Car accidents occur all too frequently in Boston. In fact, more than 330 traffic fatalities take place here every year.
What should you do after a Boston car accident? This question is very important, as what you do directly after an accident may affect your ability to financially recover and get the money you need to address injuries and impacts to your life that result from the accident.
Furthermore, you need to follow the law, and Massachusetts, like many states, has specific legal requirements that must be followed in the event of a car accident.
Third, if another party was at fault for the accident, you may want to pursue damages for the harm. But many car accident victims have never thought about filing a lawsuit and don’t know where to even start.
Fourth, if you do pursue legal action against an at-fault party for damages, you’ll need evidence about the causes of the accident. Knowing what to look for in the accident or as soon after as possible can be the difference between a strong and weak case.
Fifth, many experience disabling trauma or pain at the scene of an accident. At a minimum, you may feel disoriented, and like you want to get out of the scene as soon as possible. You might miss an opportunity to collect evidence at the immediate scene, but can collect much of it later by looking to the right sources.
To that end, here’s a list of what to do after a Boston car accident.
Unless You Require Emergency Medical Services, Stay at the Scene of a Boston Car Accident
If you do not require emergency medical services, stay at the scene of a Boston car accident. Leaving the scene could expose you to criminal charges. Boston drivers involved in an accident are required by law to stop and make themselves known.
If you or your car are in danger of further harm (such as being struck by oncoming traffic), you can move to a safer location close by. Just make sure to return and make yourself known to other drivers and law enforcement.
Call Law Enforcement
If you or anyone else is injured in a Boston car accident, call 911. If any other parties are involved, ask if they need help. If they do, or cannot respond, call 911. The law requires people in a car crash that injures or kills someone, or that causes more than $1,000 in property damage, to report the accident. You will need to file a crash report. If you’re not sure whether or not property damage exceeds $1,000, err on the side of caution. Even relatively minor-seeming damage can rise to over that amount.
Law enforcement officers will issue a crash report after surveying the scene and talking to everyone involved and witness to the accident. You should try to get a copy of the crash report as soon as possible. If you are rendered disabled for any time following an accident, have a family member or close one pick up the crash report for you. The crash report is a very valuable piece of evidence, often used to establish responsibility for the accident. Even if the causes become disputed later, it’s an extremely important source of initial evidence.
Exchange Information With the Other Drivers
If possible, all drivers involved in a Boston car accident should exchange information, including insurance coverage information.
As most Boston residents know, Massachusetts operates under a no-fault system of insurance. Under a no-fault insurance scheme, the responsibility for causing the accident doesn’t matter to injured parties, because all registered drivers are required to obtain personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. PIP protection covers medical bills up to certain limits and 75 percent of wages lost from work for you or anyone driving your car.
So why would you need all drivers’ insurance information? Two reasons. First, if your property sustained damage and another driver is at fault, you can seek financial damages for the property from the at-fault driver’s insurance provider. Property damage is not covered by PIP insurance.
Second, injured people can seek damages not covered by PIP insurance in certain circumstances. If another party is at fault for your injuries and you incur a minimum of $2,000 in reasonable medical expenses and/or your injuries include at least one broken bone, substantial loss of hearing or sight, or permanent and serious disfigurement, you can seek damages or bring a car accident lawsuit against the at-fault party and their insurance company in civil court.
Take Pictures or Videos
If you have a smartphone with you and are able, take pictures of the following in the event of a Boston car accident. Pictures may serve as valuable evidence of what occurred and what the damages were.
The Accident Scene
Take pictures of the vehicles from several angles and directions. Take pictures of the accident scene itself, including anything that could shed light on how and why the accident occurred. Skid marks, broken streetlights—it’s all useful information. If there’s a posted speed limit and you believe a driver exceeded it significantly, take pictures of the sign.
All injured people should take pictures of their injuries as soon as possible. If you can’t do it yourself, have a friend or family member assist. These pictures can serve as evidence of the severity of the injuries.
Talk to Eyewitnesses if Possible
If there are eyewitnesses to your Boston, talk to them if possible. Eyewitness testimony can provide compelling evidence of how and why an accident happened, especially if it’s gathered shortly after the accident.
Get the contact information from eyewitnesses if they are willing. If you pursue damages, further testimony can be important.
Seek Medical Attention
Once law enforcement indicates you can leave and you obtain a copy of the crash report, seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Either visit an emergency room or see a physician.
It’s important to seek medical attention whether you feel injured or sustained visible injuries or not. All too often, people might skip this step or self-diagnose at home. But many serious and even potentially fatal injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), may not hurt. Only a doctor can diagnose you after an accident.
