Car Crashes during a Pandemic Can Get Complicated, Quickly
Posted on April 15th, 2020 by Zane Cagle
Car accidents are still happening and they can be even more complicated when they occur during a pandemic. Stop a second and think about what you can do to prevent a car accident and develop a mental checklist or download our free iPhone and Droid app that lays out your first steps and provides a list of information you should gather. Our free app is e iPhone and Droid App–InjuryAttorney.
When the nation encounters a crisis, it is generally related to a region, ie: tornados and hurricanes. But, this pandemic impacts every one of our lives across the country, and we naturally are experiencing great anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. We are all trying to anticipate problems and solutions in a very difficult time. Naturally, one would think that the chances of a car crash would go down dramatically when there is less road travel–it is true. The number of car accidents across Missouri and Illinois is down due to each of us driving much less.
However, do not let that lull you into false complacency when you are driving to and from essential businesses. There is never a good time for a car accident, but when it happens in the midst of a pandemic it only adds more uncertainty to an already uncertain situation. First, prepare by planning any driving trips that you have, be patient and follow the rules of the road. At a time when many of us are distracted by the daily challenges, we have to drive with the utmost attention!
Use Your Seat Belt
If you are seriously injured due to trauma from a car crash, you should seek immediate medical treatment. Hospitals are still seeing the patients they normally see due to stroke, heart attack, broken legs, and other serious issues that require treatment. The primary ways a national pandemic crisis impacts car crash victims is seemingly two fold. One, there may be fewer law enforcement officers available to respond to a car crash that is not life-threatening. The second impact is the access to medical treatment. People often have a difficult time getting the right medical help after a crash (unless life-threatening), combined with a huge public health crisis, getting follow medical treatment may be more challenging, have more steps and requre the injured person be very tenacious in following up with doctors.
A car accident during a national crisis such as a pandemic just adds more questions
While the roadways do not experience normal rush hour traffic, there should be a drastic reduction in miles driven per person. No one “plans” for a car accident or it would not be an accident. However, when you do have to be on the road, you need to have some concept of what you would do if involved in a crash in these times where our hospital may be full of Covid 19 patients. As if nothing else could go wrong?!! Truly, you have to at least think what you might do should another driver hit you on your way to the grocery store.
Normally, we tell each person in a car accident to always call the police. You should still do that. Depending on the severity of your crash, law enforcement may or may not be able to arrive at the scene. If it is not life-threatening, you may have to wait awhile. If there is going to be any dispute about “fault”, then you should call the police. So often I talk with individuals who say, “Oh the other driver apologized and took responsibility for the crash”. That is all well and good, but you should know that you are taking some serious risks if you do not call the authorities. One, the other driver may give you incorrect auto insurance information and your claim process has stopped before it ever began. Two, the other driver may change their story once they are recounting it to the insurance company. Three, if you are hurt and require medical treatment, insurance companies will take full advantage of the lack of a police report.
Additionally, don’t start making statements to any auto insurance carrier about your medical treatment or injuries.
Granted, we are in some new territory. Officers may not be able to attend to a car accident if an ambulance is not needed. Sometimes, they just will not be able to do a report for every car accident in an area as their resources just might not be available. You should call and they will advise.
We’re experiencing a national crisis, so auto insurance companies will be more cooperative?
So you’ve been in a fender bender where only your car was damaged. Some think that auto insurance companies may be more cooperative in this time of crisis. If you are hurt, you absolutely should not bank on this idea.
After many years of representing injured people in motor vehicle crashes, I do not assume an insurance company is going to be completely fair. I know, they have great commercials where they promote reliability. Unfortunately, if you are hurt, auto insurance companies are not very good at actually calculating your injuries. If you are injured, then you do need to talk to an attorney right away after seeking immediate medical help.
Steps to Take Following a Crash (Steps Only When No Serious Injury)
**Clearly, if anyone is injured, you have to call 911 immediately. If the injuries are life-threatening, then by definition, immediate medical treatment is required
If you be involved in a fender bender on a street or highway, you should call the police immediately. They will advise you whether or not they can respond due to the duties they are carrying out regarding the pandemic emergency operations.
