never charge a fee unless and until money is recovered for the victim or the victim’s family.References
Deciding whether to received medical treatment after a car crash is difficult. Following traffic accidents in Los Angeles, some people fail to seek medical treatment. Failing to get medically evaluated after an accident may leave people with injuries that are exacerbated and may make it more difficult for them to recover damages for their losses. Several common car accident injuries are initially hidden and only show symptoms hours or days after the accidents have happened. It is very important for you to seek medical care if you have been involved in an accident as soon as you can after it even if you do not initially think that you are injured. In addition, alleging “delay in treatment” is one of the main insurance tactics in trying to lessen the value of your claim or not pay the claim at all so seeking treatment as soon as possible and immediately upon experiencing symptoms that could indicate bodily harm is vital.
Both national and state statistics demonstrate how common injuries from motor vehicle accidents are. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 2.44 million people were injured in the U.S. in traffic accidents in 2015, which represented an increase over the 2.34 million who were injured in 2014. In California, statistics from 2014 are the most recent data available. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, 230,853 people were injured in motor vehicle collisions during that year, which was a 3.5 percent increase over the number of people who were injured in 2013 in the state. In Los Angeles County, 75,683 people were injured or killed in traffic accidents in 2014. The statistics demonstrate that automobile accident injuries are very common and that it is important for people to seek medical examinations following accidents to make certain whether or not they are injured. There are some injuries that may necessitate medical care and that are not initially obvious, including traumatic brain injuries, internal bleeding, whiplash and others.Common Injuries in Los Angeles Auto Accidents
When you are involved in an automobile accident, you may receive any number of injuries depending on the severity of the impact, the vehicles involved and the crash type. Common injuries that happen in Los Angeles auto accidents include the following:
- Head injuries, including eye injuries, facial bone fractures, jaw fractures, dental injuries and vision loss
- Neck and back injuries, including whiplash, spinal disc injuries and muscular strains
- Abdominal injuries, including liver, spleen and kidney damage and hip or pelvic fractures
- Leg and knee injuries, including fractures, bruises and mensicus tears
- Foot injuries, including fractures, strains and sprains
In addition, people may suffer from traumatic brain injuries, skull fractures, spinal cord injuries, internal bleeding and other severe trauma. The fact there are numerous types of injuries that people may suffer in automotive accidents makes it very important to seek a medical examination as soon as it is possible after accidents. Medical professionals may discover injuries that people are not aware of in these post-accident evaluations. They may also be able to determine the severity of any injuries if they are present or to offer confirmation that injuries did not occur. Seeking medical help after a car accident is something that should not be overlooked even if the accidents were relatively minor.Why you Should not say That you are Uninjured After an Accident
Immediately following an accident, it is common for people to have adrenaline rushes that might make them less aware of injury symptoms. If you are in an accident, it is not a good idea to tell the other driver or the responding police officer that you are uninjured. Some injuries have symptoms that may be delayed for hours or days after an accident. If you initially say that you weren’t injured and later discover that you did suffer injuries, it may make it more difficult for you to collect the medical expenses that you might otherwise have been entitled to receive. It is easier to demonstrate a nexus between your injury and the accident when you can offer medical documentation from immediately following the accident.Delayed Symptoms Following Car Accidents
There are some symptoms that may not show up for days after an accident and that should prompt you to visit a medical professional. If you experience headaches after your accident, you may have suffered a concussion, blood clot, neck injury or whiplash. Neck and shoulder stiffness or pain may indicate whiplash, which is known to not express for hours or days after motor vehicle accidents. Abdominal pain or swelling may indicate that you have internal bleeding and should prompt you to immediately go to the hospital. Dizziness may also indicate internal bleeding, head injuries or other injuries. If you experience tingling or weakness in your limbs, you may have a herniated disc that is pressing on one of your spinal nerves. Finally, you should not ignore emotional trauma that may happen after an accident. Some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems after car accidents for which treatment may be necessary. The takeaway is that you should never ignore anything that doesn’t feel right after you have been in an accident, and you should make sure to see a doctor after you have been involved in one.Contact a Los Angeles Accident Attorney
If you are in an accident, the first thing you should do is to seek medical care. If you suffered injuries, it is a good idea for you then to seek the help of an experienced automobile accident lawyer. It is important for you to get legal help before agreeing to make any statements to an insurance company. Insurance adjusters often try to get people to make recorded statements for the express purpose of trying to undermine their ability to recover damages later. When your accident was caused by another driver’s error, you may be entitled to recover noneconomic and economic damages for your losses. The Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC, APC has substantial experience representing automobile accident victims throughout the state. We offer free initial consultations to people who have suffered injuries in motor vehicle collisions. We also do not charge legal fees unless we recover money for the victims or their families.Sources
According to their website, Facebook had 1.01 billion daily  active users on average for September 2015 and 894 million mobile daily active users on average for that same time period. Twitter has 320 million monthly  active users, 80% of which are active users on mobile devices.
