Ten Steps to Follow If You Have Been Injured in A Car Accident – PART 1 (Steps 1-5)
If you have been hurt in a car accident there are certain things you should do immediately following the collision to ensure that you have the best chance of receiving full compensation for your injuries. Below are the first five steps of a ten step list that will help you protect your rights when seeking a recovery from the insurance company.
1. Make sure to call law enforcement and have a report made. It is important to alert the authorities to an accident once it has occurred. This holds true for several reasons. First, law enforcement will do a preliminary investigation, interview the parties, interview third party witnesses, examine the scene of the accident, inspect the vehicles, and provide a determination as to who was at fault in the accident. A law enforcement report that sets forth who was at fault is the single most persuasive piece of evidence in proving liability.
Without a law enforcement report, you expose yourself to a “he-said, she-said” situation. Although the other driver may say they were at fault at the scene and offer to take care of it informally, his or her story could change later. The other driver could even deny that the accident occurred altogether, leaving you in a position of asserting a claim against an insurance company that takes the position that its insured driver was not involved. Do not let this happen to you. Always call law enforcement and have a report made following a car accident.
2. Obtain witness contact information and gather evidence. If there are witnesses to the accident and your injuries do not prevent you from talking to them, you should obtain their contact information. Likewise, you should also take photographs of the scene and the vehicles involved. Often times, third party witnesses will not wait at the scene of the accident until law enforcement arrives. As a result, by the time law enforcement makes it to the scene, important witnesses may have left leaving you in a situation where it is just your word versus the other driver’s. By obtaining witness information you can help law enforcement determine who was at fault.
In addition, often times, police reports do not list witnesses with enough detail to contact them later. A police report may simply list a witness’s name without a phone number or other identifying information. If a witness has a common name like John Smith, it may be impossible to track him or her down later. Police officers usually do not take photographs either. In the event you need a witness to testify at trial, you will need his or her information. If you need to build a case at trial, you may need photographs from the scene. Make sure you obtain witness information and photographs of the scene of the accident if you are able to do so.
3. Seek out immediate medical treatment. If you believe you were injured as the result of a car accident, you should receive medical attention immediately. This is not the time to worry about medical expenses and hope that the pain will go away. To the contrary, the longer you wait to receive medical attention, the more likely the insurance company will argue that you were not hurt as a result of the accident. This is the defense that the insurance companies repeatedly raise.
Insurance companies often claim that if you did not take an ambulance to the hospital for treatment, or that if you waited a few days for the pain to go away before seeking out treatment, that you were not really injured. The insurance companies also argue that your injuries were caused by some event that occurred following the accident and before the time you first sought out treatment. The insurance companies will also suggest that you did not seek out medical treatment until you were told by an attorney to do so. In other words, if you do not receive medical treatment immediately following a car accident, the insurance companies will use this as an opportunity to claim your injuries are either fake or not caused by the accident. Do not make this mistake. Always seek out medical treatment for your injuries immediately following the accident.
4. Describe your injuries in detail. When receiving initial medical treatment following an accident, it is important to describe your injuries thoroughly and in detail. The medical providers will be documenting your complaints and injuries in their medical records. As a result, these medical records will be relied upon by the insurance companies when they evaluate your injury claims later. If you later claim an injury that is not reflected in your initial medical records, the insurance company will argue that the injury is not genuine or related to the accident.
A slight pain in a certain area that you did not believe was worth mentioning could intensify over time and become a serious injury. Your failure to describe it at your initial medical appointment could make it difficult to prove it was related to the accident. This is not the time to prove how tough you are or how high you pain tolerance is. Make sure you tell your medical provider about any part of your body that you feel was even slightly affected by the accident. Do not assume that it is going to get better. Let your medical provider know and create a record that preserves your right to receive compensation for the injury later.
5. Get Comprehensive Medical Tests. Make sure that you request and receive all necessary diagnostic tests and examinations when receiving treatment for your injuries following an accident. Again, this is not the time to worry about medical expenses and costs savings. Your only concern should be your health and making sure that any injuries you may have sustained are discovered and documented. Make sure you reinforce this with the medical providers you are seeing.
Do not let reluctant doctors talk you out of the appropriate tests. You must be an advocate for yourself and your health. As such, make sure you receive the necessary x-rays, MRIs, scans and other tests that will allow your medical providers to diagnose your injuries and rule out others. The closer in time injuries are diagnosed following an accident, the easier it is to prove they were caused by the accident. Do not create a situation where you allow the insurance companies any wiggle room to argue that your injuries were not related to the accident. Obtain all the necessary medical tests when you first receive treatment.