Suffering severe injuries in an accident often leaves victims confused about what steps they need to take next. You may wonder whether you deserve compensation for your injuries and, if so, who might bear liability for the accident. If you suffered severe injuries, you might not know how to balance the medical care you need with the other demands on your time and energy.
What should you do after an accident that results in injury?
At the Accident Scene
When possible, you may want to take care of several critical steps at the scene of the accident.
1. Prioritize Medical Care
If you suffer any injury, even a mild injury, start by seeking the medical care you need to take care of the damage. You may need to call 911 for emergency transport to the hospital, or you may need to receive emergency first aid at the site of the accident. Always make medical care your top priority, and do nothing at the scene of the accident that could place you in additional danger.
2. Report the Accident
Where you report the accident may depend on the type of accident you suffered.
If you have a car accident, you should report the accident to the police any time an accident results in injuries or significant property damage. A police report can make it easier to establish who caused the accident, what drivers got involved in the accident, and whether you may deserve compensation for the injuries you sustained.
If you suffered injuries in a business, often due to a slip and fall or other premises liability accident, you might need to report the accident to the business. The business may need its own report related to the accident. Furthermore, suppose you suffered an accident because of a damaged floor, falling objects, or other clear danger. In that case, the business may need to remedy the situation quickly, so it doesn’t injure anyone else.
3. Collect Evidence
If you can safely move around the accident scene without placing yourself in danger or worsening your injuries, you may want to collect evidence. Most obviously, photo evidence can make it easier to establish what the scene of the accident looked like, what may have contributed to your injuries, and even the severity of your injuries.
Take photos of:
- Your injuries, especially: visible cuts, bruises, and lacerations
- The accident scene
- Anything you believe may have contributed to the accident (A puddle in the floor? A broken handrail?)
You may also want to make sure that you have contact information for any witnesses to the accident so that you can get in contact with those witnesses later, which may make it easier for you to establish exactly what happened at the scene.
After the Accident
After many types of serious accident injuries, you will likely need to proceed straight to the hospital. From there, you may need to take several steps to protect yourself and manage your injuries.
1. Obey Your Doctors
Depending on your injuries, your doctors may issue a long list of instructions regarding your next steps and the actions you need to take to keep yourself safe. You may need, for example, to avoid certain activities while you recover, or your doctor may recommend specific steps you need to take to maximize your recovery from your injury.
Follow your doctors’ instructions as carefully as possible. If your doctor recommends a specific procedure that you need to maximize your odds of making a full recovery, do not unnecessarily put off that procedure. If your doctor recommends physical therapy, schedule that therapy as soon as possible and get in the recommended number of daily sessions.
Your doctor may recommend that you engage in specific exercises or types of activities to improve your recovery, from trying out specific movements and strength-building exercises to engaging in light exercise. Try to work those activities into your schedule to avoid limiting your recovery.
Your doctor may also recommend that you avoid certain types of activities. For example, following a concussion or brain injury, your brain may prove more vulnerable to other types of injury.
If you do not avoid high-contact sports and other activities that could result in further head injury, you could end up with considerably worse symptoms and long-term limitations. If you suffer broken bones, particularly in your leg, your doctor may recommend that you avoid bearing weight on the injured limb while you recover. Ignoring those requirements may result in more serious injury, including permanent disability.
Listening to your doctors serves two critical purposes as you recover from your injuries. First, it offers your best chance of making a full recovery. Your care team will focus on providing the highest possible standard of care so you can maximize your odds of a full recovery.
Next, following your doctors’ instructions shows that you have done your part to maximize your recovery. If you ignore your doctors, the insurance company that covers the liable party may claim that you worsened your injuries and that, as a result, you do not deserve compensation through the insurance company.
2. Talk to Your Health Insurance Provider
Ultimately, your health insurance provider will likely provide a great deal of financial assistance as you face the medical bills from your accident. Depending on the extent of your injuries, you may have extensive, long-term medical needs, and your medical insurance company can help you cover many of those expenses.
As you start working with your doctors to develop a comprehensive care plan, however, you need to know what insurance coverage you have and how it will work.
