While you may be overcome with conflicting emotions immediately after a traffic accident, it’s especially important to keep a level head. Most people don’t realize how much there is to do after an auto accident. While you may know it’s important to collect insurance information and consult a personal injury attorney, there are dozens of other details to attend to in order to ensure the best possible outcome in filing your claim. Forgetting to do just one thing can have disastrous effects on your situation, and it can make it harder for your attorney to represent you.
Assess the Accident Scene
Immediately after the accident, you should assess your own medical condition to determine if you’re able to move about. If you can, go around to the other vehicles and assess the condition of everyone involved in the accident. Even if you have no medical training, you should be able to determine the severity of the injuries. Also try to determine the nearest major intersection, or look for recognizable landmarks.
Your next step will be to call for help. As you talk to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, he or she will ask you to provide this kind of information, so it’s wise to prepare for these questions. This will help the dispatcher determine how much help to send, and what types of emergency response personnel will be needed.
It may be some time before police and other emergency personnel arrive at the scene. You can use this time wisely by collecting the information you will need to file an insurance or personnel injury claim. Also, try to think ahead and predict what information your attorney may need. Primarily, this will consist of the names, addresses, and phone numbers for any other drivers involved in the accident. Don’t forget to collect their insurance information as well. If they’re truck drivers, or other professional drivers, you should be sure to get information for the business’ insurance coverage, as well as the driver’s personal insurance.
If there are other people involved in the accident, such as vehicle passengers, pedestrians, or motorcyclists, be sure to collect their information as well. This also includes witnesses to the accident, who your attorney may want to question at a later date. While many cases are settled without going to court, there’s no way to predict if your claim will require a personal injury lawsuit. It’s best to prepare for the worst case scenario by collecting as much information as possible.
You should also take the time to photograph the scene of the accident. It may be helpful to get a wide view of the accident scene and the nearby intersection to establish the location of the accident. Primarily, however, you should get plenty of shots of the damages that the accident caused to the vehicles. If other property was damaged, such as fence posts, street lights, or guard rails, you should also get pictures of those damages.
Make a Statement to the Police
When the police arrive, they will conduct a brief investigation of the accident, primarily to determine fault. This is an essential part of the process, which may be especially relevant to a personal injury lawsuit. Sometimes, the police will take a statement from just one person to establish the facts of the case. It’s vital that you insist upon making a statement to be included in the official report. Otherwise, the other driver’s account will be the only version of the accident in the report.
Once the investigation is complete, be sure to request a copy of the police report. Your attorney may need a copy, and you may find it useful to refer to the report in filing a personal injury claim.
Undergo a Medical Exam
While you do want to consult an attorney, the success of your personal injury claim relies on undergoing a thorough medical evaluation as soon as possible. As any attorney would explain to you, delaying a medical exam may look unfavorably on you. Some less honest people try to put off receiving treatment for their injuries, so those injuries get worse and they can file a larger claim. The law calls this contributory negligence and any reputable attorney will discourage this, because it can irreparably damage the claim. The injured party may be limited in how much they can claim, or a judge may determine that the individual has lost any right to file a personal injury claim.
Consult a Personal Injury Attorney
It won’t be long before an adjuster, or an attorney working for the insurance company, contacts you with a settlement offer. Their goal is to try to get to you before you have a chance to hire your own personal injury attorney. The agent or attorney will try to get you to accept the offer, teasing that it will be a quick cash settlement. In truth, it will be a low offer, which isn’t sufficient to cover all of the damages you suffered as a result of the accident. They know, if they can get you to accept an early offer without an attorney present, you won’t be able to pursue additional damages further down the road.
When you do hire an attorney, they can help guide you through the claims process, so you don’t sabotage yourself by making harmful statements to the insurance company. Your attorney can also negotiate on your behalf for a fairer settlement. In many cases, insurance companies are more willing to negotiate with an attorney than directly with the injured party. This usually has more to do with skills and legal knowledge possessed by the attorney. If the insurance company won’t negotiate, your attorney will be prepared to pursue your personal injury claim in court. In either case, hiring a personal injury attorney often increases the chances for a favorable outcome.
After you’re involved in an accident, how you react is vital to the success of any claim you intend to file. This is why it’s so important to consult a personal injury attorney, and follow his or her instructions. They know what factors will affect the outcome of your case, so heeding their advice will benefit you. After the case is settled, you can resume your normal routine, but, until then, your goal must be to act for the favorable outcome of your case.
Bryan Garrett is a personal injury attorney in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Call the law firm of Bryan Garrett today for a consultation.
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