Car accidents can cause anything from minor injuries, including bruising and lacerations, to serious injuries that can lead to the ongoing need for medical care and, in many cases, cause severe complications in nearly every area of your life. If you do suffer injuries in a car accident, how can you protect yourself: not just medically, but financially, as well?
Following a car accident injury, follow these vital steps to protect your right to file a personal injury claim.
What To Do at the Scene of the Accident?
Many people panic when they get involved in a car accident. The crunch of metal, the adrenaline running through you, and, in many cases, the fear of what might happen next can combine to make it very difficult to manage your reactions and make sure that you get the assistance you need. However, the steps you take at the accident scene can make it easier for you to later file a claim for compensation against the liable driver’s insurance company.
Step One: Report the Accident
Never trust the word of a driver who promises to report the accident to his insurance company as soon as possible. As much as you might like to trust the other driver and help him out, especially if he has understandable fears about points on his license, failure to report the accident can make it much more difficult for you to get the compensation you deserve.
Call 911 to report the accident, or call your local police department. Dispatch will send out an officer to look at the accident scene and issue a police report.
Step Two: Stay at the Scene
Generally, remain at the accident scene until the police arrive. Do not drive off, even if you think you did not suffer very significant damage or you know that the other driver caused the accident. You may end up charged with fleeing the scene of an accident.
However, you can leave the scene of the accident to:
- Seek medical care, if you need urgent medical attention
- Call the police, if you have no options for contacting the police at the accident scene
- Get away from a dangerous situation, including cases in which you feel that the other driver might pose a danger to you
The police will let you know when you can reasonably leave the accident scene. If you do need immediate medical attention, you can safely leave with the ambulance when it arrives.
Step Three: Collect Evidence
While the police officer that responds to the accident scene may look at much of the evidence, having your own can make a claim proceed more smoothly. If you do not have injuries that you may worsen by moving, take photos of the accident scene so you can use them for your car accident claim later.
You may want to take pictures of several key details.
- The damage to both vehicles.
- The make, model, and license plate of the other driver’s vehicle.
- The scene of the accident.
- The wider area, especially if you note features that may have contributed to the accident.
- Any injuries you sustained.
- The other driver’s license and insurance information.
You may also want to collect contact information for any witnesses who saw the accident and can offer information about what led to it. Witness testimony can help solve questions of liability, especially if the other driver does not acknowledge that he caused the accident.
Step Four: Prioritize Medical Care
Above all else, you should always make medical care your top priority following an accident. If you have any obvious injuries or pain, get checked out by a medical professional immediately. Even if you think that the accident did not cause serious injuries, you should have an evaluation by a medical professional within hours of the accident.
Many serious injuries, including broken bones and even head injuries, may masquerade as something else entirely immediately after the accident. You may, for example, think that fading adrenaline contributes to your general sense of confusion or disorientation after the accident, rather than acknowledging clear symptoms of brain injury. A medical professional can help identify those problems and ensure that you receive the treatment you need.
Seeking medical care soon after your accident also makes it easier to determine when your injuries occurred. You may assume that you can get treatment later, especially if you have other tasks you need to take care of or find yourself suffering relatively little pain. A doctor’s report, however, may show that your injuries occurred in the car accident, rather than at another event or different accident. That evidence can make it easier for you to file a personal injury claim with the other driver’s insurance.
After the Accident
Once you leave the accident scene, you may need to make your medical care a top priority, especially if you sustained severe injuries in the accident. However, keep in mind that you still need to take several steps to manage your right to compensation for your injuries and ensure that you maximize that compensation as much as possible.
Step One: Retain a Lawyer
If you suffered injuries in a car accident caused by another driver’s reckless or careless behavior behind the wheel, you need an attorney. Injury claims after a car accident frequently prove much more complicated than vehicle damage claims. Even if you have successfully navigated vehicle damage claims on your own in the past, you should not attempt to handle an injury claim alone.
