I grew up watching the late show with David Letterman and one of my favourite segments on his show was the top ten list. So in his honour as he recently retired, here is my top ten things to do if you’re involved in a car accident.
10. Check for injuries, don’t move your car first
- Make sure that you’re not seriously injured before you do anything else. You may feel that you have to move your car because you’re blocking traffic or need to quickly get out of your vehicle to get the information of the other driver. You don’t! You, your family, your friends in your car come first, and if anyone in your car seems to be in need of emergency medical attention then call 911 before you do anything else. The rest can wait.
9. Take pictures, lots of them
- Make sure to take pictures and lots of them. Most of us carry phones that have cameras. If it is safe to do so, then start taking pictures. If you are hit from behind, and it is safe to do so, then take pictures of the gap between your car and the car that hit you before you or the other driver move your cars. Take pictures of items that have moved as a result of the impact or things like coffee cups, pursues, other bags that have spilled. This is particularly important if there is minor damage to your vehicle. ICBC will likely say that the forces involved in the impact were minor and thus, fall under their “low velocity impact” claims. Big gaps between vehicles and tossed about items inside the vehicle will show otherwise.
- If you’re hit from anywhere besides the rear of your car then take pictures of the placement of the vehicles before you move them, if it is possible and safe to do so.
- Do not take comfort in the fact that the other driver is saying it was his/her fault or “sorry” at the accident scene. People often change their minds when they go home and think about higher insurance premiums, etc. and might change their minds before they contact ICBC. Pictures of the accident scene can go a long way in establishing who is at fault.
8. Get a video statement, or written
- Make sure to get a video statement when the other driver is admitting fault at the accident scene. Again, this mostly applies to accidents that aren’t simply “rear-enders”. I was involved in a case where my client took a video statement on his phone from the driver admitting that he wasn’t paying attention while driving right into my client. Had that video statement not been taken, ICBC would have likely apportioned blame on both drivers at 50% each. However, the video statement helped him prove that the other driver was 100% at fault.
- If you don’t have a cell phone with video recording capability handy, then take a written statement from the other driver if s/he is willing to provide one to you at the scene.
7. Don’t claim you’re “fine” or “okay” when you’re not
- Never say that you’re okay or fine at an accident scene, when you’re not. Most people don’t feel injured immediately following an accident. Instead, they’re usually in shock, their heart is pumping faster than usual, and adrenaline is flowing throughout their body. Therefore, you may not feel injured at the scene but may feel it later on or even the next day. Most of us are stoic or don’t want to prolong an already stressful situation when we’re involved in an accident, so we quickly respond “I’m okay” or “I’m fine” to questions posed by the other driver of “are you okay?” If you feel something is off, then simply state that fact or don’t respond at all. Don’t brush off the question because it is something that will be brought up by the lawyer on the other side once and if you make a claim later on.
6. Get witness’ information, or plate numbers
- Make sure that you obtain witness information, but not only from the other driver involved in the accident but from other witnesses. Again, this mostly applies to motor vehicle accidents that aren’t simple “rear-enders”. You want to obtain witness information. If possible and safe, obtain the information of any witness that saw the accident. It could be pedestrians, other drivers, or passengers in any vehicle besides yours or the other driver’s vehicle involved in the accident. If you can’t get names and phone numbers, then try to get license plate numbers. If the accident isn’t your fault and ICBC saying that it is, witness accounts of the accident may be your only means of convincing ICBC that the accident wasn’t your fault
5. Use emergency services if necessary
- Use emergency services if necessary. You pay taxes! These services are there for you to use if you need to use them. If the other driver is not cooperating by refusing to provide you with their information or is threatening you, then call 911 and ask for police services. If you feel significantly injured or dizzy or nauseated, then call for an ambulance. Never attempt to drive to emergency if you’re experiencing dizziness or significant pain. May endanger not only your life but the life of others.
4. Report your accident
- Make sure that you report the accident to ICBC (by using dial-a-claim) either the day of the accident, the following day, or shortly thereafter. There is a requirement that you report the accident to ICBC but you have the right to discuss your claim with a lawyer first before you go in and give a written statement.
- There is a huge difference between calling in to report the accident and providing a statement to ICBC. The former isn’t usually problematic, it is the latter that can come back to haunt you once you advance a claim.
- Don’t make an ICBC statement before speaking to a lawyer. See me first before you provide any statement to ICBC besides the initial dial-a-claim call.
3. See your doctor if you’re injured
- Make sure to see your doctor if you’re injured. If you don’t have a doctor, then get one or go to a walk-in-clinic at the same time so that you see the same doctor at that clinic. There needs to documented evidence (such as those in your clinical chart with your doctor) that keeps a record of your complaints (symptoms) over time, your doctor’s findings on testing, and the recommendations made to you by him or her. Simply put, ICBC is not going to believe that your injured simply because you say so! I had a very senior lawyer once tell me; “if they didn’t see their doctor, then they’re not that hurt or not hurt at all.” ICBC will take that very same position without documented medical evidence of your injuries.
- Note: Doctor in this case means family doctor. Not chiropractor or physiotherapist. Both may help you with your injuries, but ICBC simply places more weight on the family doctor’s findings and opinions
2. Follow your doctor’s recommendations
- Make sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations. It may sound simple enough but many injured clients before they see me do not and we’re later faced with a lack of mitigation argument. Simply put the argument is as such, “you didn’t follow your doctor’s recommendations therefore, you have prolonged your injuries that otherwise would been better sooner.” A proven lack of mitigation will usually result in a deduction of any award that you otherwise would have been entitled to receive.
1. Call a lawyer that specializes in ICBC claims
- And finally the number one thing you need to remember when you’re involved in a car accident: Make sure to call a local Vancouver Personal Injury Lawyer, such as myself, if you’re injured.
- Call me at 604-568-9444 or toll free at 1-855-ICBC-LAW. We’ll go over the facts of your case during a free 30-minute consultation, where I will inform you of your rights and obligations. We will get your case started on the right foot to make sure that we can achieve the best possible outcome for your particular case.