In addition, many conditions present only after some time has elapsed. The most prudent course of action is to have a doctor treat you.
If you don’t seek medical attention, the at-fault’s insurance carrier can, unfortunately, try to use that fact against you later. Insurance carriers are in the business of making a profit, and to that end, they often try to minimize or deny claims against their insured. They are well aware that the fact that you didn’t seek medical attention can look to a jury like you weren’t hurt, or didn’t feel hurt badly.
They can try to use the lack of a doctor’s appointment to deny your claim, claim your injuries stem from a source other than the accident, or minimize your claim.
The primary reason to see a doctor is to ensure your safety and health. But the need to protect yourself against the possibility of erroneous accusations is another.
Follow All Medical Recommendations
If you show injury, your doctor will recommend a course of treatment. This can range from the simple, such as taking aspirin for minor pain, to the serious, such as seeing a specialist or arranging surgery.
Whatever the course of treatment is, follow it. You can’t recover and get better unless you follow your doctor’s care advice. If medical professionals recommend further appointments, make them. If they prescribe medications, fill and take them.
Here, too, the failure to follow recommendations can not only harm you, the at-fault party’s insurance carrier can use it against you.
Believe us, they will check to see if you followed the doctor’s orders. If you do not, they may use this, again, to argue that you were not as hurt as you claim or that any lack of recovery or further harm is your fault, not theirs.
Keep All Records
We are establishing here that, while your safety and health are paramount, you also need to think about gathering and keeping evidence if you are involved in a car accident.
Keep all medical records, including dates of appointments, diagnoses, and recommendations.
It’s also important to keep all records of property damage, such as any car repair you had done. Repair records indicate the nature and extent of damage and the cost of it.
At times, the nature and extent of injuries can constitute forensic evidence of how an accident occurred.
Call Your Insurer
Call your car insurance company as soon after the accident as possible. Do this whether you are at fault or not. The adjuster may send a representative out to take pictures of your car if it’s damaged. They may also coordinate with other insurance carriers involved.
Consult an Attorney
If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident caused by another party, it’s prudent to consult an attorney.
Car accident attorneys offer a free initial consultation to discuss your accident. Come prepared to discuss who or what you believe bears responsibility for the accident, what injuries you sustained, and what effect those injuries exert on your life.
Obtaining damage compensation for injuries and other harm hinges on the concept of negligence. Negligence is the failure to exercise the level of care of an ordinarily prudent person. In other words, a driver who showed poor judgment while operating the vehicle, who drove recklessly or violated traffic laws, or was drunk or distracted is arguably negligent.
Negligent parties bear financial responsibility for the injuries and harm they cause. In a nutshell, that’s why their insurance company takes and pays your claim. That’s the reason you can bring a car accident suit against them.
A lawyer can assess whether your case indicates negligence on the part of someone else. (It can be a person or an organization, such as a car manufacturer whose car operated in a defective manner.)
If negligence in the accident isn’t clear, or is disputed, lawyers can help. Many lawyers work with investigators and forensic analysts to determine the likely causes of an accident.
Lawyers and investigators can also interview eyewitnesses, pull surveillance footage (if available), and gather other information.
Lawyers can also explain damage compensation.
Briefly, injured people can seek these damages:
- Medical bills, both already incurred and expected in the future for doctor’s appointments, emergency care and transport, diagnostic tests, surgery, hospitalization, physical therapy, prescription medication, and more
- Wages lost from work if injuries or treatment cause you to miss time from work
- The lifetime value of earnings if injuries from the accident render you unable to work at a former occupation
- Pain and suffering for physical, mental, and emotional duress and pain
Lawyers can help you compile evidence for all of these categories. If future medical care is expected, for example, they consult with experts to establish the standard of care and the likely cost. Both are used to calculate damage compensation needed in the future.
Finally, it is unfortunately not uncommon for insurance companies to deny or minimize claims. If this occurs, don’t try to go it alone! Lawyers are skilled negotiators, and can speak with insurance companies for you.
If negotiations fail, lawyers can take a case to civil court. Believe us, insurance carriers don’t want a court case! They know that judges and juries are often much more sympathetic to victims of a court case than they are. They don’t want to run that risk. At times, the threat of a court case can lead to an out-of-court settlement.
The Statute of Limitations
Legal cases usually have a filing deadline known as the statute of limitations. In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations is three years.
However, if you believe you need to talk to a car crash lawyer, it’s wise to do it as soon as possible. Memories fade, wounds heal, and evidence can become lost or damaged. The sooner a case is pursued, the higher the probability of a positive outcome.