Call Authorities Immediately. No matter the type of crash, call the police. If they are unable to respond due to multiple other emergencies in your area, they will tell you how to proceed.
Take Photos–take photos of all vehicles involved in the crash at the scene. Get photos of the other driver’s insurance card and driver’s license. Preferably, each driver can share this information electronically so that you are not actually touching another person’s documents. Photos of the vehicles at the crash scene may be critical should any party argue liability. Documenting the other person’s address and phone number and insurance documents are essential. There are no guarantees that another motorist will be truthful.
If hurt, seek medical treatment. A month ago, “seeking medical treatment” sounded easier than it does now. However, if you are hurt and there is an ambulance with first responders suggesting that you go to the hospital, you really should deeply consider going to the ER. If you are not injured enough to go to the ER, you need to contact your primary care doctor’s office immediately for guidance. If you do not have a primary care doctor, then you may have to go to the ER or an urgent care type facility. Your primary care doctors are aware of the dangers of Covid 19 and they seem prepared to take care of patients via telecommunications and phone calls as best as they can. Should you have a serious injury where you think a bone may be broken, a wound that requires stitches, or a head injury, then you will have to seek medical treatment immediately.
Simply not seeking medical treatment after a car crash is fine if you are NOT hurt. Suffering without innating medical treatment is still no medical treatment. Opposing party’s insurance carrier will not care “why” you did not seek immediate help or follow up with a primary care quickly, they will just be thrilled that you did not. Medical treatment is critical for two reasons:
Most importantly–Medical treatment is critical to your physical recovery. Failing to get help only hurts you and your recovery.
Medical treatment is critical to prove that you are injured. If you never seek medical treatment, then an attorney cannot prove to anyone that you are injured.
These above two statements are true whether we are living in normal times or in times of Covid 19.
If You Have Been Involved in a Car Accident
In your local news, you may see a few stores about motor vehicle crashes. Generally, we look at the number of crashes as reported by the Missouri State Highway Patrol to get an idea of the number of crash volume occurring across the state. Monday, April 13, 2020 reports a total of five crashes involving eight people. Over the weekend, there were 12 crashes on Saturday involving 19 people including a fatality and four serious injuries. On April 12, there were 8 crashes involving 12 people. In the last couple of weeks, the MSHP has tried to remind drivers that though there are fewer cars on the roadway, traveling at speeds well over 100 mph is causing crashes. Pay attention out on the roadways while driving and refrain from distracted driving. Troopers are also emphasizing the importance of wearing your seat belt. Multiple crashes are noted where the occupants were not wearing seat belts. Seat belts save lives.
While some auto insurance companies have recently advertised partial premium rebates, we suggest that you not count on that measure as it is only a few insurance companies and it may only involve about $50 per vehicle (per advertiser explanation in commercial). The greatest temptation is to let your auto insurance lapse while we are in lockdown and you are only using your car sparsely. This is a critical error and if you are going to drive ANYWHERE including the grocery store and pharmacy, you need to keep your auto insurance coverage. It is illegal to operate a vehicle without auto insurance. More importantly, it can be catastrophically costly if you are in a crash without auto insurance. Even if you are not at fault, you do not want to rely on other drivers (also going through the pandemic) to be fully insured. Now is not the time to drive without insurance. It is never a good time to drive without insurance but you must consider that others are going through the same financial crisis and they may be driving without insurance. You do not want to let your insurance lapse on the hopes that other people are fully insured.
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision, then you certainly have questions. Our attorneys are available to talk with you about your specific crash and what steps you need to take. Right after seeking immediate medical treatment, you should talk with an experienced car accident attorney. We would much prefer to talk with you early and help you avoid some of the common mistakes people make following a crash.
After a crash, we must prefer to give the crucial information that everyone needs to consider after a car crash of any kind.