When you are injured in an accident, conducting an investigation may not be the first thing that comes to your mind. This is especially the case when the cause of the accident seems obvious. Other drivers may express their regrets or apologize for causing an accident. Witnesses may offer their help to hold the other driver accountable. In some cases clients are rendered unconscious, or are taken from the scene of an accident in an ambulance, eliminating any opportunity to talk to witnesses or police officers. Vehicles are also removed from the accident scene, making it more difficult to reconstruct the sequence of events leading to an accident. In other cases, clients may not see the accident cause at all, knowing only that they were minding their own business when some unidentified party or entity injured them.
Weeks after the accident, however, clients are often surprised to find that a driver’s apology at the scene has turned into an accusation. This change is especially common after at-fault parties speak to their own insurance companies. At-fault parties do not want their insurance rates to go up; they don’t want to pay tickets, and their insurance companies have a vested interest in denying claims. Witnesses often can’t be located, and evidence which could establish liability may be lost. The situation is further complicated by the fact that police officers may respond only hours after an accident, if they respond at all, making it difficult to establish fault. Police reports may be unhelpful or nonexistent.
Furthermore, although some states impose upon insurance companies a duty to treat their insureds’ victims with some measure of openness and good faith, no such duty is imposed under Nevada law. In fact, many of our clients first contact us after being treated poorly by an insurance adjuster representing the at-fault party. These insurance companies have also pushed legislation which now allows them to refuse to disclose to you even the amount of coverage that is available to compensate you for loss.
With this in mind, we have developed a proactive approach to accident investigation. In cases involving evidence held by other parties, we will demand in accordance Nevada court decisions (under penalty of possible court sanctions) that any and all evidence be preserved as it was at the time of the accident. We also employ a team of experts, including accident reconstructionists, biomechanical engineers and forensic doctors who can examine the evidence and render an opinion about your injuries and their cause, even as the at-fault party denies or attempts to conceal the facts. We will also employ experts and investigators who can usually determine what insurance coverage is available, even when an insurance company attempts to hide the information.
We also recommend that you document an accident immediately after it happens. Use your phone to take video and pictures of the position and condition of any vehicles involved, the accident scene (including any skid marks) and any injuries. Record conversations with drivers and witnesses. Make sure you get the addresses and phone numbers of any witness. Insist that police be notified of the accident, even if you believe police will not respond and regardless of what promises or assurances the at-fault party may give at the scene. If the accident occurs on private property (in a parking lot, for example) or if police refuse to respond, be sure to file an accident report as soon as possible.