Auto accidents can be stressful, overwhelming, and leave you with many questions as to how you should proceed. Who is responsible for paying for your medical bills? What will you do if you aren’t able to work?
The actions you take after a car accident can have long-term consequences by strengthening or hurting your potential injury claim against the responsible party. It is important that you do your best to remain calm after a traffic accident so you can take the important steps necessary to take care of yourself, and ensure you get the compensation you deserve from the at-fault party.
#1. Report the Accident – Be sure to call the police right away to report the accident and ensure there is a written record of the collision. When a car accident results in personal injuries, the police will respond and write a report. This police report will become valuable evidence in your claim as it will document the details of the accident, any apparent injuries, and possibly the responding officer’s opinion about what happened and who is at fault.
#2. Seek Medical Attention – Do not ignore any discomfort or pain after the accident. It’s best to be on the safe side and go to the hospital or a doctor right away to have yourself checked for injuries that may not be obvious right away. Not only does this protect your health, it also shows causation, or that the accident led to the injuries. A delay in treatment is a common problem in personal injury cases as it gives the defense more power to discredit your claims. If you do not seek medical care right away, the insurance company will call into question the severity of your injuries, the cause, and whether you are exaggerating or faking.
#3. Gather Evidence at the Scene – The next step is preserving as much evidence as possible at the scene. Take as many pictures as you can of the scene of the accident, including photos of the vehicles, their position, road conditions, weather, and any factors you believe may have contributed to the accident. Gather witness contact information so eyewitnesses can provide testimony as to what they saw and what they believe happened.
It’s also a good idea to write down as much of the accident and aftermath as you can remember. Don’t trust that you will remember small details days, weeks, or even months down the road. Write down what you remember of the road conditions, weather, the events leading up to the accident, and anything you remember of the accident itself.
#4. Document Your Injuries – Don’t rely on your medical records to paint the picture of the injuries you suffered. Take photos of your injuries in the hospital and after you are released. Keep a journal that documents how your life has changed, doctor’s appointments, procedures and treatments, days of work you miss, and how you feel day to day.
#5. Follow all Advice From Your Doctor – Follow any instructions and recommendations from the doctor, whether you are told to avoid heavy lifting, returning to work, exercising, or anything else. Failing to follow your doctor’s instructions can damage your claim and give the defense a reason to call the severity of your injuries into question.
You should also schedule follow-up appointments with your physician to check on the progress of your injuries, even if you are feeling fine. A gap in medical treatment will cause the insurance company to claim you are fully healed as you did not return to the doctor for additional care.
#6. Don’t Accept the First Offer & Speak With an Experienced Car Accident Attorney – After you inform the at-fault party’s insurance company that you were injured and suffered damages; you can expect to receive an initial settlement offer. While it can be very tempting to accept this offer, especially if you do not think you were too seriously hurt, remember that insurance companies always begin with a low ball offer to see if you know what your claim is worth and dissuade you from pursuing your claim.
Even seemingly minor injuries can worsen in the weeks ahead and your claim may be worth more than you think. You may be required to undergo surgery and miss a substantial amount of work, or you may find yourself temporarily disabled. While receiving a fair settlement offer takes time, it’s worth it to be fully compensated for your damages.
While some accident claims can be handled on your own, such as low-dollar claims that mostly involve property damage or cases in which the insurance company, and other driver agree on liability and damages, there is almost no incentive in most cases to handle your own case. Personal injury attorneys usually work on a contingency-fee basis which means you do not pay until and unless you recover money in your case.
A personal injury lawyer will serve as your advocate to protect your best interests, negotiate for a reasonable settlement offer, and seek the highest possible compensation to make you whole.
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