What to do after a car accident during holiday travel

As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday season many of us are contemplating travel out of the area. While we enjoy a temperate climate locally, there are many locations in the region that are not so fortunate. If you are driving this holiday season take extra care to avoid an accident.

Accidents are an inevitable part of life. I read in a book on accident law that towards the beginning of the 20th century there were only 2 registered vehicles in New York city and almost no paved roads. They got in a collision with each other! There was only one tree in the Sahara desert for nearly 40 square miles- nothing around it; that could be seen for miles before you reached it. A driver hit it! This just goes to show that no matter what, accidents will happen- they are unavoidable. So it helps to prepare for an accident if we are unfortunate enough to have one.

First, make sure you know where your insurance cards are, and that they are current. If you have an accident, you'll be required to show proof of current insurance. Unfortunately, in our local economic climate the number of uninsured drivers, and those with only the minimu policy limits are skyrocketing. So, do yourself a favor and obtain Uninsured (UM) and Underinsured (UIM) coverage to protect yourself.

Second, I would recommend "Med Pay" or "Medical Payments" coverage. Med Pay pays your medical bills irregardless of whose fault the accident is. Even if it is not your fault, your medical payments insurance will pay the bills, and by law they don't get reimbursed for amounts below $5000 unless your policy specifically states differently. This results in extra money for you. Virtually all insurance policies could have this coverage, which is very inexpensive; but agents often don't make you aware of it.

Third, be careful what you say at the accident scene. If the police are investigating, thier report will be an integral part of your case. They are the first responders, and typically the only person in a position to investigate the accident from a firsthand perspective. As such, thier opinion will carry a great deal of weight and what you say when you are highly upset and confused after an accident could come back to haunt you. Forest Gump said "Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're gonna get." I prefer "life is like a jalepeno...what you do today may come back and burn your ass later."

Fourth, get checked out by medical personnel if you are feeling any negative effects from the accident. It is common for pain to be minor at first and intensify in the 2-3 days after the accident. Delays in obtaining medical treatment cause you pain and in some cases more treatment. Additionally, the longer you wait to obtain treatment, the more likely an insurance adjuster is to argue against it. Do yourself a favor and get checked out early.

Finally, do not speak to the insurance adjuster for the other side. They will call you early on to attempt to get a recorded statement. Their reason will be to "determine liability" or "document the case" or some similar ruse. The underlying motivation is to obtain statements from you that will undermine your case or even shift the responsibility to you. They also are trying to get statements from you that would disagree with your assertions that you were injured in the accident. After they speak to you, they'll often offer you a small amount of money, but this is not in your best interests. Remember the adjuster works for the insurance company responsible to pay you. His or her JOB is to keep money in the company accounts away from you. The better they do the higher their bonus. So the more money the adjuster takes from you, the more money they personally get! They are not your friend. They are never looking out for your best interests!

There are many more things I could say on this subject. These are my opinions and not official statements on State Law. The important thing is to be careful both in traveling and in dealing with an insurance adjuster should an accident occur. It is unfortunate when an accident occurs. It would be far more unfortunate to assist the insurance adjuster in cheating you out of the money you are entitled to.