9 Critical Steps After A Michigan Car Accident
When we are involved in a car accident, the aftermath can often be confusing. Our initial thoughts and focus will always be on our own well-being and any injuries sustained by our passengers. Then we will look to see if anyone else has been injured in the accident. But once we have checked that everyone is okay, then our thoughts inevitably turn to what happens next. This can include what will happen if we have to miss a period of work, and how any insurance claim will pay out for damage to the car and for any pain and suffering received.
In 2018, there were 974 fatalities and over 75,000 injuries on Michigan’s roads. Knowing what to do after an accident can be vital. There are a number of steps we can take, if able to do so, that can be critical in ensuring a smoother process when dealing with auto insurance companies.
Stay at the Scene
Never leave the scene of the accident until police advise you can leave or, where it is a minor accident and no police have attended, you have gathered all the information needed to proceed with an insurance claim.
Check on All Drivers and Passengers
Your primary concern should be to check whether anyone involved in the accident needs any medical attention. If they do, immediately call 911 to request medical assistance. And never move anyone who has some form of head trauma or who reports severe back or neck pain as moving them may make any injury worse and you open to liability.
Call the Police
Where there have been significant injuries to any people involved in the crash, where there has been significant damage caused (to the vehicles or property), or where you suspect that one of the drivers was majorly at fault; for example they appear drunk or under the influence of drugs, then immediately call the police. Having a police report of the incident fully may be beneficial to any claim you later make.
Get the contact details of everyone involved in the accident. That includes all drivers and passengers of all the vehicles involved. Remain cordial and avoid any recriminations or confrontation. While Michigan has no fault laws when it comes to car accidents, admitting liability to someone else involved may affect your claim later.
Talk to Witnesses
Talk to any other witnesses or bystanders. If there were people at the roadside, they will often have had a better overview of the incident than people in the vehicles. You can also ask them if where the accident happened is an accident blackspot. Have other accidents occurred there? Are there road conditions or other factors that may have contributed to the accident?
Inform Your Insurance Company
Notify your insurance company as soon as possible and give them all the details of the accident. You must tell them everything, including if you hold any fault for the accident. Withholding any information, or giving them false information, may lead to problems with any insurance payments later.
Keep Track of Your Medical Treatment
Keep a record of all medical care you receive. This should include not only any initial treatment but any ongoing health care including rehabilitation services. Ask for copies of all medical bills, reports, and records as these will be essential in making a claim.
It is also worth recording how any injuries affect your daily life. Do the injuries restrict any activities? Have you suffered from depression or other conditions as a result? Any impact the injuries have had should be recorded.
If possible, take as many pictures of the accident scene as possible. The pictures should include damage to your own vehicle, damage to and positions of other vehicles, any extraneous factors such as road damage that may have contributed to the accident, and anything else you may feel is relevant.
If you are unable to record any photos or videos, ask someone else to do it if possible. It is always wise to have pictures of your car recorded when in good condition so as to have a before and after comparison.
Get a Property Damage Valuation
When looking at repairs to you car, or to any other damaged property, it makes sense to get at least two quotes on the level of damage and what it will cost to repair. If you are unhappy with any offers or values put forth by your insurance company, it may be worth engaging accident attorneys to negotiate on your behalf.
Other Good Advice:
Use Caution in Discussing the Incident
The only people you should discuss the accident with is your lawyer, the police, and your own insurance company. Do not talk to other insurance companies or attorneys without your insurance company or lawyer knowing.
If anyone else calls you, advise them to speak to your lawyer or your insurance company. If they request a meeting, tell them the same thing.
Be Wary of Early Settlement Offers
As with many things in life, initial offers will probably be lower than they should be. Insurance companies do not like paying out after an auto accident so will come in with a low offer in the hope that the car accident victim will accept it.
It is also worth remembering that the extent of some injuries may not be known until some time after the actual incident, so accepting an early offer may leave you with a shortfall when it comes to medical expenses.
Consider Hiring an Attorney
In many cases, Michigan’s no fault state laws for car accidents means that any claims will be straightforward and will be dealt with quickly and fairly. In many others, however, there can be complications.
