When you're in a car accident, it's hard to think ahead to what comes next. First, there's the shock of the accident. Then you may be dealing with your injuries or injured passengers. Finally, you'll be talking to the police and insurance companies. It can be easy to think that you'll worry about the details tomorrow or next week or next month. Unfortunately, you have a short period after a car accident to protect your possible claims for the accident.
- The Accident Scene
Once your accident happens, the clock starts ticking. In Rhode Island, you will have a limited amount of time, known as the statute of limitations, to file a claim against the other driver or their insurance company. At the scene, first responders will deal with any injuries or medical emergencies. Then, the police will take statements from you, the other driver, and any witnesses, if possible.
The police may also take photos or use an accident reconstructionist for serious accidents with injuries. They will likely want to reopen any roadway and get disabled vehicles out of the way, so the accident scene will only remain for a few hours at most. This scene is your first opportunity to preserve evidence before it's cleaned off of the road. If you aren't injured, take photos, write down any witness names, and ask the police for contact information so you can get a copy of the police report.
- Initial Medical Care
Your priority should always be emergency medical care for you and anyone injured in the accident. In the emergency room, you should explain what happened to your doctor. This description will help the medical team treat you but will also help preserve evidence of your accident. After treatment, be sure to follow up with your doctor and get copies of your treatment records and any tests or x-rays. Of course, you should also save all future medical bills and receipts.
- Hire a Car Accident Attorney
While this can be difficult to think about in the aftermath of a serious accident, you should hire an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will know how to seek documentation for the accident from the police and accident reconstructionists. Your attorney can also obtain medical and treatment records, preserving your injuries and medical claims.
Moreover, your attorney can ensure that photos, notes, reports, and eyewitness statements from the initial accident scene aren't lost to a drawer in a police station. If you hire an attorney quickly, they can even take photos of the scene as it was at the time of the crash, noting road and weather conditions and any evidence left at the scene. An attorney can also ensure that an accident reconstruction happens as quickly as possible, bolstering your case. Having an attorney on the case can also ensure that negotiations with your insurance company and the other driver's insurance company go more smoothly.
If you've been in a car accident, we can help. Just contact Inman & Tourgee online or call (401) 823-9200, and we can explore your legal options and preserve any claims you may have.