Getting an injury from a car accident can be serious. So, what do you do next? Here are the next steps to take when you’ve been injured in an accident.
An injury from a car accident can permanently alter your life. If you’re lucky enough to survive a car accident, you may very well be left with chronic pain or lifelong disabilities.
So don’t take personal injuries lightly. The law entitles you to compensation if you weren’t at fault. Read on to learn the step you should take after an accident.
What to Do After an Accident
If you want to handle yourself correctly after an accident, you need to understand the landscape. Personal injury cases are considered tort law, which means the law sees these cases as civil matters.
Remember that if someone careened into you with their car on purpose, that’s more than a car accident; that’s serious, willful aggression, aka a crime! A personal injury case must be an accident, and to win a settlement, you must prove the accident was not your fault, first and foremost.
You may already be familiar with some of the more common types of personal injury cases, like car accidents. Other types of accidents that qualify as personal injury include:
- Dog Bites
- Medical Malpractice
- Injuries From Defective Products
- Car Wrecks Involving Bicycles
- Public Transportation Accidents
The list can go on and on. Statistically speaking, over half of all personal injury cases are auto accidents. As surprising as it sounds, many people don’t realize that they may have a valid case in the event of a car accident. But what steps should you take immediately following an accident?
Whether you were in a car accident or you slipped and fell at work because they mopped without posting a sign, make sure to have all of your bases covered. These are the most critical measures you need to remember after a car accident.
Seek Medical Help
Immediately following a car accident, make sure you seek out medical care. Even if you don’t feel injured, you still may have suffered internal damage or broken bones.
After an accident, our bodies become charged with fight or flight nervous system chemicals—powerful hormones like epinephrine kick in to keep us vigilant in the presence of a massive threat. No matter how calm you think you are in daily life, you can rest assured that, after a car accident, your body is ready to roll!
The bottom line? The chemicals that rile us up to be hyper-vigilant also keep us from feeling pain. This is why it’s so important that you go to the emergency room, no matter how you feel.
Otherwise, you may wake up a few days later and realize you’ve been walking around with some bad injuries–like cracked ribs, for example– and didn’t even know it!
You should seek out medical care for your own well-being, first and foremost. But there is another vital reason to get medical attention after an accident:
You need a record of your injuries.
You see, one of the things you must prove for a successful personal injury case is that you incurred damages, both to your stuff (like your car, bicycle, etc.) and also to your physical body.
Aside from the obvious hospital bills, medical damages can include services like physical therapy or chiropractic care, as well as pharmaceuticals.
If you stall when it comes to initial medical attention, not only are you delaying your own care, but you’re also putting friction into your damage claim.
For example, if you wait a week to see a doctor after your car wreck, your whiplash has had ample time to get worse! Later on, when you realize you’ve been hurt badly, your medical care can and up more extensive (and expensive) than it would have had you gone in much earlier.
One question you never want to hear an insurance adjuster or lawyer ask is:
Why did you wait so long to go to the doctor?
An inquiry of this type can severely hamper your argument that the accident directly resulted in your injuries. You don’t want your settlement reduced because a lawyer successfully argued that your delaying made your injuries worse.
Keep Detailed Records
Because a personal injury case is a tort case, you carry the burden of proving two key points if you want a successful settlement.
You need to prove fault (namely, that it was not yours), and you need to prove damages. The best way to prove both fault and damages is to keep accurate and thorough records.
The following items are an absolute must-have after an accident:
- Police Report
- Photos of The Scene
- Photos of Injuries
- Photos of Property Damage
- Medical Records
- Professional Damage Assessments
- Receipts For Repairs
- Proof of Auto Value
- Proof of Income
- Records of Missed Work
- Cell Phone Records of a Distracted Driver
Most likely, your personal accident case will end in a settlement with the offending party’s insurance company. However, you may need to go to trial.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, less than 5% of car accident cases go to trial. However, if this happens, be prepared to collect even more records going further back into your personal history.
In the unlikely event that you go to trial, you’ll need to show employment history, your full medical history for 10-15 years (including every medical visit you’ve ever had), a list of every accident, traffic citation, and medical visit you’ve ever had, etc.
In any case, the burden is on you to prove both fault and damages. While most of the records can establish a quantitative list of damages, the notion of who’s at fault can be dicey.
Whether you’re dealing with a lawyer or an adjustor, one argument they will try to make is that you were partially at fault. Here, a police record (including any eyewitness testimonies) can help bolster your case.
Any notion of you sharing fault in the accident can chip away at your case and, ultimately, the amount of settlement money you see. Even in cases where you were clearly not at fault, you can still bear some of the blame because you were at the scene.
The notion of comparative negligence is when both the plaintiff and defendant share fault. If you want to eliminate the idea that you were even the slightest bit at fault, you need evidence. A thorough and accurate police report is the best way to prove that none of the negligence that caused the accident came from your actions.
Get a Lawyer
The third critical action you need to take after a car accident is to contact a lawyer. And when it comes to lawyering up, the sooner, the better!
Waiting a long time before you seek out a personal injury attorney will only prolong the settlement process, which will already take several months to years by its very nature.
You must also consider the fact that if you wait too long, your ship might sail! There is a limit to how long you have before you file a claim.
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims varies by state, but you only have a finite amount of time to take action. Some states, like Louisiana, only allow one year to file your claim.
Other states like Maine, Minnesota, and North Dakota allow up to six years as a statute of limitations. For most states, the limit is around 2-3 years.
A personal injury lawyer will represent you against the insurance company during the claims process. After a personal injury case, you’ll want to refrain from direct contact with the other party, as well as any of their representatives.
An attorney will also represent you if your accident case goes to trial. In any case, a personal injury claim is not something you want to attempt to DIY!
One of the best things about hiring an accident attorney is that most of them work on contingency, especially when it comes to everyday personal injury claims like auto accidents.
Contingency means that an attorney takes no money upfront. Instead, they’ll claim a percentage of the settlement. Often, a lawyer’s fee at the end of the day is around one-third of the settlement, though contingency fees vary.
How Long Does It Take?
Truth be told, most personal injury cases take years. A common auto accident case can take anywhere from one to two years to either settle or go to trial. If your case takes less than a year, consider yourself one of the lucky few!
Between the time it takes for your lawyer and the other party’s insurance company to communicate to the length of time it takes to gather records, the months quickly fly by.
Don’t Hesitate to Act
The sooner you take action after an accident, the better. An injury from a car accident can worsen over time, and you don’t want to neglect your own health or your case for receiving damages.
Contact us for the aggressive, comprehensive representation you’ll need to get the settlement you deserve.