Many people do not realize that car accidents can cause financial devastation. Because crashes happen fairly frequently, folks assume that insurance companies will simply take care of the details and pay a settlement quickly, and that, for the most part, their lives will go on as usual.
For many car accident victims, however, getting paid after a car accident-and ensuring that they have received a reasonable settlement offer that reflects their losses and future financial needs-proves to be far more challenging than anticipated.
Following the right steps from the earliest moments after a car accident can help ensure that you will get the compensation you deserve.
At an Accident Scene
The steps you take at a car accident scene can go a long way toward helping you get paid and ensuring that you get the full compensation you deserve for any injuries and losses you sustained.
Prioritize your medical needs.
All too often, people walk away from the scene of a car accident without seeking needed medical attention. They have all sorts of understandable reasons for doing this. They may worry about the high cost of medical treatment, for example, or might fear spending time in the hospital.
But ignoring your medical needs could have catastrophic consequences. Some serious injuries, including internal bleeding or traumatic brain injury, may not show immediate signs at the time of the accident. Some people even walk away from an accident with broken bones that they do not recognize immediately.
Failure to seek medical care can exacerbate your injuries and leave you in far worse condition than you would have been if you had sought prompt treatment. Not only that, if you do not seek medical care, you may not have a record of exactly when your injuries took place, or of their exact nature and severity, which may make it much more difficult for a lawyer to get you paid for the harm you’ve suffered.
The driver that hit you may make excuses for why you should not report the accident immediately. The driver may insist on rushing off to an important appointment or event or may give you a sob story about financial strain, a suspended license, or the high cost of insurance.
But those aren’t valid reasons for not reporting an accident. You probably have a legal obligation to make a report. So call 911, wait for the police to arrive, give an accurate report of what happened, and follow the officer’s instructions about what to do next and how to obtain a copy of the accident report.
If you can, take photos and collect information.
It’s not always possible to gather evidence at the scene of your accident, and that’s ok. The two other steps above should always come first.
But if you can do so without endangering yourself or others, and without getting in the way of first responders doing their jobs, take out your phone and snap pictures or video of everything you see at the scene, from the damaged vehicles to the road surface to the surrounding area. Also, exchange insurance information with the other driver, and collect contact details from him, his passengers, and any witnesses.
Again, do this only if it’s safe and practical. If not, don’t worry. The police will usually collect the same information, and a skilled attorney can often track down the rest.
After the Accident
Once you address your immediate needs after an accident, including seeking medical care, take the following steps to protect your rights and to improve your chances of getting paid for the harm you suffered.
#1. Follow the recommendations of your medical care professionals.
If you want to get paid for your car accident injuries, and you want as much compensation as possible, carefully follow the recommendations of your medical care team. Take your medication. Never miss a physical therapy appointment. Go to your follow-up doctor visits.
Ignoring the recommendations of your care team or slacking off on your healing efforts could have severe consequences. It can leave you worse off physically. But it can also damage your legal rights by making you at least partially to blame for the difficulties and challenges you face. That could lead to less of a financial recovery and, in some cases, no financial recovery at all.
#2. Keep a file of your medical costs.
Start a file specifically for any medical expenses related to your accident, to keep track of exactly how much you have spent on your medical needs while recovering. Frequently, you may find that you receive more than one bill for the same procedure: for example, in the emergency room, you may have a separate bill from the care provider who treated you and for the use of the emergency room itself. Make sure you keep track of all those bills and don’t throw anything away.
Why keep a medical expense file? Because when your lawyer puts together your car accident claim, they will calculate the medical costs of your injuries so that the at-fault party reimburses you for them. Those past costs also make it easier to predict future medical expenses you may incur, which you also have the right to receive as compensation from the at-fault party.
#3. Avoid posting on social media about your car accident.
Do not talk about your accident or your injuries on social media. Better yet, take a break from social media altogether while you recover from your accident. Here’s why.
Many people rely on social media to stay connected about their lives. So it’s understandable to want to keep your friends, family members, and followers updated on all the details of what happened and how you’re progressing in healing from your injuries.
