As the oldest daughter of Korean immigrant parents, I have found that there are issues that Koreans here in the U.S. deal with when involved in an auto accident. As Korean Americans, our parents teach us to assimilate into the American culture while at the same time maintain our roots/language/customs. We are taught to keep our heads down (to study or work) and not make trouble or cause waves. Many Koreans come here to work hard to provide a good education for our children (hence the influx of Koreans to Howard County, Maryland). We have little or no involvement in the day-to-day happenings of the “rest of the world.” We shop at Korean grocery stores, we dine at Korean restaurants. Heck, we even have our own newspapers and magazines.
This may work in some situations, but suddenly you are involved in an accident and you’re faced with a whole lot of unknowns and have to deal with the police, insurance companies and the US legal system. The language barrier is a big issue, even at the outset. The accident happens and now what? Do you call the police? What if I don’t speak English? Do you go to the hospital? Koreans tend not to make a big fuss and speak out. What about insurance companies? Who do you call and who’s responsible for paying for my car? So what should you DO?
- - DO call the police, and ask for a Korean interpreter
- - DO take photos, either with a disposable camera or a cell phone.
- - DO write down any witness name and phone number
- - DO get the other drivers’ name, address, tag number, insurance information.
- - DO seek emergency medical attention, if you are injured
While this seems like common sense to many people, most people really don’t know what to do.
So what should you avoid?
- - DON’T move the cars from their positions unless it poses a traffic hazard.
- - DON’T give any recorded statements to any insurance companies without seeking the advice of an attorney.
- - DON’T delay on getting treatment if you are hurt
- - DON’T accept any settlement or sign any releases with the insurance companies without talking to an attorney
Many Koreans don’t interact with the police because they don’t want to “make trouble.” However, you need to make sure that your version of the accident gets heard or else you may be at a disadvantage. Further, Koreans, whether its because they run their own small businesses and are too busy or because of the lack of health insurance do not like to go to the doctor. Well, if you are injured and you fail to seek treatment in a timely manner, you can jeopardize your right to recovery. Lastly you need to choose an attorney that really understands the needs of the Korean community, someone who is a proud member of the Korean community and can actually speak Korean but yet is familiar with the American legal system and has been educated here in the US. If that need arises, you can contact me and I will help you navigate through this process and make sure that your rights are protected.
Christine Lee, is a Korean American attorney in the Personal Injury Department of Gordon, Feinblatt and works for Bob Katz. You can reach her at 1-888-540-2599.