This compensation usually includes reimbursement for property damage, medical treatment costs, and pain and suffering. Pain and suffering compensation is often significantly higher in the USA than in other countries. Additionally, compensation payments for the families of those killed in accidents are possible and common, a feature not found in many other jurisdictions.
Steps Immediately After the Accident
- Emergency Call and Information
- Dial the US emergency number 911 immediately and inform the police of the accident location, time, and whether there is a need for medical assistance or extrication from a damaged vehicle.
- Provide your personal information, including your name, phone number, driver's license number, date of birth, and address, to the police and other parties involved.
- Provide information about the vehicle, its owner, and the liability insurance.
- Avoid Admission of Fault
- Never admit fault at the accident scene. Avoid statements like "I'm sorry" or "I didn't see them," as they can have significant legal consequences.
- Generally, refrain from making statements about the accident, especially if you are in shock or if English is not your native language. There is generally no obligation to make statements to the police.
- Witnesses and Evidence
- Collect contact information from all parties involved in the accident and any potential witnesses.
- Immediately after the accident, take notes on the cause of the accident and your own observations.
- Look for potential witnesses in the vicinity and note their contact information.
Documentation and Evidence Immediately After the Accident
- Accident Scene and Surroundings
- Create a detailed sketch of the accident scene, including any signs and road markings.
- Photographic Evidence
- Take photos of the accident scene from various angles and distances, including road signs and markings.
- Suspected Alcohol or Drug Use
- If you suspect that the other party involved in the accident was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, inform the police and insist on appropriate assessments.
Medical Treatment in the USA
- Medical Documentation
- Seek medical assistance promptly after the accident, even for minor injuries.
- Have all injuries treated and documented during each examination and follow-up.
- Photographing Injuries
- Photograph all injuries from various angles and distances.
- Recording Treatments
- Attend all follow-up treatments and check-ups.
- Keep records of all appointments, treatments, and examinations.
Medical Treatment Upon Return Home
- Continued Documentation
- After your return, promptly consult your primary care physician and any specialists.
- Insist on comprehensive documentation of the cause and treatment of your injuries.
- Loss of Income
- Maintain accurate records of your lost income, whether as an employee or a self-employed individual.
- Document missed work hours, sick days, and hours spent on doctor visits.
- Obtain a certificate from your employer regarding income loss.
- Treatment Costs
- Request copies of all hospital bills, doctor's invoices, and therapy invoices from the beginning.
- Keep all X-rays and similar diagnostic documents.
Communication with Insurers and Attorneys
- Reporting the Accident
- Report the accident to your own auto insurance promptly, usually the insurance of your rental car. Also, consider reporting it to your legal expense insurance, if applicable.
- Review your insurance documents to ensure that the report is made within the specified time frame and in the correct manner.
- Communication with the Opposing Party
- Opposing US insurers often try to obtain a waiver of liability from an injured party. This can happen even after your return home, through phone calls, emails, or in-person meetings. Often, representatives of the insurer may contact you in your native language and offer a quick lump sum settlement. If this occurs, refrain from engaging in any discussions and do not respond, either verbally or in writing. You should only inform the opposing party that they should contact your attorney.
Selecting the Right Attorney
- Seek Legal Counsel Promptly
Immediately after the accident, establish contact with an attorney in the USA who is experienced in handling accidents involving international visitors. Our firm has successfully represented foreign accident victims in the USA for nearly 20 years. We have offices in several US states and can provide legal representation throughout the country. Our international offices are there to serve as points of contact in your native language. In cases where we do not have our own offices, we work closely with local colleagues.
The process of handling traffic accidents in the USA can be complex, and the compensation that can be obtained depends on many factors. By following the above steps and meticulously collecting evidence, you can significantly improve your chances of receiving fair compensation.