If you are involved in a Los Angeles automobile accident, you may think to grab your smartphone when you return home in order to share your experience with friends and family on social media. But postings on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or other similar social networking sites can have dire consequences for an auto accident case.
After an automobile accident, you may want to consider speaking to an attorney before posting any information regarding your experience or your injuries on the Internet. An attorney can review your suggested postings to determine if they will have a negative affect on your claims. Until you speak with an attorney, it is important to avoid the following:
Photographs or videos . Defense attorneys will attempt to show that any photos or videos reflect your current activity and lack of injuries.
Status updates: Avoid any status updates about your intention to file a lawsuit, retain an attorney or the specifics of your case. You should also refrain from posting any information about your plans after the accident as the information can be used to suggest that your injuries are minimal or even non-existent.
Admissions: Do not make any statements that relate to an admission of fault or negligence such as the fact that you were driving over the speed limit or had consumed alcohol at a party before the accident.
Injuries: Avoid any information regarding your injuries. Your initial diagnosis may change to one that is more severe, you may explain you injuries in a way that minimizes the serious nature, or you may inadvertently provide inaccurate information. To avoid any future difficulties with your case, it is best to keep all injury related information off social media.Los Angeles Automobile Accident Lawyers
If you are involved in an automobile accident, it is important to speak to a Los Angeles car accident attorney about the ways that your social media postings can have negative consequence for your claim for damages. The Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC, APC has represented victims of vehicle accidents all over the state of California and offers free initial consultations on these matters. We never charge a fee unless and until money is recovered for the victim or the victim’s familyReferences
Top five things to do after an accident seems a bit simplistic but, as a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles, CA with almost 20 years of experience representing accident victims, I will say that these will do more to help your case than many other things you can and should do. While it is certainly not everything, it gives you a “checklist” to go by in the event of a mishap. The problem is that most people don’t leave home thinking, “I’m going to get in an auto accident , trip and fall at the store , be assaulted in a parking lot , or suffer some other type of calamity today !” We expect to live our lives without incident but, we all know that catastrophe can strike at any moment so, it is always better to be prepared!
- Do NOT Discuss The Incident Any More Than Legally Required: One of the biggest mistakes I see people make especially after an auto accident, fall or some other event where other parties and witnesses are involved, is to make statements at the scene of the accident which are later used against them if and when they decide to bring a claim. We all know that when you get hit in the middle of the road on your bike or rear ended by a truck, the last thing on your mind is a claim for personal injuries. It is human nature to want to say: “I’m O.K.”; “I don’t think I’m hurt”; “I don’t need any help!”; “I don’t need an ambulance”; “I’m sorry if I didn’t see you coming through the intersection”, …. Under the Rules of Evidence in civil cases, statements made by a person who later becomes a “party” to a lawsuit, may very well be used against them later if the statements or conduct appear to be inconsistent with the position that party is taking at a trial. (See California Evidence Code 1220-1227 ). This is NOT to say that you should not, as required by law, stop at the scene of an accident, provide your name, address, driver’s license and insurance information and provide information to law enforcement BUT it is to say that the more you say beyond the “basics” at the incident site, the more chances you have to be misquoted or misinterpreted. This is especially important when dealing with insurance representatives of other parties. They are in the business of trying to eliminate the liability of their insured or drastically reduce this exposure by obtaining “facts” in their favor. Providing a written or recorded statement to any insurance representative is NEVER advisable without the assistance of an attorney. (See #5 below).
