Accidents are, by definition, misfortunes which are unplanned. When one occurs, we may find ourselves thrown off balance and without a plan for what to do next.
Here are some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to make sure you are able to get every penny you deserve if the accident was not your fault. Even if you don’t expect to file a legal claim, this checklist can help you get every cent you are owed by insurance or other parties.
If you have been in an accident and suspect you may have a legal claim you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to avoid any other pitfalls in your personal situation.
After an accident DO these steps:
- DO get medical help and call the police immediately if you need them: It may seem obvious, but many people overlook simple things during the stress of an unexpected emergency.Get medical care, immediately, if you need it. Go the emergency room if needed, or seek medical attention and as soon as possible if you do not. Some injuries like whiplash, displacements, and bumps & bruises may not present any pain or discomfort until long after the accident but are all valid claims for relief. Make sure you see your doctor as soon as you can.
It is important to get medical attention quickly because insurance companies sometimes try to avoid paying for injuries if you do not get prompt attention. A lapse or delay of months even a week in treatment may hurt your case.
Getting help from police if you have been in a car accident is the law, but it may also be appropriate if your accident involves an altercation or (illegal) misconduct by another person. In addition to providing immediate help, the police can also start create a record of what happened.
- DO make and preserve a record of what happened: It is important to collect as much information about the accident as possible to show your insurance company, and if necessary your attorney as well. If you needed help from authorities, they may collect some information, but it is critical you get some information yourself.After the accident you should:
- Write down your story about what happened, with as much detail as possible before you forget anything.
- When possible, take pictures of where the injury occurred, and what injury has happened to you.
- Talk to anyone who saw what happened and write down their story, and get pictures of their injuries as well if they have any. In a car accident, make sure you get:
- Insurance policy information
- Driver’s license number
- The name of the driver
- Make and model of the vehicles involved
- The address and/or telephone of the driver or drivers involved
- Pictures of the damage done to the vehicle or yourself immediately after the accident occurred
This information is important for you to show your insurance company, or maybe even a court, that you have little or no responsibility for the accident. Having a detailed story, and proof to back it up makes it more difficult for the other person responsible for your injury claim (even without any proof) that they are not.
- DO notify your boss, insurance company, & OSHA: Make sure you notify your manager as soon as possible about any workplace injury. If possible, someone should notify them before you leave work to go to the emergency room. If emergency help is not needed, let your manager know as soon as you can.
- Complete and file any workplace, or provided, paperwork reporting the accident or injury. BUT DO NOT SIGN ANY LEGAL PAPERWORK regarding any responsibility for the accident.
- File a claim with your workplace or personal insurance company for the injury.
- In a workplace accident, file a report with OSHA, or another relevant safety agency for other accidents.
These steps ensure you can get the compensation you deserve from the relevant parties, but save copies of each for your record in case of any issues.
- DO keep any medical, insurance, and other bills: Saving your medical bills and other bills related to the injury (such as car rental bills and other incidental costs from the accident) will help show the cost of time, pain, and money which the injury has cost you. Any insurance records may be relevant in case the insurance company fails to address your injury appropriately. Keep copies of all these bills in your record.
- DO seek legal help: If you have been injured in an accident, and suspect another person is at fault, you will likely need a legal expert to help you discover whether your case qualifies for legal relief. If you suspect you may have a claim, contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident to help you find and preserve the evidence that may prove vital to your case.Make sure you reach out for help before it is too late. If you try and handle the case by yourself, without a legal expert, you may make a mistake become financially responsible for the accident you are not, actually, responsible for.
After an accident Do NOT:
- DO NOT Assume ” Accident” means “Blameless“Accidents are very common. They happen daily. But most accidents (say, spilling your coffee) don’t result in extensive injuries, medical costs, and continued pain and suffering. If you have been injured in an accident, don’t assume that because the accident “should not” have happened, that no one is at fault.If your accident is the result of an employer’s (or another’s) negligent, unsafe, or otherwise illegal practices, you may be entitled to recover the costs of your medical injuries and the pain you have suffered as a result.
- DO NOT accept an insurance settlement too quickly Insurance companies may offer you only partial payment for your injuries and the costs which you have incurred. If you accept their offer, you may be legally bound to accept it – even if you need them to pay for additional medical costs or other bills. Be careful when speaking with the insurance companies not to accept an offer.Make sure that it covers all of the bills you need it to. If it does not, make sure you communicate to them what amount you think is appropriate – and show them (PHOTOCOPIES ONLY of) any records you may have to prove it. If the insurance company continues to deny your rightful claim, you may need the help of a lawyer to fight them for the rest of the money which you deserve.
- DO NOT exaggerate your injury to insurance or your lawyer Exaggerated claims winning the day in accidents may happen on TV, but in real life exaggerations in your story (especially if they can be disproven) make it harder for insurance companies, lawyers, and judges to believe you about any injuries, including those you really sustained.Do not make up or exaggerate your injuries or symptoms, because this may make it more difficult for you to convince your insurer, lawyer, or later a judge to give you the relief you need & deserve.
- DO NOT talk casually about the accident with insurance companies or other people Many people know the phrase, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law” in relation to criminal cases, but it is equally important to keep this in mind about in any accident claims you may make.An insurer may ask you numerous questions about the accident, and you should answer them truthfully, but any information you give them can also be used to discredit any claims for relief you make. Also, any person you talk to about the accident may be a witness in a trial, so avoid discussing your case with any person who is not your attorney.
- DO NOT Give inaccurate information to your doctor or lawyer Inaccurate information may discredit or undermine your claims for relief, particularly if you fail to report previous injuries or issues related to your claim. Such an avoidable mistake can provide ammunition to the opposing party to invalidate your claim, or reduce the amount you are entitled to, or may lead your doctor or lawyer into providing services inappropriate to your personal situation.Avoid any issues by following the best policy: honesty. Sometimes, previous injuries and sensitivities can even lead to increased (not decreased) claims for relief. Make sure you consult your doctor and lawyer honestly so that they can provide you the best help for your individual needs.
Not every accident claim leads to a lawsuit. Many insurance companies and employers are willing to settle valid claims in order to avoid stepping foot in a courtroom, where they know they will lose. Having strong evidence of your claim (the record you made in Step #2) will help convince the company that it should take your claim seriously, and encourage them to pay to settle your case.
When accident cases do go before a judge, it is important that you are represented by competent and experienced attorneys who can explain to a judge and jury how your injury merits legal intervention & relief.
Any records you have of the injury and any proof you have of how much it has cost you (Step #4) will help to convince the jury your injury is a real one. But the opposing lawyer will do everything they can to discredit you, your injury, and your case. Which is why you need a lawyer who knows you, your story and is willing to fight in the courtroom for every dollar you deserve.
Injured? Contact Our Team of Lawyers Today
At Cutter Law, our family firm goes toe-to-toe with corporate lawyers to make sure you and your family win the relief you deserve for your pain or loss. We can help you evaluate your eligibility for, and later file, a claim for the compensation that is rightfully yours.