Working with a lawyer can help you learn more about your legal rights, including the compensation you really deserve. The other driver’s auto insurance company may try to issue a settlement offer that does not reflect your needs or pressure you to accept partial liability for the accident, usually to reduce the compensation the insurance company has to pay out for your injuries. Those tactics can cause you to miss out on the compensation you really deserve, especially if you ultimately fall prey to those tactics.
A lawyer, on the other hand, can navigate the potential challenges the insurance company puts in your way. An experienced car accident lawyer can help assess the compensation you really deserve for your injuries, go over what to expect when you interact with the insurance company, and prevent you from inadvertently accepting any of the liability for an accident other driver’s negligence clearly caused.
Do not assume that you can wait to hire an attorney until you recover. Often, you may need an attorney’s help from the early days after the accident. Frequently, insurance companies will try to get away with offering an early settlement offer for your injuries. If you have a lawyer working for you before that happens, you can avoid falling into those traps.
Step Two: Manage Your Medical Care
Managing your medical care effectively after a car accident involves several critical steps.
Know Your Insurance Coverage
Get to know the insurance coverage you carry and how it can help protect you after a car accident. While California law does not mandate MedPay coverage, many drivers choose to add it to their policies anyway. MedPay coverage can make it much easier to take care of the initial medical bills after an accident.
Likewise, you may need to consider whether you have uninsured motorist coverage in the case of an accident involving an uninsured driver, or underinsured coverage, which may help you cover financial challenges and losses after an accident with a driver who does not carry adequate insurance.
Once you have looked over your car insurance policy or had your lawyer look it over for you, look into your medical insurance policy. Many medical insurance policies include considerable coverage for many of the expenses you may face after a car accident. However, you may want to look into what specific coverage your policy offers.
Do you have coverage for durable medical equipment? What about in-home care, if you need it? Does your policy have a limit on the number of physical or occupational therapy sessions it will cover each year? A comprehensive look at your insurance coverage can prepare you to make medical care decisions based on that coverage.
Follow Doctors’ Instructions
Your doctors may provide you with a lot of information about how to maximize your odds of making a full recovery after your accident. You may have specific procedures you need, or your doctor may recommend going to therapy. You may have exercises that you need to perform regularly. Your doctor may recommend specific types of therapy or a specific frequency for it.
Furthermore, your doctor may issue specific restrictions regarding the activities you should not engage in after an accident. Your doctor may, for example, restrict your activity levels, or recommend that you avoid specific activities that could increase your risk of injury and interfere with your recovery.
Listen to those instructions carefully, and follow them to the best of your ability. Sometimes, it may feel difficult, especially if your doctor recommends avoiding your regular activities. However, following those instructions will offer your best odds of making a full recovery after the accident.
Not only that, your actions matter as you move forward with a personal injury claim. If you do not follow your doctor’s instructions, it may cause the insurance company to claim that you worsened your injuries and that, as a result, you cannot claim compensation for those elements.
Keep Track of Your Bills
You may have a lot of medical bills arriving after your accident. Many people find that those bills quickly grow overwhelming. Keep track of all your bills in one location so that you can easily refer back to them later. You may find that having a clear record of your medical bills makes it easier for you to put together a claim that includes all your accident-related financial challenges.
Control Your Online Presence
After your accident, you may want to share all the information you can with your followers and friends. You have a long road to recovery, and you may want to make sure that everyone finds out about it in one location. However, your social media posts and other information can interfere with your car accident claim if you share the wrong information.
Avoid posting anything about your accident online while managing your car accident claim. In many cases, your lawyer may recommend avoiding any posts at all. Sometimes, your social media posts may include information that makes it look as though your injuries might not cause the limitations you claimed in your injury claim.
The insurance company may use those posts to try to establish that you did not really suffer such severe injuries and that, as a result, you do not deserve as much compensation as you claimed. By taking a social media hiatus, you can often make it easier to avoid interference with your claim.
An Attorney Can Help You Navigate After a Car Accident
Dealing with all the challenges that can come up after a car accident, especially as you manage your claim, can feel incredibly complicated. An attorney can help you learn more about your rights, the steps you need to take next, and how you should protect yourself after your accident.