- Seek Immediate and Thorough Medical Attention: Documentation of injuries is key to recovery of damages in personal injury claims. This begins at the scene of any accident with reports from paramedics or EMTS, and continues all the way through the end of any treatment a party may receive from any doctor, nurse, therapists in a hospital or doctor’s office or any other medical facility. Procrastination in seeking medical help will ALWAYS hurt the value of the claim because it provides a very convenient excuse for insurance companies to say, “If they were really hurt, why did it take so long to for them to see a doctor?” Furthermore, failing to fully ascertain the extent of physical damage including obtaining X-rays, MRIs, CT Scans or other diagnostic testing can mean that you are trying to resolve a claim without really knowing what it is worth.
- Preserve the Evidence: It is human nature for people to deny responsibility for their negligence or wrongdoing. It is also second nature for insurance companies to deny claims or reduce the value of them. This is most often done through “revisionist history” (i.e. changing the fact to fit an argument or “recalling” the facts differently than what they were). How can you preserve the truth? Easy answer: preserve the evidence! This has become much easier now that most everyone has a camera and a video recorder in their pocket at all times (i.e. your smart phone). In the case of a traffic collision: Take pictures of the property damage to your car AND any other vehicles involved in the crash. Take a small video of the accident scene. Photograph where the vehicles came to rest after the incident. Take a picture of the driver and passengers in the other car if you can as well as their license plate. In the case of a fall or other mishap on a commercial or residential property: Photograph the condition of the property that caused the fall (e.g. liquid spilled on a floor, a concealed hole in the middle of a ground, something stick up that caused a tripping hazard, etc.). Also take pictures of the immediate area surrounding where the injury occurred. WRITE DOWN the names, addresses and phone numbers for witnesses. For ANY incident: Take photos of your injuries and continue to photo-document these physical conditions as they heal and change including photos of bruises, cuts or scars.
- Memorialize the Sequence of Events As Soon As Possible: When you have had time to calm down, sit down and write a memo of what happened while it is still fresh in your mind. Use as many details in describing the events as you possible can. Memories fade over time. It may take a year, two years or sometimes longer to get to the point where you have to provide deposition or trial testimony as the “exactly” what happened. Having notes that you made very close in time to the event in question can help a lot. NOTE: These should be turned over to your ATTORNEY and not shared with anyone else (See Advice #5).
- Retain the Services of A Quality Personal Injury Lawyer: No matter what your friends, family or other persons like insurance representatives tell you, asking for money for being the victim of negligence is a FORMAL LEGAL PROCESS from start to finish! This means that if you decided to begin speaking with insurance adjusters, providing medical records and other information, giving written and recorded statements, turning over information and, in general, “going it alone”, you are essentially acting as your own lawyer in a LEGAL PROCEEDING. According to statistics provided by the Insurance Research Council (an organization paid by the insurance industry to research insurance claims related issues), the average gross settlement of a personal injury claim where theparty had no lawyer representing them was $5,228 compared to $19,803 as the average gross for those who had legal counsel. (See: “Insurance Research Council: Paying for Auto Injuries – A Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims “). There is a reason why those with attorneys receive almost FOUR TIMES more. The reasons is that a quality legal representative can obtain and preserve the evidence, ensure that all injuries are properly diagnosed, and present the evidence in a way that maximizes the value of the claim. A personal injury attorney can also file a lawsuit, go to court and demand justice if unreasonable settlement offers are being made. A good accident lawyer also knows the true value of claim based upon years of experience in litigating cases and seeing real world results like jury verdict amounts on same or similar facts and injuries. Therefore, MUST DO #5 is the MOST important of all!