If you were hurt in a car accident, you want to do what you can to make your claim for compensation against the negligent driver as strong as possible —starting at the scene of the accident. These steps are not that complicated, but they can have an impact on the amount of compensation you could be entitled to from the negligent driver’s insurance company. What happens if you are too injured to do anything but wait for an ambulance? Hopefully a passenger or witness helps you out by taking some of these steps for you.
Things You Should Do to Protect Your Rights
While you may feel stressed out and confused after your car accident, you need to take a deep breath and do what you can to improve your chances of obtaining a settlement that compensates you for your injuries. You should do the following:
- Report the accident. Even if you do not believe you suffered injuries, you always want to contact the police and have a report made. Why? Some injuries—like traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, and internal bleeding—may not become apparent for days or weeks after the crash occurred. Having a police report is vital when making a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company. It could also contain important information, such as contact information for the other driver and witnesses, a diagram of the crash scene, the police officer’s summary of witness statements, his observations, and whether a ticket was issued. Obtain a copy of the police report to include when making a claim.
- Get medical care. Obtaining medical care for anyone at the scene who is injured is an obvious step. But what should you do if you do not feel any injuries? You should still seek medical treatment right away. This can prevent any conditions from worsening. Seeking medical care is also important to your claim because it helps establish the link between your injuries and the crash—something you must prove to be entitled to compensation. In addition, an insurance adjuster will most likely argue that your injuries were not caused by the accident if you fail to obtain prompt medical care.
- Get contact information. Obtain contact information for the driver and any witnesses to your accident. While some police officers are thorough in their investigation, others are not, and you do not want to lose contact information for vital witnesses by relying on the police report.
- Take pictures. You want to take pictures of the accident scene, including any damage to the vehicles involved and the point of impact, debris on the road, skid marks, weather conditions, traffic signs and signals if relevant, your injuries, and any other helpful information to your case. It can be useful to return to the scene within a day of your crash to photograph any evidence you missed before it is removed or repaired.
- Make an insurance claim. You want to make a claim with your insurance company right away. However, be careful what you say because your own insurance company could also deny your claim or provide information that is not helpful to the other driver’s insurance adjuster. Wait to make a claim with the other driver’s insurance company until after you have retained an experienced car accident attorney who can do all the negotiating for you—and obtain a better settlement. If the adjuster calls you, tell him that you will have your attorney contact him. Do not enter into a detailed conversation. The adjuster could twist your words or get you to inadvertently make a mistake.
- Don’t discuss the accident. Be careful of what you say about the accident to anyone other than your attorney—even family and friends. Certainly do not discuss it with co-workers, acquaintances, or on social media. Your words could be used against you by the insurance adjuster.
- Keep track of medical expenses and lost wages. Save receipts and bills for any medical treatment you receive, car repairs, and the wages you lost. If you suffered serious injuries and will be off work for an extended period of time, your attorney will want to obtain a final medical prognosis and determine the wages and benefits you will lose to accurately value your claim.
- Don’t sign any documents. Do not sign any documents without having an attorney review them—including the insurance company’s medical release of information. You could be giving up important legal rights.
- Don’t settle your case. Do not settle your claim without first consulting with an attorney who can help you better understand what your case is worth. Chances are that you are entitled to much more compensation than the insurance adjuster is offering.
- Contact an attorney. Retaining an attorney should really be at the top of the list of what you need to do. He can help preserve evidence such as surveillance tapes of the accident that could be destroyed quickly, build your case, negotiate a settlement for you, and help you avoid making inadvertent mistakes that can hurt your case.
Take the First Important Step of Contacting Brauns Law, PC After Your Auto Crash
If you or a family member were injured in an accident caused by another driver, I urge you to contact me as soon as possible to schedule a free case evaluation—even if you have not taken all of the steps discussed here. I have helped many clients over the years who did not take these steps. Start an online chat today to schedule an appointment with me.
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