10 Critical Steps After a Maine Car Accident

Protect your rights and maximize your payout after a Maine car accident. We answer key questions and show you how to build a strong insurance claim.

Maine Car Accident

Today’s cars are safer than ever, yet even with the latest safety features, the number of auto accidents is rising, with more than 4.5 million people injured in U.S. car accidents annually.¹

Maine is no exception, reporting over 35,000 car crashes last year, resulting in more than 8,000 injuries and 150 fatalities.²

You can’t avoid every accident, but you can be ready to protect yourself when an accident happens. Your successful insurance claim starts at the accident scene, if you know what to say and do, and just as importantly, what not to say or do.

What You Need to Know if You’ve Been in a Maine Car Accident

If you’ve been the victim of a car accident in Maine, you’ll want to be fully compensated for your personal injuries and damaged property. This guide can help.

Here are 10 steps to help you build a successful car accident claim. We’ve also answered 32 of the most frequently asked questions about accident claims.

Step 1. Stop, Call 911, Help the Injured

Maine stop help call

What do I tell the 911 dispatcher?

Tell the 911 dispatcher:

Your location: Emergency responders can get there faster if they know where to find you, so tell the dispatcher the road you’re on, which direction you were heading, the nearest intersecting street names or mile markers, GPS coordinates, or any landmarks that will help describe your location.

Possible injuries: Tell the dispatcher if anyone is injured or asking for medical help.

Scene description: Accidents scenes can be dangerous, with noise and activity around the wrecked cars and from passing traffic. Tell the dispatcher if anyone might be in danger, if there are overturned vehicles, or if there are hazards in the area like leaking fuel or downed power lines.

Will police come to the accident scene?

Dispatchers will usually send a police officer to an accident scene that has reported hazards, requires traffic control, or where people are injured.

What if someone is injured?

When anyone has been injured or killed in a Maine car accident, drivers must provide their name, address, car registration and insurance information, and if asked, also show their driver’s license.

Maine law also requires drivers to give “reasonable assistance” to anyone who is hurt or asking for medical help. This means making arrangements to transport the injured person for medical treatment, either by driving them yourself or by calling for emergency services.

What if I’m injured?

Your injuries from a car accident may be obvious, like heavy bleeding or broken bones. But car accident injuries aren’t always easy to see, even critical injuries like head trauma or internal bleeding. Some injury symptoms may not appear for hours or even days after the crash.

Never refuse medical treatment at the scene. Tell emergency responders about any symptoms you’re experiencing, even if you think they are mild. Distress or shock can mask injury symptoms. If paramedics want to transport you to the hospital, go.

If you are not taken directly to a hospital from the accident scene, make sure you are seen by a medical provider as soon as possible after the accident.

Refusing or delaying medical treatment after an accident can seriously undermine your insurance claim when the insurance company argues that your injuries were not caused by the accident.

What if I hit an unattended vehicle?

If you’ve hit an unattended parked car, you must stop at the scene. Try to find the owner and share your name, address, registration, and insurance information. If the other car owner asks, you must also show your driver’s license.

If you can’t find the owner of the vehicle, leave a note in a conspicuous place on the car. The note should have your name, address, registration and insurance information, and an explanation of what happened.

Step 2. Report the Accident to Police

Maine accident call police

Do I have to report the accident to police?

Drivers involved in an accident where anyone is hurt or killed, or there’s property damage of $1,000 or more, are required to immediately notify the police.

What information do I give the other driver?

You must provide your name, address, vehicle registration and proof of insurance to the other driver. If asked, you must also show your driver’s license to the driver of the other vehicle.

Will the police file an accident report if they come to the scene?

Yes. When the police respond to an accident scene where anyone has been hurt or killed, or there has been property damage of $1,000 or more, the office is required to investigate the accident and file a report within five days.

How can I request a copy of the accident report?

Police accident reports are available online through the Maine Crash Reporting Online Search & Ordering Service.

Step 3. Begin Gathering Evidence

Maine gather photo evidence

When you’ve been in a car accident, you’ll want to be fully compensated for your damages. To get a fair insurance settlement, you’ll need evidence that the at-fault driver was negligent or did something wrong.

Gathering evidence at the accident scene will significantly help your insurance claim, especially if the accident happened because of a negligent driver.

Accident scenes change quickly. Damaged cars are removed, and the drivers and witnesses leave. Take advantage of the narrow window of time right after the accident to get vital information and statements from the other driver, passengers, and any witnesses.

Take pictures or video of the cars, the road conditions and anything in the area that affected what happened.

Make detailed notes of the date and time, the weather, if it was daylight or dark, and anything else you saw, heard or even smelled (like alcohol) before, during and after the accident.

What are Damages?

