- “It Wasn’t Me!”
(How to Deal with the Aftermath of a Car Accident You Didn’t Cause)
“It Wasn’t Me!”
(How to Deal with the Aftermath of a Car Accident You Didn’t Cause)
Celebrated reggae artist Shaggy once summed up the feelings of many safe, cautious and defensive drivers when he sang these three simple words: “It wasn’t me.” And while he was singing about an entirely different kind of “accident” at the time, his song’s title certainly resonates with anyone involved in a collision that wasn’t their fault. So, how should you deal with the aftermath of an accident that wasn’t your fault? Well, Shaggy also happens to offer some good advice for us to follow:
“Let’s Review the Situation That You Caught Up In.”
As we all know, Michigan is a no-fault state. But that doesn’t mean you won’t suffer financially (and, of course, physically) if you’ve been the innocent victim in a motor vehicle accident you didn’t cause. Before we get into the details of how to address such a situation, let’s take a moment to briefly cover what you should do after any type of car accident. (We described these initial steps more thoroughly in a post published last fall; feel free to give it a look for a refresher!)
Before you ever get behind the wheel, there are some documents you should have in place to ensure your protection. For instance, keeping your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration with you at all times in the car is a no-brainer. And always keep your driver’s license and tags up-to-date to avoid getting a ticket unrelated to the accident itself.
Needless to say, you’ll also want to have car insurance coverage in force before you even turn the ignition key. Make certain you’ve chosen a deductible you can afford, and that your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage is sufficient to meet your financial needs if you’re ever faced with medical bills following an accident. While Michigan law now permits you to choose lower PIP benefit amounts to save on your insurance premiums, we recommend opting for unlimited PIP coverage – especially since medical costs are continually increasing.
Next, you’ll need to know what steps to take in the immediate aftermath of an accident. Some of these may seem like common sense, but in the shock following a crash you may find it helpful to have a checklist handy to remind you what to do. (You can check our September 30 article for an itemized list to keep in your glove box.)
Immediately after any accident, you should call 911. Having police and emergency medical personnel on the scene will protect you in more ways that you might imagine. First, trained EMTs and police officers can provide lifesaving first aid. Second, law enforcement authorities can direct traffic around the accident scene, examine the circumstances to assess who’s at fault, and issue tickets to guilty parties. Although Michigan is a no-fault state, this information can be useful for insurance purposes, and will be essential if you choose to contact us about pursuing future personal injury litigation.
After contacting the authorities, if it’s apparent someone has been seriously injured (excessive bleeding, excruciating pain, or unconsciousness are symptoms to watch out for), emergency first aid should be administered following Red Cross guidelines.
Once critical injuries have been attended to be sure to exchange personal and insurance information with all parties involved in the collision, regardless of who is responsible for the accident. To make it easy, you can use your phone to take pictures of each other’s driver’s licenses, insurance cards, and vehicle registrations and, of course, obtain phone numbers. Remaining calm and friendly (and not casting blame) can help make this a less stressful process.
If you have your phone on hand, it could also pay to document the scene photographically. Beyond snapping pictures of your own vehicle, take shots of other cars involved in the accident, skid marks, and even nearby traffic signals and road signs. Having video statements from witnesses on the scene could also be useful down the road but, at the very least, you can use your phone’s video functions to record the names and contact information of witnesses or other passersby.
Having all this information on hand will be essential when you contact your insurance company, which you should do as soon as possible after an accident if for no other reason than to get started on obtaining a replacement rental vehicle (if you have that coverage included in your policy). These days, finding a rental car can be a real challenge, so the sooner you get in touch with your agent or your company’s insurance claims department, the better. At the same time, informing your provider of the accident is vital so they can begin working with you to address the other repercussions of the incident – repairing (or replacing) your damaged car, dealing with any medical expenses, and approaching the other driver’s insurance company representatives to be sure your needs are being met.
After you’ve handled these preliminary steps, it’s always a good idea to see a physician to be assessed for any injuries you might have sustained. Having solid medical records will serve you well if you have any lingering injuries or discover that an accident has resulted in long-term pain that wasn’t apparent immediately following the collision. A neurologic medical practice based in Macomb County offers some additional helpful advice on how to seek healthcare after an accident and notes that “delayed presentation” of certain injuries can often occur following motor vehicle collisions.
If It’s Not Your Fault, Can You Sue the Other Driver?
(or Their Insurance Company) for Damages?
And now we get to the main reason for this article. The answer is that certainly you can file a lawsuit against the negligent driver under Michigan law, provided you think you can prove that at least one of the following circumstances applies to you:
- Did you suffer “serious impairment of bodily function, permanent and serious disfigurement, or death” due to the accident? If yes, you can sue.
- At the time of the accident were you a non-resident of the state of Michigan (for example, if you live in Kentucky but were up visiting family in Michigan when you got in an accident)? If yes, you can often sue.
- Did the accident occur outside Michigan? If yes, you may be able to sue.
- Is the damage to your car under $1,000 and not covered by your own policy (for instance, the amount of your deductible)? If yes, you can sue.
As we’ve noted above, a “yes” answer to any of these questions opens the door to filing a lawsuit. It’s what legal experts call making a “third party” claim against the other driver (and their insurance company) for damages, pain and suffering, and economic losses resulting from the accident.
So, what’s your next step? That’s an easy one. Click here or give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946), and we’ll take it from there. We’re experts at personal injury law … and we stand ready to help you with your case faster than you can say, “It wasn’t me.”