Making an Accident Claim: The 24-Hour Rule
You have been out on a shopping spree, having a wonderful time and you are now loading up all your purchases in the trunk of your car. You get in your car, buckle up, check over each shoulder for any oncoming traffic and check your rearview mirror, then proceed to back out of your parking space when WHAM! You are hit in your passenger side rear door. You had carefully looked in all directions and thought you were clear to back out safely.
What do I do now, you think to yourself? Well, the first thing is to take some deep breaths and calm yourself down. Next you need to make sure there are no injuries involved in the accident. If someone is injured, don’t try to move them if the injuries are severe, but hopefully, since this involved a low speed collision, there are no severe injuries.
The next thing you want to do is call the police. This isn’t a requirement in Ohio if there are no injuries involved and the police are not required to respond, but it is in your best interest to get an unbiased police report of the officer’s view of the circumstances of the accident.
The first thing your insurance company is going to ask is if you have filed a report. If you haven’t, then turns into a “their word against yours” scenario, making everything more difficult. Taking care of this within 24 hours makes all information and witness testimony fresh and evidence still intact at the scene.
At the scene, driver information including the owner of the car if not you, must be provided along with driver’s license, name, address and vehicle registration from both parties; along with proof of insurance coverage. Don’t make conversation about the accident or assume fault even if you think you are at fault, just state the facts as you know them. If you have a phone or camera with you, take pictures of the position of the two vehicles from all angles, photograph any possible skid marks in particular.
Look around for any possible surveillance cameras that may have recorded the incident. Ask any witnesses for their contact information to give a better insight into the accident. In most accidents, neither driver is 100% at fault. Ohio is a modified comparative fault state, which means that you can recover against a party that was more at fault than you, but your recovery will be diminished by the corresponding share of liability assigned to you.
Sometimes these issues can be resolved between the insurance companies and you, but if you don’t feel comfortable with the negotiations, you may be better off hiring a lawyer who is more knowledgeable in these circumstances. In the above mentioned situation, you were afraid the blame would all fall on you for not failing to observe the oncoming vehicle, but your attorney was able to prove partial fault of the other driver through evidence that they were driving at too high a rate of speed for you to have seen them coming in time to stop.