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Understanding the way lawyers think about personal injury claims is the first step to setting up a successful auto accident claim. Settlement ultimately depends upon how lawyers or insurance companies value the strength of your claim.
When valuing the strength of your claim, lawyers and insurance companies evaluate the strength of the evidence that you can present in court to claim injury and collect damages.
A helpful way to think about the strength of your claim is not to focus on what happened, but to focus on what you can prove happened. Once you know this, you are armed with a perspective that will help you gather evidence to set up a successful claim if you are in an auto accident.
Personal injury claims arising from auto accidents revolve around proving liability. Liability, in law, is the responsibility for a person’s actions.
After a car accident, an injury victim can attempt to prove that the other driver is liable for his or her injuries.
In order to prove the other driver’s liability, the victim must prove that the at-fault party owed the injured person a duty of care. This is typically built into auto accidents, as it has already been established that drivers are required to drive in a reasonably safe manner.
The injured person must also prove that the other driver was negligent in some way. Negligence is, in simple terms, the lack of ordinary care. A driver drives negligently, for example, if he or she does things such as drive at excessive speeds, talks on a cell phone or fails to stop at a stop light.
Finally, the injured driver must prove that the other driver’s negligence caused his or her injuries.
If you have been in an auto accident and you feel the other driver is at fault, then it is time to start gathering evidence. Opposing insurance companies and their lawyers are not simply going to take your word for it and pay for your medical bills, lost wages and other expenses.
Fortunately, there are many ways to gather solid, reliable evidence that will back up your claims, which will eventually give you a better chance at a successful settlement.
One of the first things you should do in an auto accident is call 9-1-1. Not only does calling 9-1-1 help preserve your safety and the safety of those around you; it provides you with a real record from the time of the accident because these calls are recorded and the arriving police officer will complete an accident report.
The police report will contain the specifics of the accident and can be a very credible piece of evidence. Make sure to exchange information with the other driver.
Use your phone to take pictures and videos of the scene. One good practice is to use your phone’s video capabilities to record a walk-around of your automobile. If anyone challenges the damages you report later on, you will have the proof on-hand.
Do not stop at taking videos and evidence of the damage done to your car, though. Take pictures of the other driver’s car in case the other driver claims a different version of events. Don’t forget to take pictures of the road, skid marks, broken signs or guardrails.
All of this evidence can make you more credible and strengthen your settlement claims.
If there are any witnesses, approach them about giving you a written and signed statement. We always recommend to get witnesses contact information. Ask them to write as legibly as possible and have them sign and date each page so nobody can claim that you forged a witness statement.
After the police take your statement, ask them for a service or reference number for the report they file. Police officers are viewed as credible witnesses and credible recorders-of-fact, so accessing a police report later is usually a good idea.
If you need medical care of any kind, accept it. This is not the time to try to “tough it out.” After receiving your medical care, keep detailed, meticulous records of your treatment plans, referrals, prescriptions and medical charts. These records will be essential to proving you were injured.
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