Property damages include:

  • Vehicle repair costs
  • Rental costs while your car is being repaired
  • Car value, if it is “totaled”

Personal injury damages can include:

  • Medical, chiropractic, and therapy bills
  • Out-of-pocket expenses for medical needs
  • Costs of travel for treatment
  • Mental health services
  • Pain and suffering

Where do I start?

Be prepared to exchange the following information with the other driver:

  • Name and address
  • Vehicle owner name and address, if different from the driver
  • Vehicle registration information
  • Driver’s license information
  • Insurance information

Passengers: Ask for all passengers’ full names, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and any other contact information. Passengers don’t have to disclose information to you, but you can make notes for yourself about how many passengers, their ages, what they looked like, how they behaved, and any passenger statements you heard.

Vehicles: Look for the make, model, year, license plate number, expiration date, and vehicle identification number (VIN) for each vehicle involved in the accident. The VIN can normally be found on the car’s dashboard in the left corner at the bottom, on the driver’s insurance card, or inside the door jamb of the driver’s side door. Don’t go into the other driver’s car without permission.

Witnesses: Witnesses are not required to speak with you, but you can try to talk with potential witnesses long enough to find out if they saw anything that might help your claim. If you have a cooperative witness, ask for their name, address, phone numbers, e-mail address, and if they’ll write down a statement of what they observed. Have the witness sign and date any written statement.

Diagrams: Make a drawing of the crash scene showing where each car was before and after the accident. Indicate the direction each car was heading. Include notes on road conditions, the weather, road construction, and anything else that contributed to the accident.

Are photographs or video important?

Yes. Taking pictures or videos with your phone, camera or any other device is very helpful to your claim. Take as many photographs and videos as you safely can from different angles.

Photos and video can show important details of the cars involved, the accident scene, and the adjacent area. Sometimes, pictures or video capture how the drivers and passengers were behaving, apparent intoxication, and other significant factors that may have been involved.

Photographs and videos often become compelling evidence that makes it harder for those involved to change their story after the accident.

We’ve made it easier for you, with a free Car Accident Information Form. Keep a copy of the form and a pen in your car along with your proof of insurance. You’ll always be ready to collect important information you need from an accident scene.

Step 4. Notify Your Insurance Company

Maine accident call insurance

Your auto insurance policy is a legal contract between you and the insurance company. You want your auto insurance to protect you if anything happens while you’re driving.

Understanding your obligations under the policy will keep those protections in force after a collision.

What is a Cooperation Clause?

Most auto policies have a Notice of Occurrence and Cooperation clause. The clause means you agree to tell your insurance company when you are in an accident, and also agree to cooperate with your insurance company’s accident investigation. The clause will have language similar to this:

“Insured (you) agrees to notify the insurer (your insurance company) of any accidents and thereafter comply with all information, assistance, and cooperation which the insurer reasonably requests, and agrees that in the event of a claim the insurer and the insured will do nothing that shall prejudice the insurer’s position…”

Can I use an app to report the accident?

Yes. There are apps for Apple and Android devices to make reporting a Maine car accident faster and easier. Many of the apps will help you gather important information and start the insurance claim process.

Apps can help:

  • Gather personal information, including driver’s license, car registration, and insurance information
  • Collect witness names and contact information
  • Create diagrams of the accident scene
  • Take photographs and video
  • Identify the accident scene GPS location
  • Notify your insurance company

Below are a few free accident reporting applications. Check with your insurance company to see if they offer a similar app.

Google Accident Report
Allstate Mobile
State Farm

Do I have to call my insurance company if it wasn’t my fault?

Yes. You agreed to report all vehicle accidents to your insurance company, even if an accident wasn’t your fault or no one seems to be hurt. Your insurance company wants to hear your side of the story right away. By promptly notifying your insurer, and cooperating with their investigation, you give them the best chance to defend your position.

Reporting the accident, even a fender-bender, will help protect you later if the other driver decides to blame you for the crash, or starts to complain of injuries.

If anyone from the other car hires an attorney, you can be sure their attorney will notify your insurance company, putting you and the insurance company at a disadvantage if you hadn’t already reported the accident.

Failing to notify your insurance company can cause the company to raise your premiums, decide not to renew your policy, or even cancel your auto insurance.

Here’s a sample Notice of Occurrence Form with examples of accident details to tell your insurance company.

Step 5. Cooperate with Law Enforcement

Maine police at accident

When the local police, county sheriff, or Maine Highway Patrol arrive at the accident scene, they are there to perform an important job.

The police investigation and accident report can ultimately help you with your insurance claim.

What is the role of law enforcement at accident scenes?

