If you've been involved in a car accident, you may be thinking about hiring an attorney, or you may have already retained an attorney to represent you. In either case, there are certain documents your attorney will want to see to develop a full understanding of your case and determine your chances for recovery.
The following is a list of documents that your attorney may want to have during the course of your case.
Your Insurance Policy
If you have an automobile insurance policy, your car accident attorney will want to see a copy of it to review what type of insurance recovery you may be entitled to. If you don't have an actual copy of your policy, do not panic. Your car accident lawyer will be able to get one, with your approval, from your insurance company.
Information Exchanged at the Accident Scene
Often, names and telephone numbers are exchanged between the parties to an accident while they are still at the scene. If you have this information, make sure to provide it to your attorney, even if you've already contacted the other parties.
Information Provided by the Police at the Accident Scene
In many cases, the police are called to a scene of an accident when there are serious injuries or fatalities. In those situations, they are required to draft an accident report, which often includes a diagram of where the various cars or pedestrians were at the time of the accident. The report will also include the on-scene officer's initial impressions of the cause of the accident.
This information is crucial in allowing your attorney to develop a total understanding of your case. Provide your attorney with a copy of the accident report or anything else drafted by the police. If you don't have a copy of the police report, your attorney will be able to obtain one on your behalf.
Tickets Related to the Accident
If you've been given a ticket by a police officer for violating traffic laws, make sure to let your attorney know. For example, your attorney will want to see a copy of a ticket for:
- Driving over the speed limit
- Distracted driving
- Reckless driving
If your car was damaged in an accident, it is a good idea to take pictures of the damage. If you did not take pictures, a representative of the insurance company may have. If you have pictures in your possession, provide them to your attorney. If you do not have pictures but believe the insurance company may have some, provide that information to your attorney as well.
When you are involved in a car crash, there is a chance that you may be contacted by a representative of your automobile insurance company. Often, the insurance company will want to obtain a witness statement from you about the accident.
Ideally, you should seek an auto accident attorney prior to giving a statement in a personal injury case. If you were contacted and already provided a statement to insurance, you have a right to a copy of any statement you gave. If you have a copy, give it to your attorney. If you don't have a copy, let your attorney know that you gave a statement so they can obtain a copy for you.
Note: Generally, you are not required to give a statement to the insurance company, particularly once you have hired an attorney to represent you. If you are contacted by the insurance company, make sure that you let your attorney know.
Documents Related to Insurance After a Car Accident
Dealing with auto insurance claims after a car accident involves many moving parts. It will help if you have a basic understanding of:
- Car insurance
- The claims process
- The role of an insurance adjuster
- The importance of organizing your insurance information
Here's a brief breakdown of the relevant insurance-related documents your attorney may need to see after a motor vehicle accident.
Auto or Car Insurance Policy
Your auto insurance policy is one of the first documents you should provide your attorney. This document details the coverage levels you've chosen, including property, liability, and medical coverage. The specifics of your car insurance policy, including your deductibles, exclusions, and coverage limits, can significantly impact the types and amounts of damages you may be entitled to claim.
Insurance Claims Documents
If you've filed an insurance claim following your accident, any related documents should be shown to your attorney. This might include:
- Your initial claim report
- Correspondence with the insurance company
- Any documentation related to the investigation of your claim
These documents will provide your attorney with insight into the current status of your claim and what has been done so far.
Contact Information for the Insurance Adjuster
An insurance adjuster is responsible for:
- Investigating your claim
- Assessing damages
- Determining the amount of compensation you may receive
The adjuster serves as the primary link between you and the insurance company. In most instances, there will be two (2) adjusters assigned to your claim. This will be a property damage adjuster and a bodily injury adjuster. Your attorney will want to communicate with the adjuster directly, so provide the phone number you have for them.
Insurance Adjuster's Report and Damage Evaluation
Following their investigation, the property damage adjuster will create a report that outlines the extent of the damage and the estimated cost of repairs. This document directly influences your payout from the insurance company. If you've received a copy of the adjuster's report or any other documents related to the damage evaluation, give these to your attorney.
Proof of Insurance Premium Payments
Your attorney will want to confirm that your insurance policy was in effect at the time of the accident. Provide them with proof that you have been making timely premium payments on your auto insurance. This could be bank statements showing payments, receipts of payments, or any other document that verifies your policy was active and in good standing when the accident occurred.
If you're involved in a car accident, you may have sustained physical injuries, such as whiplash or broken bones, for which you sought medical care or physical therapy. If so, your attorney will need copies of your medical records so that they can see what your diagnosis is and get a feeling for how long it will take you to recover from your injuries.
Provide your attorney with records of any medical attention that you have received. If you don't have copies of your records, provide your attorney with the contact information of any medical provider you have seen. Your attorney will be able to gather evidence, with your written permission, on your behalf.
If you've suffered severe injuries that required medical treatment, provide your legal team with copies of your medical expenses. Your medical bills serve as evidence of your car accident injuries. Your expenses can significantly impact the amount of money you can recover in a personal injury claim. If you are unable to get your own medical bills, your attorney can request those as well with the appropriate medical authorization forms signed by you.
If your auto accident has had an emotional or mental impact on you that has required you to seek psychological or psychiatric care, your attorney will need to know about it and will need to see those treatment records. As with medical records, you should provide your attorney with a copy of any psychological records or the names and addresses of your mental health providers and a signed release form.
Evidence of Property Damage
If you have suffered any property damage as a result of your car accident, you are entitled to fair compensation for it. In a car accident claim, you can recover damages for the harm done to your vehicle. You may also be entitled to ask for the diminished value of your vehicle, depending on your state's laws. These damages intend to place car accident victims in the place they would have been had the accident never occurred.
Some evidence you could provide that shows your property damage includes photos or videos of damage to your car or mechanic's bills/quotes for any repairs. Damaged personal items, such as phones, laptops, or car seats, can be included as well.
If you've lost time from work as a result of a car accident, your attorney may be able to obtain compensation for your lost wages. To do so, your attorney will need to calculate how much money you have "lost" as a result of the car accident. Having evidence of your pre-accident earnings and your post-accident earnings will help your attorney make this calculation.
Involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident? Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Gathering important documents is an essential part of any car accident case, but it's just the first in a series of steps. Getting legal advice from a personal injury attorney who's experienced in handling car accident cases will help you better understand your case and know what the next steps are.
Before moving forward, speak with a local motor vehicle accident lawyer about ways to get maximum compensation from the at-fault party. Many attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you won't have to pay anything upfront.
Disclaimer: There is a statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits. This means you have a time limit to seek a fair settlement. If you or a loved one has been injured and would like to recover damages from the at-fault driver, contact an experienced attorney today.