Lowball claims from the insurance company, disputes over liability, all can lead to a lengthier and more intricate process. Hiring a competent accident attorney can ensure that any complications are dealt with proficiently so that you receive the best outcome and will not be out of pocket.
How to File a Claim
There are two aspects regarding the timing of a claim to consider here. The first thing to remember is that because Michigan is a no fault state, in the first instance any claim made will be under your own personal injury protection coverage. Your insurance company would expect your initial claim to be made in the first few days or weeks after the accident happens.
If there is a further claim to be made, then the statute of limitations for car accident suits in Michigan is the same as personal injury claims: the claim must be made within three years from the date of the accident.
The exception to this is if a wrongful death suit is filed. In those cases, the statute of limitations is still three years, but the time period is from the date of the person’s death.
Seek Medical Attention Immediately After the Car Accident
In a lot of cases, the extent of injuries suffered in a car accident do not immediately manifest. So what may initially appear to you to be minor injuries could actually be something more serious that does not show for days or even weeks.
If you do not receive any medical attention at the scene of the accident, it is advisable to see a doctor within 24 hours. They may spot something that you do not.
If you do not seek any medical help after the accident and an injury appears later, it could affect your claim or an insurance company may even claim that the injuries were not sustained in the actual accident.
Follow the Advice of Your Doctor
If you have received any injuries and a doctor or other healthcare professional sets out a treatment plan, then it is crucial that you follow that plan. Missing appointments, failing to take medication, or not adhering to any other medical instructions gives the insurance company ammunition to reduce or even deny your claim.
They could state that you have made your recovery period longer through your own mistakes and that they should not have to cover any further period of treatment.
Gather Any Relevant Documents
As with most forms of legal processes, gathering relevant and important evidence is paramount in a car accident case. Some of these documents may be official ones but you can also include diary records of the pain and suffering – or psychological effects – that you have incurred following the incident.
Medical records are probably the most important as they will document all the treatment you had, and are likely to need in the future, as well as any expenses.
The police accident report is also a crucial piece of evidence as it will not only include details of the accident itself, but also other factors which may be relevant such as weather conditions, state of the road, lighting conditions etc.
A police report is also a good way of having an official record of several other pieces of information that you may not have been able to gather at the time due to injuries. These can include:
- A list of all injuries suffered by the various involved parties
- A possible identification of the cause of the accident
- A list of all involved parties and witnesses
- A list of damage to vehicles involved in the accident
- Possible identification of liability
- Time and location of accident
Car Accident in Michigan FAQs
- Should I hire an attorney after a car accident? A lawyer will not always be needed but if there is any dispute over an insurance settlement or if there are issues with liability, then a competent attorney can help guide you through the complexities of a claim.
- How will it cost me to hire an attorney? Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. operate on a contingency fee basis. So you will only have to pay us if we win your case.
- Who will pay for any damage done to my car? Under Michigan’s no fault insurance laws, the PPI (Property Protection Insurance) element of your policy will pay for all damage to your car and for any damage your vehicle causes to a properly parked vehicle.
- How soon must I file a car accident lawsuit? A lawsuit must be filed within three years of the accident or three years from the date of death in cases of a wrongful death suit.
- How much compensation am I likely to receive for any pain and suffering? Each case is judged on its own merits and any award made can depend on a number of factors such as age, psychological effects of the injury, any detrimental effects to relationships, ability to work or engage in recreational pursuits, etc.
- Are any lost wages covered after a car accident? Yes, these will be covered by your no-fault insurance.
- If I was a passenger and was injured in a car accident, can I make a claim? In order of priority, you would make a claim under your own car insurance policy, that of a spouse, or that of a relative. If none of these were applicable, then you would make a claim to The Michigan Assigned Claims Plan.
While Michigan’s no-fault laws do make things easier in thousands of car accident cases, it can also be a complicated process with many pitfalls. When you encounter issues, you want to have an injury attorney with extensive experience in pursuing all forms of vehicle accident claims.
Here at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., we offer a free consultation to discuss your circumstances and evaluate your case. We have a team of highly experienced lawyers who can fight your case at all levels, from negotiating with your insurance company to litigation in court. Call our toll-free number at (866)-868-3779 to schedule your free consultation.