Law enforcement officers are highly trained in accident investigation. When the police respond to a car crash, they are authorized to:

  • Secure the accident scene
  • Make arrangements for the care and transport of the injured
  • Take statements from drivers, passengers, and witnesses
  • Conduct sobriety tests
  • Determine fault
  • Issue traffic citations

Do the police have to listen to me?

No. While you have the right to try to tell your side of the story, the officer is not required to listen to you. The police have a job to do. When a police officer asks you to wait or otherwise gives you directions, you must cooperate.

Never argue with the police. Confrontational remarks like “I want your badge number. I’m reporting you!” not only interfere with the accident investigation, but they can also lead to a citation, or possibly your arrest.

What if I’m issued a traffic citation?

If the investigating officer decides you violated Maine traffic laws, you may be issued a citation. You can try to persuade the officer not to give you a ticket, but once the citation is issued, you should accept it.

Accepting a traffic ticket is not an admission of guilt. If you want to argue about the citation, do it in court, not at the accident scene.

Step 6. Third-Party Liability Rules

Maine 3rd party liability

Maine is not a no-fault insurance state, where each driver in a crash relies on their own insurance and pays their own expenses. Under Maine ’s third-party liability rule, drivers who are in an accident caused by another driver can file claims against the other driver’s insurance company.

What is third-party liability?

When it comes to auto insurance, if you make a claim on your own insurance policy, you are a making a first-party claim. If you make a claim under someone else’s policy, where you are not covered or listed on the policy, you are making a third-party claim.

A third-party liability claim is your claim for property damage or personal injuries against the other driver’s insurance because the other driver is at fault, or “liable” for the accident.

What are my options under Maine’s third-party liability rules?

In Maine, if you are the victim of a negligent driver, you have three options:

  • File a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company
  • File a claim with your own insurance company (if the negligent driver is uninsured or underinsured)
  • Sue the negligent driver

How much insurance coverage is required in Maine?

Medical Payments coverage protects you and anyone else covered under your auto policy, even if the accident is your fault. Maine requires Medical Payments coverage of at least $2,000.

Liability Insurance covers injuries or damage to other people or property when you’re at fault for an accident. You are required to have at least minimum liability coverage for bodily injury in the amounts of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident, as well as $25,000 per accident for property damage.

Uninsured Motorist coverage is triggered if you’re injured in an accident caused by a driver who has no insurance.

Underinsured Motorist coverage comes into play when you’re injured in an accident caused by another driver, and the cost of your injuries is more than the at-fault driver’s liability coverage.

In Maine, drivers must carry Uninsured/Underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage of at least $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident.

Step 7. Learn How Comparative Negligence Affects You

Maine comparative negligence

What do I need to know about comparative negligence laws?

Maine follows the Comparative Negligence rule, meaning you can file an accident claim against the other driver, even if you are partially at fault (liable) for the accident, so long as the other driver is more to blame for the accident than you.

If you are 50% or more at fault for the accident, you won’t be able to recover any damages from the other driver. If your liability is 49% or less, you can still receive a settlement, but the amount will be adjusted according to your share of liability for the accident.

Example of how the Maine comparative negligence law affects a settlement:

Alvin was driving west on Maple Street to pick up his daughter from daycare. He was on his cell phone, texting his wife to let her know he was running late.

At the same time, Molly was driving northbound on Washington Street, heading home from school. As she approached the intersection of Washington and Maple, she sped up to make it through the intersection before the yellow traffic light turned red.

Unfortunately, the light turned red as Molly entered the intersection. She T-boned Alvin’s car, causing serious injuries to Alvin.

Alvin was seeking $100,000 for his personal injury claim, to cover his medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Molly’s insurance company refused to pay more than $50,000, so Alvin sued Molly.

During trial, the evidence showed Molly failed to stop at the red light, so she was legally responsible for causing the accident. However, the jury also saw evidence that showed Alvin was texting at the time of the accident.

While the jury agreed that Alvin’s personal injury claim was worth $100,000, they determined that he was 20% at fault because he was texting while driving. Molly was 80% at fault for the crash, for failing to stop at the red light.

Since Molly was more to blame for the auto accident, under the Maine comparative negligence law, Alvin was awarded $80,000 (80%) of his damage claim.

If the jury had determined that Alvin was 50% or more at fault, he wouldn’t have recovered any money for his personal injury claim.

Should I admit the accident was my fault?

No. Because of Maine’ comparative negligence law, it is never appropriate to discuss fault at an accident scene. Don’t make statements that can be used against you. Every accident is different, and you simply don’t have enough information to admit fault.

Until the accident has been thoroughly investigated, you won’t know about acts or omissions by the other driver that contributed to the accident.

Remember, the Maine comparative negligence law means that if the other driver is partially or equally to blame for the accident, they may only be entitled to a partial settlement or nothing at all from you or your insurance company.

