Thankfully, as technology and innovation have improved, so has motor vehicle safety. However, accidents and injuries still happen daily on American highways and streets.
If you were recently in a car accident and suffered an injury, you may feel overwhelmed, confused, and unsure of what to do next. This is quite normal. But the steps you do or don’t take now can profoundly impact your injury claim and whether you can recover the compensation you deserve.
Here are some essential steps after suffering injuries in a motor vehicle accident.
Actions to Take As Soon As Possible After the Accident
Take these actions as soon as possible after the accident but not necessarily immediately. Attend to your immediate and medical needs first.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
Your insurance company may have contractually obligated you to report the accident to them as soon as possible after your accident. If you fail to do so, they can deny your claim or even cancel your insurance policy. With today’s technology, you may not have to call to make a report. Depending on your insurance company, you might report it online or through an app.
If you do need to speak with a representative, always hire a car accident attorney first and let them report the accident. You might think it is harmless to speak with them, as they provide your coverage – not an at-fault driver’s.
However, you might need to fall back on your own coverage under certain circumstances. Even a slight comment or wrong word can jeopardize your claim. Always have an attorney speak with all necessary insurers.
See Your Doctor
If you haven’t already received medical care, make a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. Many injuries aren’t readily apparent after a car accident but begin to show symptoms in the days and weeks after, such as back and neck injuries.
Your doctor can catch these symptoms early and provide the necessary treatment. Having a doctor document your physical assessment, injuries, and plans for follow-up care will also ensure you receive the compensation you deserve after your accident.
In addition, continue getting the medical care and therapies recommended by your doctor or other medical care providers. If you fail to comply with their recommendations, your inactions can decrease the value of your claim.
Seek Any Necessary Follow Up Treatment
If emergency room or other healthcare providers saw you, get the follow-up care and treatment you need. It offers the best course of action for your medical condition and allows you to build a strong legal claim. Whether you need to get additional tests or treatments or recheck your injuries, follow those instructions exactly to the best of your ability.
Be Wary of Insurance Adjusters
Within a few days of reporting your accident to the insurance company, you might receive a phone call from the insurance adjuster assigned to your case. More often than not, adjusters will seem genuinely concerned for your well-being. They will chat with you and act like your friend.
Adjusters do this to make you feel they are on their side, allowing them to give you unsolicited advice without questions. They may say the insurance company will accept responsibility for the accident or tell you not to hire an attorney since they will just take more of the benefits insurance will provide.
Insurance adjusters aren’t looking out for you or any other injured car accident victim. They are looking out for themselves and their employer.
Don’t fall for these tactics. They want you to believe that they have your best interest at heart. If they befriend you, you are more likely to speak freely about the accident, your injuries, and anything else that might benefit them.
Perhaps you will tell them about an old injury you had, how you lost your job a few months back, or how you had just left a barbeque before being in an accident. It may all seem like friendly small talk. However, they will take every bit of information they can and twist it for their purposes.
For example, according to them:
- Your old injury is what is causing your new pain and mobility issues, not the car accident
- You lost your job, so now you are taking advantage of this accident to get money
- You came from a family barbeque, so you must have been drinking right before the accident
Give them the information they need to do their job and that you are required to give them, but no more.
Once you hire a car accident attorney, you won’t have to talk directly to the insurance adjuster. Your attorney will do that for you, which can protect you from saying something potentially detrimental to your claim.
Don’t Give an Insurance Company a Recorded Statement
The insurance adjuster will likely ask you to give a recorded statement about your account of the accident over the phone. They may even make it seem like a requirement or that it will reflect poorly on your claim if you don’t. However, this isn’t true. You don’t have to give a recorded statement.
Providing a recorded statement might seem innocent, but that’s precisely what the insurance company wants you to think. Insurance adjusters are well-versed in what to ask and how to ask questions. Since the adjuster will record your statement, you cannot deny what you said. Adjusters take advantage of this time to trick you into saying things you don’t necessarily mean or to twist what you say.
