For most people, the hours and days following a car accident can seem like a blur. You may need emergency medical help, you might have to speak with the police, and you’ll almost certainly have to deal with your insurance company.
It’s crucial that you make the right decisions during this stressful time, but if you’re still overcoming the emotional shock of being in a smash or you’re dealing with serious physical injuries, it can be challenging to figure out what to do on your own.
If you left the scene (or were taken straight to hospital) without calling the police, exchanging insurance information (see why here), or taking pictures, one of your first steps should be to contact a talented and experienced lawyer who specializes in car accidents, who will listen to your version of events and help you decide on your next steps. Your lawyer can also help you collect and compile evidence from the scene of the crash, including photographs, eyewitness statements, and police reports.
As soon as you can, write down all the details you remember about the accident – the date, time, place, what lane you were driving in, the direction you were traveling in and your intended destination, your speed, and even the weather that day. All of this can assist your lawyer in proving that you were not at fault in the crash.
Even if your injuries seem minor or unlikely to be disabling, always seek immediate medical attention to substantiate your injuries. This is because the symptoms of some injuries – like whiplash, concussions, or even small bone fractures – may only be subtle at first. Follow any doctor’s orders and appear at all your follow-up appointments; a respected doctor will be able to validate your injury claim.
If you have severe injuries and can’t travel to your lawyer’s office to meet with them, ask if they can visit you in your home or care facility – a good car accident attorney will be happy to do this at no cost to you.
Finally, don’t speak to the opposing insurance company without legal representation – you don’t want to inadvertently provide incorrect information that can be used against you in court. You should also be very careful about accepting the first offer (see why here) you get from an insurance company, even if it seems generous enough at first.
Why reject what seems like a decent offer when you probably just want to focus on your recovery from the accident and have no desire to deal with legal fees and complicated paperwork?
Well, because insurance companies know that people are often physically and emotionally vulnerable after being in a car accident, and their profits depend on not giving you any more than they have to. This means your insurance company may pay for your emergency medical bills, but not the future costs of treatment for any lingering injuries. They may offer to repair your car, but won’t compensate you for missed hours of work. Without an income, who will take care of your living expenses while you recuperate?
Put simply, it’s unwise to accept a settlement without seeking the advice of a lawyer. The only way you can be 100% sure you are getting the compensation you deserve is to go over the fine points of the accident, your finances, and your medical condition with an experienced attorney.
Look for an attorney that specialized in car accidents, works on a contingency basis ( https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/law_issues_for_consumers/lawyerfees_contingent/), and offers 100% free and confidential consultations. This will help you find out if you have a case for more compensation – and if you do, your lawyer will get to work on your case at no upfront cost to you. This is because attorneys who work on a contingency basis don’t get paid anything unless you win damages or agree to a settlement.
The sooner you seek legal advice, the sooner you can have a team of experts on your side, fighting to get you what you deserve – so don’t neglect to call a qualified car accident lawyer as soon as possible after an accident. Even if you believe you were partially at fault, an experienced lawyer may still be able to get you a considerable amount of compensation for your injuries, damage to your vehicle, and time away from work.