Step 8. When to Hire an Attorney

Maine hire attorney self represent

Some injury claims will require the expertise of a skilled attorney to persuade the insurance company to pay enough to adequately compensate you for your damages. There are other claims which can be successfully handled without an attorney.

Knowing the difference is important.

Can I represent myself?

Before deciding to represent yourself in a personal injury claim, think about the type of injuries you suffered in the accident:

“Soft tissue” injuries include scrapes and bruises, strains and sprains, and similarly minor injuries. Soft tissue injury claims are uncomplicated and usually consist of medical, chiropractic, or physical therapy bills, some lost wages, and a limited amount of pain and suffering.

Soft tissue injuries don’t usually need a lot of expensive medical tests, and can often be settled without sworn testimony, legal procedures, or filing a lawsuit.

“Hard” injuries are much more serious and can include amputations, multiple fractures, internal bleeding, head trauma, spinal injuries, and similar severe, and sometimes life-threatening injuries. Hard injury claims are complicated, requiring the insurance company to pay out significantly more money for a fair settlement.

There’s just too much to lose for you to represent yourself in a severe injury claim.

Convincing the insurance company to pay what your claim is worth when you’ve suffered hard injuries usually involves expert medical testimony, subpoenas for records, interrogatories, depositions, the threat of litigation, and more.

When you’ve been seriously injured in an accident, you have limited power to handle insurance negotiations and legal procedures on your own. Without an experienced attorney, once the insurance company makes their “final” offer, you probably won’t have the knowledge or energy to fight them.

Insurance companies count on that and regularly offer far less settlement money to claimants without legal representation.

Experienced personal injury attorneys have the skills, knowledge and legal tools needed to compel the insurance company to pay a settlement amount you deserve, to fairly compensate you for your injuries and suffering.

How much do attorneys charge?

Most reputable personal injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation. You can meet with more than one attorney before choosing who will represent you.

If you’ve been seriously injured, gather all your accident-related documents, including your medical records, accident report, and witness statements. Bring those documents to the first consultation with each attorney you meet.

After reviewing your documents, the attorney will discuss your claim’s value, how long it could take to settle, and if you’ll need to file a lawsuit.

Personal injury attorneys normally charge a contingency fee, meaning that your attorney’s fees will be paid out of your insurance settlement or court award. Contingency fees can range from 25% up to around 40% of the gross settlement amount or court verdict.

You won’t pay any attorney fees if your attorney can’t settle your claim or loses your case in court.

Step 9. Deciding to File in Small Claims Court

Maine small claims court

Small Claims Court is a faster, easier, and less formal way to resolve small claims. Small claims actions in Maine are heard in the District Court and are decided by the judge.

When should I file a small claims court lawsuit?

Filing a small claims lawsuit may be a good option if:

  • The insurance company offers a low-ball settlement
  • The insurance company denies your claim
  • The at-fault driver was uninsured
  • An attorney won’t take your case on a contingency basis

How much can I sue for in Maine small claims court?

Maine small claims court can be used to pursue claims valued up to $6,000.

Do I sue the at-fault driver or the insurance company?

Your Maine small claims court action should be filed against the at-fault driver, not the driver’s insurance company.

How can I learn more about Maine small claims court?

For more information, go the State of Maine Judicial Branch Small Claims Court page.

Step 10. Beware of the Statute of Limitations

Maine statute limitations

A statute of limitations is the legal time period for an accident victim to either settle their insurance claim or file a lawsuit.

If you miss the statute of limitations deadline, you will lose your legal right to pursue your claim with the negligent driver or the driver’s insurance company.

What is the Statute of Limitations period in Maine?

Maine has a six-year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. The statute starts to “run” on the accident date.

This means you have six years from the date of the accident to settle your claim or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

What if the insurance company isn’t cooperating?

The insurance company and the claims adjuster are not obligated to settle your claim before time runs out. If negotiations are going slowly, it’s up to you to be vigilant about the statute of limitations deadline.

The insurance company doesn’t have to settle your claim before the statute of limitations expires. If you miss the six-year deadline, there is nothing you can do to make them pay for your damages.

What if time is running out and my claim hasn’t settled?

Don’t risk forfeiting your claim. If you don’t have a signed settlement agreement, don’t wait until the statutory deadline to protect your claim. Remember, the insurance company doesn’t have the authority to give you an “extension” on the statute of limitations.

They know what happens if your claim isn’t settled and you haven’t sued their insured before the statutory deadline. If you don’t file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver within six years of the car accident date, you can’t do it later by blaming the insurance company.

Be aware of the statute of limitations deadline for your accident. Schedule reminders for yourself well in advance of the deadline. Put alerts on your phone, mark the date on your calendar, or whatever it takes to remind you. Don’t wait until the last day to act on preserving your claim.

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>