By Attorney Michael Franco
I’ve been hit by another car. The other driver caused the accident. What do I do? This is a question that is frequently asked too late. My first rule of thumb – don’t freak out. Accidents happen every day. Most accidents don’t result in litigation.
If there is damage to your car, but no one is injured, you should exchange driver’s licenses and registration with the other driver, and immediately report the accident to your insurance agency. If you have collision coverage, your own insurer will pay for your property damage. If you don’t have collision coverage, the other driver’s insurer will pay for your property damage. The insurer will typically pay the cost to repair your car. But, if your car is totaled (in other words, the cost to repair is more than the market value of the car), the insurer will pay the market value of your car. There are web-sites like http://www.kbb.com/ and http://www.nadaguides.com/, which will help you to determine what your car is worth.
If you or a passenger are injured, you should call police or ask someone to call police for you. Police will request an ambulance to take you to the hospital. Police will also investigate what happened and issue a citation to the other driver if appropriate. If possible, you should ask someone to take a photograph of the accident scene and the damage to both cars. After leaving the hospital, you should immediately report the accident to your insurance agency. You should also ask someone to take a photograph of any visible injuries.
What happens next depends on the severity of your injuries. At a minimum, you should follow-up with your primary care physician. Your physician will recommend what, if any, additional medical treatment is needed. This could take the form of diagnostic testing (X-rays, CT scans, MRI’s), orthopedic care, chiropractic care, physical therapy, surgery, etc.
You shouldn’t delay in getting treatment due to concerns about insurance coverage. Your insurer provides you with Personal Injury Protection benefits, commonly known as PIP. This will pay for your medical bills and 75% of your lost wages. You need to coordinate your PIP coverage with your health insurance coverage. Typically, PIP will pay for the first $2000 in medical bills. All other medical bills must be submitted to your health insurer. PIP will then pay for any gaps in your health insurance coverage (co-pays, deductibles, etc.) up to an additional $6000. If you are operating a motorcycle at the time of the accident, PIP benefits are not available. But, hopefully, you read my blog at http://bbflawoffices.com/accident-claims/unlocking-mysteries-car-insurance-michael-franco-esq/ and bought Medical Payments coverage.
If your injuries are serious, you should consult an attorney. You have the right to bring a negligence claim against the other driver if 1) your medical bills are over $2000, 2) the accident resulted in death (in which case, your Estate would bring the claim), 3) your injury “consists in whole or in part of the loss of a body member,” 4) your injury “consists in whole or in part of permanent and serious disfigurement,” 5) you lost hearing or sight, or 6) you fractured a bone. Your attorney will then coordinate your PIP claim, your property damage claim, and your negligence claim. There are lots of moving parts, so you shouldn’t try to handle a negligence claim on your own.
Keep in mind that you may receive a call from the other driver’s insurer. The adjuster will often try to take a recorded statement from you. You shouldn’t talk to the adjuster, other than to tell the adjuster to call your attorney.
This is a very broad overview of the many complicated issues involved in dealing with an auto accident. Beauregard, Burke & Franco can help you to navigate this bumpy road. We regularly handle serious accident cases for clients who have been killed or hurt by the negligence of others.
Attorney Michael Franco is co-author of two chapters in the MCLE book “Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Torts: Liability and Litigation.”