Car accidents across the country are unfortunately all too common. In fact, as recently as 2020, 1,745 motor vehicle fatalities occurred, and many more injuries resulted from serious motor vehicle crashes.
Being involved in a car accident is often a traumatic experience. Many accident victims don’t know what they should do, where they should go, and with whom they should speak following a car collision.
In addition to obtaining insurance information from the other involved drivers and seeking follow-up medical treatment after your accident, one of the most critical steps is to contact a knowledgeable car accident lawyer in your area. Generally speaking, the sooner you take this step, the better off you and your car accident case.
A car accident lawyer can first meet with you to discuss your accident, what happened, and how you felt right after the accident. Your lawyer can examine all of the evidence and determine if you can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company or another insurance company. If you are, your lawyer can file the claim on your behalf, begin negotiations, and work to obtain a fair settlement offer on your behalf.
Insurance companies, in many instances, are not overly eager to settle cases. In fact, they will typically offer as little money as possible to resolve your claim. A car accident lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company and work to get you the fair compensation that you deserve. If the insurance company does not compensate you favourably, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court and pursue litigation to a conclusion.
Call 9-1-1 Right after Your Accident
One of the most critical steps that you should take immediately after a car crash, assuming you can do so, is to call 911. Calling 911 will summon a police officer, ambulance, and firetruck to the accident scene. Once the police officer and ambulance arrive, the officer and EMTs will likely ask you what happened and how you are feeling. When that occurs, you should be complete when describing your symptoms and injuries at that time.
Speak with all of the Other Involved Drivers and Exchange Contact and Insurance Information with Them
If you can exit your vehicle after the accident, you should speak with all of the other involved drivers in the collision. In addition, you should make sure that you exchange both contact and insurance information with them.
Take a photo of their insurance card with your phone so you have that information available. You never know when you may need to get in touch with the driver or their insurance company—or provide a claim number or some other important piece of information.
Talk to the Responding Police Officer and Ask that They Prepare a Police Report
Whenever you or someone else calls 9-1-1 after a car accident, that will summon a police officer to the collision scene. Speak with the officer while you are still at the scene. Give the officer a complete description of what happened.
For instance, you might want to mention the direction you were traveling, where you were coming from, where you were going, and the color of the traffic light if your accident occurred at an intersection.
The more detail you provide, the more information the officer can include in their written police report. Also, in a police report, the officer can describe how the accident happened, who caused the accident, and whether or not they issued a citation to the at-fault driver.
If the police officer asks how you are feeling or if you have any symptoms, you should be very detailed about those symptoms. In addition, the police officer will typically note if an ambulance came to the scene and if you went to the hospital in the ambulance.
Police reports may become an essential piece of evidence in a car accident case, especially if the at-fault driver disputes fault. Therefore, you should insist that the officer prepare a formal police report.
Speak With Any Eyewitnesses at the Scene
Bystanders and other drivers who saw the crash can provide important eyewitness testimony when it comes time to piece together exactly how the crash happened, the positions of the vehicles, the relative speeds of the vehicles, and who was at fault for the accident.
In addition, an eyewitness might be in a position to testify at a jury trial about their observations regarding the car crash. If you can, at the accident scene, obtain contact information from anyone who tells you they witnessed the car crash. Their testimony may become important later on.
Seek Same-Day Medical Treatment for Your Injuries
Car accidents can lead to severe injuries and other medical complications for their victims. A victim’s injuries will depend on the speed of the vehicles, the type of accident, the force of the impact, and how the accident victim’s body moved in the car.
In some instances, the strength of the impact is so great that the accident victim’s body will strike something in the vehicle, like the steering wheel, console, door frame, window, or headrest. In turn, the accident victim may suffer serious injuries, including bone fractures, soft tissue injuries, cuts and abrasions, traumatic head and brain injuries, internal injuries, and spinal cord damage.
Any of these injuries can require significant amounts of medical treatment. For example, the accident victim might need to follow up at a hospital emergency room or urgent care center after their accident. Seeking this initial medical treatment is essential for several reasons.
First of all, an undiagnosed injury that goes left untreated may significantly worsen the longer an accident victim waits. In addition, if you do not treat your injuries immediately and you later file a personal injury claim, the insurance company will likely become very skeptical. The adjuster may believe that you did not take your medical treatment seriously or that your claimed injuries were not serious.
