ESPN once reported that Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots, commented that being in his car accident was much more horrifying for him then being hit by an NFL defensive lineman. After handling automobile accident tort claims for over 49 years the lawyers at The Rotatori Law Firm would like to offer clients and potential clients some fundamental advice on how to protect themselves immediately after an automobile collision, motorcycle accident or collision with a truck or tractor trailer.
SAFETY AT THE AUTOMOBILE COLLISION SCENE
The first piece of advice is to make sure that the parties at an accident scene are safe and secure. Proper medical attention by way of ambulance, if needed, is important for all parties whether they be the plaintiff or the defendant. Being concerned for the well being of your fellow man goes a long way. At trial your conduct at an accident scene will be readily apparent as the evidence at trial unfolds. Insensitive defendants who don’t make sure the party that they hit gets medical care, inquire about the physical condition of the plaintiff they hit or better yet leave the accident scene by way of “hit and run” later to be arrested by law enforcement doesn’t enhance their credibility before a jury.
ACCIDENT SCENE INVESTIGATION BY LAW ENFORCEMENT
Assuming the parties are immediately safe, law enforcement should be called so that a proper investigation may be completed by either the local police or state police depending on who has the jurisdiction. In the context of a hit and run automobile accident, most uninsured motorist contracts require that motor vehicle collisions be reported to law enforcement before coverage is honored by contract. The plaintiff and the defendant motor vehicles should not be moved until law enforcement arrives in order that the police are allowed to conduct a full investigation to determine the cause of the collision. A law enforcement diagram to be admissible into evidence will need some underlying personal observation foundation facts by the investigating officer. A police diagram based on facts reported by witnesses will not be admissible. If there is not an immediate dangerous exigent circumstance, the automobile or motor vehicle should not be moved.
PHOTOGRAPHS AT THE CAR ACCIDENT SCENE
Taking photographs at an accident scene of vehicle crush damage, vehicle rest positions and skid marks with a camera phone can be a highly effective way to prove both liability and the causation of injuries and damages. In the technological world we live in, our experience has been that most clients carry with them either cell phones, blackberry’s or iphones. These phones can help document trace evidence facts that help support a claim. Other basic information which should be investigated includes examining the other driver’s vehicles for exterior property damage and/ or examing the interior of the defendant’s vehicle to see if there is a plausible explanation for the defendant’s distraction. Possible causes for distraction can be, but are not limited to, an open lap top, distracting dog or crying baby. You will surely be asked in a deposition by a defense attorney about the damage depicted to the defendant’s car observed by you at the accident scene itself along with any facts that you immediately observed after the collision.
DEFENDANT ADMISSIONS OF FAULT
The plaintiff should also respectfully ask the defendant what happened. The defendant may make an admission of liability which may include that he was driving too fast, was in a hurry, wasn’t keeping his eyes on the road or was blinded by the sun but continued to take his chances by driving through a busy highly traffickedintersection. An admission by a defendant at the accident scene is admissible on the witness stand at trial as an admission by a party and will go a long way in establishing the injured plaintiff’s burden of production to support a claim of negligence against the defendant.
PLAINTIFF ACCIDENT SCENE OBSERVATIONS
The plaintiff also needs to pay attention at the accident scene to determine if the defendant exhibits any unusual behavior such as excitability or slurred speech. The defendant may have been under the influence of alcohol or on some form of drug. A defendant who is under the influence of alcohol may smell of alcohol. Asking an investigating police officer to make an alcohol consumption inquiry from the defendant may be a beneficial thought. The public would be surprised to find that at many civil automobile accident scenes our experience has been in investigating automobile negligence cases for our clients that field sobriety tests are not performed when the facts of the collision would seem to justify them.
REPORTING PERSONAL INJURY TO LAW ENFORCEMENT
It is important that you articulate to the investigating police officer pain that you are having pain from the accident along with the appropriate injured body parts. Frequently and more often than not, if an ambulance is declined by the plaintiff an investigating officer notes in the police report that there is no personal injury. If you feel that you can take yourself to the hospital or your own personal physician, make sure you mention the pain that you are having to the investigating officer and ask him to please note in his report that you sustained personal injury.
ACCURACY IN A MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT POLICE REPORT
Finally, it is not uncommon for information reported on a police report to be inaccurate. Our office has seen vehicle unit numbers switched on the incident report, wrong accident dates, improper vehicle identification information and inaccurate reporting of witness statements. The Rotatori Law Firm suggests that if this happens to you as a result of your accident you can contact the police department and request that an amendment be made to the report. Often in a deposition, clients will dispute a finding in a police report. The defense attorney will then ask them if they had bothered to try to get the police report amended to make it accurately reflect the relevant facts. By attempting through the appropriate channels to secure an amendment, the plaintiff’s fact position will have more credibility.
SECURING THE MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT CASE NUMBER
Before you leave the accident scene secure an incident summary sheet from either the police officer or state policemen. This sheet will have basic information on it which will include the name of the defendant, his insurance carrier, vehicle and a case number. The case number will allow you to secure a full fledged police report from either the local police where the accident happened or the Department of Public Safety in Meriden, Connecticut.
If you have suffered a Connecticut personal injury and need help after an automobile accident, motor vehicle accident or motorcycle collision contact Attorney Peter Rotatori, III of The Rotatori Law Firm at (203) 626-1446 if you need help in securing benefits, economic damages or non economic damages causally related to your collision.
The Rotatori Law Firm has two law offices practicing personal injury law in the following cities and towns within New Haven County: Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Branford, Cheshire, Derby, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Naugatuck, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Seymour, Southbury, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven, Wolcott, and Woodbridge.