You may want to ask questions about:
- Your deductible
- Your co-pays for medical care
- Where you can find in-network providers to treat your specific ailment
- Your coverage for important elements of your care, including physical therapy, durable medical equipment, or the need for in-home care or a stay in a longer-term care facility.
When you know what kind of coverage you have, you put yourself in a better position to design a care plan that fits your financial and physical needs.
3. Write Down or Record a Statement
After an accident, your memory may fade faster than you expect. In some cases, your mind may try to protect you by removing or blurring some of those memories. Unfortunately, that can make it more difficult to determine precisely what led to the accident. You may find that you no longer recall the specific details relevant to the event, especially as more time goes by.
Take the time to put together a statement of what led to the accident for your records. Include all the details you remember, including things you might feel irrelevant or unimportant. The more information you include, the more effectively you can rebuild the accident for future reference, including a personal injury claim. If you cannot write down your statement or prefer to make a verbal statement, you can record your statement.
4. Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
Any time you suffer injuries in an accident due to another party’s negligence, you need an attorney on your side. An attorney can prove crucial to managing your personal injury claim.
Do not talk to the other party’s insurance company before you have a chance to speak to a personal injury lawyer, since a lawyer can offer vital information that can help you navigate those interactions without limiting the compensation you can recover for your injuries.
Look for a personal injury lawyer who:
- Practices in the area where you need to file a claim
- Specializes or has experience in the type of accident you suffered, whether a car accident, construction accident, or slip and fall
- Makes you feel confident about your ability to recover compensation
Rather than forcing you to pay upfront for legal services, many personal injury attorneys will accept cases on a contingent fee basis. You will pay your attorney when you settle your case or receive a court award, and the attorney will accept a percentage of that award as payment, rather than requiring you to pay for all your legal needs upfront.
Offer honest information to your attorney.
When you talk to an attorney, do not leave out details of the accident, including details that might paint you in a bad light or that might suggest that you could bear partial liability for the accident.
Provide your attorney with all information related to the claim so that your attorney can build a comprehensive case that will fully establish your right to compensation. Do not lie to your attorney, omit relevant information, or try to avoid answering questions. A well-informed attorney can benefit your case and avoid challenging surprises as you manage your claim.
Let your attorney deal with the insurance company.
After some types of accidents, you may feel that you need to immediately contact the other party’s insurance company yourself. For example, in an auto accident, you may assume that you need to report the accident to the other driver’s insurance company as soon as possible so you can get your vehicle repaired. However, if you suffered an injury in the accident, let your attorney deal with the insurance company for you.
Insurance companies will sometimes try to take advantage of accident victims or fail to provide them with reasonable compensation and advice based on their injuries and the compensation they deserve. They may, for example, try to get you to accept a low settlement offer immediately after the accident or pressure you to accept partial liability for the accident. If you find yourself caught by an insurance adjuster’s tricks, it could make it more difficult for you to obtain the full compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Let your attorney put together a comprehensive accident injury claim.
To pursue compensation for your injuries, you will need to submit a claim, usually through the liable party’s insurance company. To give you the most effective injury claim possible, let your attorney put together that claim for you.
An attorney may start by looking over the evidence you collected from the accident scene and looking at the evidence regarding your injuries. Then, your attorney will want to look at your financial losses from the accident.
Your claim may include several critical elements, including your medical bills, the wages lost because of your injuries, and pain and suffering related to the accident. An attorney can help pull together a claim that establishes your right to compensation in a clear, compelling manner, which may make it easier for you to get the damages you deserve.
5. Track Your Bills and Financial Losses.
When you suffer serious injuries, you will likely need to undergo significant medical treatment to aid in your recovery. Keep track of those bills, ideally in one location, so that you can more easily pull them together for a personal injury claim.
You may also want to track your lost time at work and any other financial losses that relate directly to the accident. An attorney can help you determine what bills need to appear in that claim. However, if you do not keep track of your bills, you may have a more challenging time pulling together an estimate of what your injuries have really cost, and you may miss out on vital areas of compensation.
Do You Need an Attorney After an Accident Injury?
If you suffered serious injuries in an accident, a personal injury attorney could help you learn more about your rights and fight on your behalf as you pursue compensation. Contact an accident attorney as soon as you can for more help with your claim.