Some insurance adjusters may even upset you to see how you handle yourself or if you will mess up explaining what happened. They might start to drop negative comments and wait for your reaction. If the adjuster succeeds, this will get you talking.
Remember that you have the right to end the conversation with an insurance representative at any time. If you plan to hire a lawyer, let the insurer know they must talk to your attorney if they want further information from you. An attorney can protect you from these well-known but often successful tactics to deny your claim or pay you less than you deserve.
Once you have representation, a lawyer for a car accident can advise you on what to do and what not to do regarding insurance companies. Insurers know they cannot trick lawyers the same way they might trick unrepresented claimants.
Check Your Auto Insurance Policy Coverage
Even if you weren’t at fault for the auto accident, you might need some of your auto insurance coverage to pay for your damages.
Now is an excellent time to review your policy to see what coverages you have available and their limits. You may also want to change your policy coverages and limits going forward based on this experience. Here are the coverages you might need to rely on:
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Suppose a driver without insurance hits you, or you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident. In that case, you will likely need to use your uninsured motorist coverage to pay for your damages.
Underinsured coverage applies if you are in an accident and the other driver’s insurance policy isn’t enough to cover your damages. For example, the other driver’s liability policy limit is $10,000, but your medical bills are $20,000. You can file a claim on your underinsured policy for the additional $10,000.
Some states require personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, and others do not. If you live in a no-fault car accident state, you generally must have PIP coverage and will rely on that to pay at least some of your medical bills. With this coverage, it doesn’t matter who was at fault for the accident, which gives you easy access to compensation for medical care.
Collision coverage is optional. However, suppose you have this coverage on your auto insurance policy at the time of your accident. In that case, you can file a claim on it. Some drivers prefer to file a claim under their collision coverage instead of with the other driver’s insurance.
Although you will have to pay your deductible to use this coverage to get your car replaced or repaired, your auto insurance company will work to get it back for you in a process known as subrogation. Your insurance company will pursue obtaining the amount of your deductible back from the at-fault driver’s insurance company and then refund it to you.
Rental Car Coverage
While certainly not required, rental car coverage can be nice to have. If you do have this coverage, you can use it to pay for a rental car while your damaged car is being looked at or fixed. Most policies will pay a set amount per day up to a set amount total per accident.
Hire an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Meeting with an experienced car accident attorney after an injury accident is one of the most essential steps. You won’t know your legal rights and how much your case is worth unless you do. Meet with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
If you procrastinate in meeting with an attorney:
Valuable Evidence Could Be Lost or Destroyed in Your Claim
An attorney can gather and preserve evidence supporting your car accident claim. This might include pictures of the accident scene, your injuries, and your medical bills. The sooner they collect evidence, the less the chance it will be lost, damaged, or destroyed.
You Could Miss the Lawsuit Filing Deadline
Each state has its own statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time injured individuals have to file a legal claim. In many states, this deadline is as little as one to two years; in other states, it’s up to five years from the accident date.
In some situations, victims have a longer period. However, it is always best to consult with an attorney to determine the statute of limitations that applies to your specific circumstances. The statute of limitations often differs for claims involving minors or those against government entities.
If you don’t file your lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations, you no longer have the right to pursue compensation through the civil legal system. Meeting with a lawyer as soon as possible ensures you will file your claim on time.
You Could Make Detrimental Mistakes
The sooner you have an attorney on your side, the less likely you are to make seemingly innocent mistakes that can have a substantial negative impact on your case—for example, not following up with your medical providers when you are supposed to, saying something to the insurance adjuster that they can use against you, or posting on social medial about your accident or injuries.
The Benefit of Taking the Right Steps After a Car Accident
Remember that the steps you take after a car accident can have far-reaching positive or negative impacts on your life for a long time. The sooner you connect with an attorney and get the medical care you need, the better the chances are that you will recover both physically and financially from your injuries.
By meeting with a car accident attorney as soon as possible, you can ensure that you take all the necessary steps to maximize your compensation. Get the leverage you need from a trusted law firm today.