After a car accident, it can be a complicated and confusing process to report, document, and notify all of the appropriate parties. The stakes are high following an accident; your ability to recover compensation depends in large part on what you do next.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know how to talk to the different parties who will ask you questions about the accident. The wrong remark to the wrong person, even if seemingly innocent, can create significant problems that could harm your claim.
Here, we’re going to help remove some of the guesswork so that you can approach conversations with the police, insurance companies, and your car accident lawyer with confidence.
If you have been involved in a car accident and have questions about how to move forward, please get in touch with Patrick Daniel Law at (713) 999-6666 today for a free case evaluation. We serve clients throughout Houston and all of Texas.
Reporting a Car Accident to the Police
You should generally call the police after a car accident. In Texas, accidents resulting in injury, death, or “damage to a vehicle to the extent that it cannot be normally and safely driven” must be immediately reported to the local police department. (see Texas Transportation Code § 550.026). However, it is important to approach any conversations with law enforcement with caution.
First and foremost, avoid saying anything that could be construed as admitting fault, such as “I’m sorry.” Even if you simply mean that you’re sorry the accident happened, these types of phrases can easily be used against you later on.
Second, stick to the facts. Be truthful with your responses to the officer’s questions but don’t feel the need to speculate. You may think you know why the accident happened, but it’s generally best to wait until you or your lawyer has the appropriate evidence to establish the cause of the accident before making these types of claims.
Similarly, it’s best not to say anything with certainty about your injuries. After an accident, it can be difficult to know for certain if you have sustained an injury. But, if you say that you are unhurt, it could make your situation more difficult if you later realize you were injured. This can happen with certain types of injuries, including whiplash.
Finally, get a copy of the police report after it has been filed. In Houston, this typically takes between 5 and 8 days, after which you can request a copy for review. Make sure that the officer’s account is accurate. If not, you can contact the police department to request changes to the report.
While police reports are not admissible in a court of law, the insurance companies will often consider them the official account of what took place. As such, it is crucial to make sure the report is accurate.
Notifying Your Insurance of the Accident
Even if you were not at fault for the accident, you still need to notify your insurance company. Doing so is important for several reasons, especially if the other driver doesn’t have insurance or the at-fault driver’s insurance doesn’t cover your losses. In these cases, you may need to rely on your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. Also, if the other insurance company is delaying payment of your claim, your insurance may cover some of the costs until the damages are paid.
As with explaining the accident to the police, you should always be honest with your insurer and give accurate answers to questions about the accident and how it occurred. You should, of course, refrain from admitting fault or appearing to admit fault, and it’s typically best not to speculate or provide guesses about why the accident took place.
Your insurance company is not inherently “on your side.” It is important to be cautious in what you say and the information you share.
To that point, you should be much more cautious if you receive a phone call from the other driver’s insurance company. The insurer will do everything possible to get you to say something that could hurt your claim, such as asking you to make a recorded statement. You are under no obligation to do this, and you should not agree to provide a statement—or accept a settlement offer—without first talking to a lawyer about the case.
What to Tell a Lawyer About the Car Accident
You should be able to tell your lawyer everything about the accident, keeping in mind that they are primarily going to focus on the evidence and facts surrounding your case. Hence, if you have photos of the accident scene, medical bills from the treatment you received for injuries sustained in the accident, and any other evidence that may support your claim, you should provide it all to your lawyer.
The last thing you want to do is lie to your attorney or withhold key facts surrounding the accident. Doing so could cause your lawyer to develop an inaccurate assessment of the accident and its cause, which could make it more difficult to recover compensation.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Houston
The best thing you can do after an accident, once you have received appropriate medical attention, is to speak to a lawyer. A car accident attorney will be able to help you navigate the many complexities of working with insurance companies—both your own and the other driver’s—to ensure your rights are protected.
At Patrick Daniel Law, we are Strategic, Meticulous, and Merciless in advancing our clients’ best interests. Being involved in a car accident is a stressful experience, but you do not have to go through it alone.
For a FREE case evaluation, contact Patrick Daniel Law today. Our car accident lawyers serve clients in Houston and other areas of Texas.