One I took a minute and sat down with my law partner and brainstormed. We posed a question to ourselves: What are the things we wish every client knew after an accident? That minute quickly turned to hours of discussion and debate (and a lot of rabbit holes) and then we finally landed on these seven things we wanted everyone to know or understand after an auto accident. These are not things to do on the scene of an accident, but what to do after all the initial stress calms down.
- Simply take a breath and realize this is a difficult and stressful time. I know you can and will can get through it. It is normal to be uncertain, confused, scared, and even angry after an accident. There are usually almost no active thoughts about a potential claim or lawsuit when the accident first happens – so it’s fairly easy to do some things that could be seen as mistakes. Don’t sweat those.
- Understand that the insurance companies are not usually your allies in this. The first thing you should know about an accident is that the insurance companies want to establish who was at fault and then try to minimize their obligation pay out. After all, the insurance companies are in the business of insuring the lowest risk and they attempt to pay out as little as they can in every accident they must cover. The easiest way to get out of paying is to shift the blame as much as possible. You have to provide information to your own insurance company but you do not need to answer questions from the company insuring the person that hit you.
- Document how much this situation costs you. We mean literally document every dollar spent or lost as a result of the accident. Keep a journal. Money that is spent may include medical bills, prescriptions, vehicle mileage to and from the doctor, property repairs. Items lost are wages, opportunities to do things or travel. Document everything, it could all matter.
- Get a copy of the police, ambulance and medical reports. Every time police respond to an accident they generate a police report. If an ambulance was involved, the EMT’s or paramedics created a report as well. Get copies of those. The medical records can be retrieved by contacting the records department at the hospital you were treated in. Sometimes they charge a small fee for them, but they are important to have.
- Take photographs of your injuries. This is important. If you have a bruised face or seat belt marks, take pictures of them every day until they heal. Cell phones are great for this. It is important to show how you were affected by the accident, and photographic documentation is a great way to do that. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
- Get copies of all insurance coverage. You can request copies of the other parties insurance policy and coverage. This is important information to understand what the maximum allowable limits are under the policy. If you have $100,000 in costs and the policy is only $25,000 in coverage, you may want to contact a lawyer to see what else can be done to help you.
- Don’t agree to a settlement while you are still in treatment. This is a trick the insurance companies play. They offer to settle your case for a certain amount and then tell you that you only have a day or two to decide and then they will take the offer off the table. You cannot value your claim until your treatment is done. If you believe you will need treatment for the rest of your life (like in a Traumatic Brain Injury), you should think twice about trying to resolve a claim yourself.
These are seven things we want you to know up front. If you have any questions about what to do after an accident or if you are ready to contact a lawyer, please reach out. We are always happy to discuss your case with you.