When You're at Fault for an Accident

If you've caused an accident, you may be liable for any resulting damages. Here's how to proceed when you're the defendant.

If someone is injured as the result of your conduct, there are many things you need to keep in mind so as not to make matters worse, whether you're on the other side of an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. This article will discuss the dos and don’ts for personal injury defendants.

What to Do as a Personal Injury Defendant

DO contact the police.  Especially after a traffic accident, you should contact the police so that they can take statements from all the parties involved, as well as speak to any witnesses. Having a  police report  will also help if, later, the plaintiff exaggerates or changes his or her story.

DO cooperate with all law enforcement and emergency responders.  Do not get in their way. Doing so can only make matters worse by either aggravating any injuries or by making you look bad.

DO exchange information with everyone involved in the accident.  Write down the name, phone number, and address of all people involved. If this is a  car accident, be sure to get the other party’s insurance information and license plate number as well. If there is a witness, be sure to get his or her contact information as well in the event that he or she leaves before the police arrive, or the police officer does not include the information in his or her report.

DO take photographs.  Take pictures of any damage caused by the accident, as well as any injuries, if possible. Also be sure to take pictures of the surrounding area. Take as many pictures as you can, from as many different angles as you can.

DO seek medical attention.  If you suspect that you are injured as well, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should do this not only to protect yourself from any injuries, whether apparent or not, but also to account for any damages that you may suffer in the event that you have a claim against the other people involved in the accident, or against a third party.

DO report the injury to your insurance company.  Contact your health, homeowner’s, or automobile insurance companies. Failure to do so in a timely manner can result in having your injury claim denied - rightfully or not.

DO contact an attorney.  Contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you can. An experienced attorney will help guide you through the process.

What To Avoid as a Personal Injury Defendant

DON’T leave the scene of the accident.  You must wait at the scene until you have exchanged information with the other party or the police allow you to leave.

DON’T move you your vehicle.  If a vehicle is involved, only move your vehicle if it is creating a safety hazard or you are required to do so by law.

DON’T throw away or hide any evidence.  Anything that may be relevant to the accident or injury must be preserved.

DON’T discuss the accident with anyone.  After the accident, do not discuss the details of the accident with anyone, including the other party’s attorney and any insurance company representative (including your own!). Do not apologize to the other party because this might be construed as evidence of fault. Before you speak with an insurance company representative -- either yours or that of the other party -- get your attorney’s authorization. See Tips for The First Call with an Adjuster After an Accident.

If you have an attorney, never speak to the other party’s attorney. Inform the opposing attorney that you have retained counsel and provide his or her information. If the opposing attorney continues to harass you, report them to your state bar.

DON’T agree to a settlement without having discussed the terms with your attorney.  The complete assessment of liability and the scope of injuries will not be known to you for some time. Wait to discuss your case with an attorney experienced with personal injury cases.

More Information

To learn more about how fault is established in a personal injury claim, see Determining Fault in a Personal Injury Case. For more on liability in car accident cases, see Fault and Liability: Who Caused Your Car Accident?

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