Serious and preventable accidents affect millions of people every year. In many cases, victims’ lives can change in an instant, and they often face significant personal and economic losses that can negatively affect them for years to come.
Fortunately, people who sustain injuries in accidents that are the result of someone else’s negligence or recklessness can typically recover for their losses by filing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. This is true whether your accident was a car accident, motorcycle accident, slip and fall accident, workplace accident, or any other type of incident that was someone else’s fault.
That said, victims need to take certain steps to protect their legal rights and ensure that they can resolve their cases as favorably as possible after an accident caused by someone else. Below, we discuss ten things that you should do after an accident. For more information or to find out whether you have a claim, you should contact an experienced attorney near you as soon as you can.
Report the Accident
If you or someone else suffered apparent injuries in any accident, properly report it. If you were in a motor vehicle crash, you should never hesitate to call 911. This ensures that both emergency medical personnel will come to examine any injured individuals, as well as the police, who can help sort out what happened and whether anyone violated the law.
If injuries resulted from a slip and fall or a similar accident at a store or business, you want to report the matter to management. They should have an internal reporting system for accidents and injuries. If necessary, also call 911 if you believe someone might need an ambulance.
When you report an accident, be sure to give your detailed version of what happened. However, if you are unsure of certain details, do not try to fill them in – just be honest that you are unsure. Saying something that might not necessarily be accurate now can have detrimental effects later.
Don’t Accept Blame
Many people are empathetic and truly feel bad when accidents and injuries happen, even if they were not to blame. It is all too easy to say, “I’m sorry,” or similar comments that might insinuate that you are accepting blame for the accident.
Even if another party knows they are at fault, they and their insurance company can use any comments you make to reduce their liability, so it is better to say nothing along those lines. Do not confront others about their fault either, as the cause of the accident and liability should be sorted out by legal professionals.
Seek Medical Treatment
There are two reasons why you always want to seek medical help and get a diagnosis of your injuries as soon as possible:
- The sooner a doctor diagnoses you, the sooner you can begin treatment, which can help lead to a more favorable prognosis.
- If you get a diagnosis right after an accident, it is easier to prove that the accident in question caused your injuries.
It is very common for people to try to “tough it out” and avoid getting medical treatment. After all, no one likes going to the doctor, and the emergency room can be even worse. However, going to get an evaluation and diagnosis as soon as you possibly can is vital to both your health and your legal rights.
Some injuries, such as soft tissue injuries or concussions, might not have immediate symptoms. You might feel off or some discomfort, but not enough that you justify going to the emergency room. If you are experiencing any type of symptoms, it is better to be safe than sorry and get checked out. These injuries can worsen and result in complications if they go untreated, so you want to err on the safe side and seek medical help for yourself or anyone who suffered injuries.
Engage With Your Treatment Plan
Undergoing a thorough medical evaluation conducted by a healthcare professional is often only the first step of physically recovering from your injuries. In many cases, and especially those involving severe injuries, victims will have a long and arduous journey to a full recovery.
It is essential – both for your health and the health of your claim – that you fully engage in your treatment plan and do everything your doctor and healthcare team recommends. This means doing things like attending all of your follow-up appointments, engaging in physical therapy, filling and taking your prescriptions, and keeping your team apprised of your progress. Victims have a duty to take steps to mitigate their losses, and failing to engage with your treatment plan can hurt your ability to recover compensation.
Keep Detailed Notes
In many personal injury cases, the most contested issue is how much the insurance company will pay the victim. As a person who has been injured by someone else’s negligence, you should develop as much evidence as possible documenting how your injuries are affecting you every day.
For this reason, you should keep notes on issues such as:
- Problems you have sleeping
- Social engagements you need to skip
- Work-related problems
- Feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety
- Symptoms of PTSD
Keeping these kinds of notes can make it easier to obtain the full and fair value of your claim from the insurance company or at trial.
Knowing what types of evidence might be important in an insurance claim or lawsuit can be difficult, especially if you do not have experience with the legal system or injury claims. However, you can stay organized and keep certain things safe in case they are helpful at a later date.