During your initial medical treatment, the emergency room doctor or nurse on duty can ensure that you receive the medical treatment you need. The provider can also make recommendations for future follow-up care and treatment, depending upon the severity of your injuries.
Finally, the doctor can take X-rays, MRIs, and brain scans to determine the full extent of your injuries. You must follow through with all recommended medical treatments and treat continuously for all of your injuries. Therefore, you should avoid long treatment gaps or discharging yourself from care.
Even while you continue treating for your car-accident-related injuries, a knowledgeable lawyer can begin advocating for you. First of all, your lawyer can start to gather up all of your lost wage statements, medical records, injury photographs, and other vital pieces of documentation.
They can then begin to prepare a settlement demand letter and demand package to forward to the insurance company adjuster. Hopefully, this will put the insurance company in a position to offer you monetary compensation to resolve your case through settlement. While your lawyer takes these steps, you can focus all of your energy on getting the medical treatment that you need to fully recover from your injuries.
Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer
One of the most important steps you can take following a car accident is contacting a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer about your case. Your lawyer will be in the best position to investigate the circumstances of your accident and make recommendations about how you should move forward.
The sooner you involve a personal injury lawyer in your case, the better your case will go. This will give your lawyer time to evaluate all pertinent documents, speak with you, and start your case.
First of all, your car accident lawyer can determine the insurance company with whom you should file your claim. In most cases, you will be filing a claim with the insurance company for the at-fault driver. However, in some instances, that driver may not have insurance at all, or they may be underinsured. When that is the case, your lawyer might be in a position to assert an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim on your behalf.
Regardless of the insurance company involved, the claims-filing process is essentially the same. First of all, your lawyer will prepare a settlement demand letter which makes a monetary demand for settlement within the limits of the applicable insurance policy.
In addition to the settlement demand letter, your lawyer can submit a complete demand package which includes photographs of your injuries, a victim impact statement, the police report, eyewitness statements, medical records, treatment plans, and lost income documents.
Once the insurance company adjuster reviews all of this documentation, they will determine whether to accept liability for the accident. If they accept fault, they may offer to resolve the claim through a settlement.
It is crucial to keep in mind that initial offers insurance company adjusters put on the table are usually far below the actual value of your car accident claim. This is because insurance companies are big businesses and will do everything to save money.
Insurance companies do not make money by paying out large personal injury claim settlements. Instead, they retain their money by keeping it in the house and paying out as little as possible.
In many instances, it will take several rounds of negotiations between the insurance company adjuster and the personal injury lawyer before the adjuster increases their offer to a reasonable amount. In some instances, the lawyer will need to file a lawsuit in the court system to light a fire under the insurance company’s feet, so to speak, and convince the assigned adjuster to take the case seriously.
The adjuster may offer more money to settle the issue right away when that happens. However, in many cases, the parties will need to engage in some discovery before the insurance company adjuster is willing to increase their offer.
Discovery allows the parties to learn more about each other’s version of the case. During written discovery, the parties will exchange documents and the answers to written questions called interrogatories.
In addition, the defense lawyer who is handling the case for the insurance company may wish to take the discovery deposition of the accident victim to learn more about their injuries, the accident, their medical treatment, and any permanent impacts of their injuries.
Once the discovery process is complete, the parties might still reach a settlement that the accident victim decides to accept. If not, the parties will have several options.
First of all, the parties may elect to take the case to a jury trial. The jury may decide all the disputed issues and how much to compensate the accident victim for their injuries.
As an alternative to a jury trial, the parties may consider one of several alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. For example, they might take their case to a mediator who can help facilitate settlement discussions or pursue binding arbitration, where an arbitrator will decide the damages issue in the car accident case.
A knowledgeable car accident lawyer can help you decide whether you should accept a pending settlement offer, litigate your case, take it to trial, or pursue alternative dispute resolution.
Call a Car Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible
If you have suffered injuries in a car accident, you can help to streamline your case by following the steps listed in the above checklist. Moreover, by retaining an experienced car accident lawyer to represent you in your case, you increase the chances that you will recover compensation that fully and fairly compensates you for all of your injuries.