But as innocent and normal as those kinds of social media posts may seem, they can work against you in a personal injury claim seeking financial compensation for a car accident. Why? The at-fault party’s lawyers and insurance representatives will watch you. Every statement you make is potential ammunition for them to use to undercut your case.
Suppose, for example, that you post about the medical treatment for your injuries, but you get some of the details wrong. An insurance adjuster might use that innocent mistake to prove that you did not suffer the injuries you claimed or reduce the compensation it pays you.
Yes, we know it sounds a little stalker-ish for lawyers and insurance companies to monitor your social media, but trust us, it happens all the time. Those parties may have a legal right to see everything you say or write about your car accident and your injuries. Even if you set your accounts to private, your social media posts can still end up in their hands through a legal process known as “discovery.” So for now, the less you post to social media, the better.
#4. Contact a car accident lawyer as soon as you can.
If you want to ensure that you get the maximum compensation for your car accident injuries, contact a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident.
A lawyer’s job is to get you paid after your car accident by representing your interests, and your interests only, in dealings with the at-fault party and that party’s defense lawyers and insurance representatives. A lawyer fights to make sure those parties pay you every dollar you need to pay for your medical care, recover from financial losses, and face the challenges caused by your injuries. A lawyer knows how to negotiate with insurance adjusters to try to achieve a fair settlement, and how to win your case in court if that’s what it takes to get you paid.
The sooner you contact a lawyer, the better your chances of getting paid the maximum for your car accident. In contrast, the longer you wait to talk to a lawyer about your car accident, the harder it may become to build a strong case on your behalf. If you wait too long, and the statute of limitations expires, you lose your right to reimbursement.
It doesn’t cost you anything to reach out to a skilled car accident lawyer. All reputable car accident attorneys offer crash victims like you a free consultation in which you can learn about your legal rights and options. Virtually all of them also offer to represent car accident clients on a contingent fee basis, which means they only get paid for their work if you get paid for your injuries.
Dealing With Insurance After a Car Accident
If you hire a lawyer after a car accident, the lawyer will usually handle insurance issues on your behalf. You can, and often should, route all insurance-related communications about your accident through your lawyer.
If you find yourself in a direct conversation with an insurance company representative after a car accident, however, following these recommendations can help to protect your right to get paid.
Do not take the blame for the accident or excuse the other driver’s actions.
Your casual, everyday patterns of speech can hurt you when talking to an insurance company, which is why it’s often best to leave those conversations to an experienced car accident lawyer.
One common mistake people make is to say things to an insurance company representative like “I should have seen him coming” or “I’m sorry,” when talking about the accident. We say these things sometimes without even thinking about them, and saying them doesn’t even always mean we believe what we’re saying. But insurance adjusters will hear those words and use them as a reason not to pay you the money you deserve.
Similarly, people sometimes say things that excuse the actions of another driver in an accident. It’s natural to have empathy for another driver’s distractions or mistakes. But trying to be understanding about the other driver’s actions can sound, to an insurance adjuster, like you taking the blame for a car accident, or at least letting the other driver off the hook. That could cost you when the time comes for the insurance company to write a check.
Avoid statements about your physical recovery or prognosis.
Do not engage with an insurance company representative’s questions about your health or healing process. They will twist anything into a reason to limit the compensation the insurance company is willing to pay. For example, if you comment that you feel fine now, or that you’re getting much better, the insurance adjuster may use that statement to reduce the settlement offer they make.
Skip small talk about your everyday activities.
Insurance adjusters are good at sounding friendly and casual. But beware-that’s just a tactic to get you talking about your everyday activities. Why would they care? Because statements you make about spending time with family or doing something enjoyable give them clues about your physical and emotional state. They’re hoping to hear happy, positive things that give them a reason to discount your compensation.
So stay away from small talk. Instead, keep any conversations you have with an insurance adjuster strictly business-like. And again, if you can, just avoid those conversations altogether by hiring an experienced car accident attorney to represent you.
Want to get paid? Call a car accident attorney now.
You deserve to get paid for your car accident-related injuries and losses. An experienced car accident attorney can help. So don’t wait. Contact a lawyer who can fight on your behalf and get you paid every penny you need to recover from the harm you suffered.