Some potential evidence you should preserve includes:
- All of your medical bills and records
- Receipts for over-the-counter medication, medical equipment such as crutches, gas and mileage for your medical treatment appointments, and other out-of-pocket costs
- Childcare or household help needed due to your injuries
- Proof of canceled vacations or activities due to your injuries
- A log of the time you missed from work – either for treatment or because your injuries prevent you from returning to your job
- Any texts, emails, or other communications you receive from anyone involved in the accident or witnesses to the accident
- Smartphone photos or videos of the aftermath of the accidents
- Photos of your injuries and any scarring
- Photos of property damage, such as to your vehicle
- Journals or other records of your pain and suffering
If you have anything tangible that might help indicate the severity of your injuries or how the accident happened, you should keep it in a safe place.
If you did not keep certain records or other pieces of possible evidence, do not think that all is lost. Personal injury lawyers regularly work with clients who were unaware they should keep certain things. Experienced lawyers know how to build cases based on what is available, but it can make this process simpler if you stay organized and keep anything that seems like it might be important down the road.
Know Your Rights
Some people assume they will just have to deal with their losses from accidental injuries, as they do not understand their rights under personal injury laws. In many situations, however, the law allows accident victims to seek financial recovery for all of their losses.
Such losses can include:
- Medical expenses – These include costs for initial emergency treatment, diagnostic tests, surgery, hospitalization, doctor and specialist appointments, physical therapy, medications, and future treatment you will need.
- Lost earnings – If you already lost wages from missing work, you can recover for this lost income, as well as any income you will miss out on in the future if you cannot return to work or must switch to a lower-paying job.
- Intangible losses – These losses are more difficult to calculate since they do not stem from monetary bills and losses. Instead, these include physical pain and suffering, permanent impairments, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental trauma.
If someone else was responsible for causing the accident and your injuries, the law holds that party liable for your losses. However, do not expect to simply receive a voluntary check in the mail. Instead, you must seek this compensation, often by filing a claim with the relevant insurance company.
Be Careful What You Say to Insurance Adjusters
Insurance companies make money by collecting insurance premiums every month and then paying out as little as possible on the claims that victims make. The insurance adjuster handling your claim received training to look for ways to settle your case for as little as possible. For example, even saying that you are “fine” after being asked “how are you?” could be used as evidence that you are not seriously injured and that your settlement offer should be lower.
Another tactic that insurance companies use is telling victims that they need to provide a recorded statement to obtain compensation. Not only is this untrue, but they use the recorded statement as an opportunity to get victims to say things that indicate that their injuries are less serious than they actually are or that they were at fault for their accident. The best way to protect your rights and ensure that you do not say anything that can hurt your case to an insurance adjuster is to retain an attorney before even starting your claim.
Find the Best Accident and Injury Attorney Near You
The help of a personal injury attorney from the start of the claim process can often greatly improve the outcome of your case. But you do not want to hire just any attorney – you want the best one in your area for your type of case. So, how do you go about finding the best accident and injury lawyer near you?
There are many resources you can use to find the right legal help without spending hours and hours searching. First, do you know anyone who had an injury claim recently? Find out if they had a good experience with their lawyer – or a bad experience so you can rule that law firm out. Be careful with other types of legal recommendations, however. Your cousin might have glowing reviews of their divorce attorney, but if that law firm does not handle injury cases regularly, they likely aren’t the right choice for you.
If you have few or no recommendations, you can easily turn to the internet for help. A Google search for “personal injury attorney” in your area will likely return thousands, if not millions, of results. There are other online resources and databases you can check, such as Avvo, Yelp, the state bar association, and more. Check ratings, read reviews, and come up with a short list of attorneys you want to interview.
When you schedule your initial consultation with an injury lawyer, they will want to evaluate your rights and whether they want to take your case. But remember that you are also interviewing the law firm. You have no obligation to hire a lawyer who evaluates your case.
Instead, have a list of questions that can help determine which lawyer you feel most comfortable with. If that lawyer believes you have a strong injury case, you can move forward with the legal process together.
Be Honest With Your Attorney
Finally, it is in your best interest to be completely honest and forthcoming with your attorney about how your accident occurred and the losses you have experienced and will likely suffer in the future.
Leaving out important details about your accident or attempting to inflate your losses can leave you with a worse outcome than you would obtain if you were transparent about your situation from the outset. In addition, a well-informed lawyer can help you much better than one who is in the dark about important facts about your case. Contact The Patel Firm today.