Filing a personal injury claim is actually very easy. It usually involves reaching out to the insurance carrier for the at-fault driver. Once you do so, they ask you very basic questions and collect information about you, including your contact information. They will also ask you basic questions about the accident and questions about the driver. Then they also ask for the driver’s insurance policy number so they can file the policy and get the claims started.
However, first things first. At the time of the accident itself, there are a number of important things to do.
- Ensure your Physical Safety: In the immediate aftermath of any car accident, make sure you are physically safe. If you are injured in any way, your top priority is seeking immediate medical assistance. If you are very injured, call an ambulance right away and wait for EMTs to arrive. If you feel that your injuries are less severe, it is still essential—both for your health and for your personal injury case—to seek immediate medical attention.
If your injuries aren’t life-threatening and you don’t want to take on the cost of an ambulance ride, or for whatever other reason would prefer not to be treated via EMT, you can go to your own GP/PCP, or you can go to an urgent care or an Emergency Room on your own.
Once again, even if you do not feel like your injuries are severe, you should get them checked out by a medical professional. The injuries commonly sustained in car accidents often don’t feel as severe right away. Therefore, regardless of if you “feel” like you might be able to walk it off, it is important both for your physical health and for your case to get your injuries checked out, documented, and treated as soon as possible.
- Call the Police: If the accident was any more severe than a slight fender bender, it is best to call 9-1-1 and ask for the police. Police officers can document the scene and issue a police report, which will be helpful for your case. Sometimes, depending on where the accident occurs and a number of other factors, the police may take quite a long time to arrive at the scene of the accident. In fact, police called to car accidents sometimes fail to arrive altogether. If this happens, you should take control of the documentation of the scene yourself (if you are physically able).
- Document the Accident and Collect Information: Whether or not the police arrive, you should begin documenting the scene of the accident as soon as you are able. If possible, take photo and video documentation of the accident, including the scene, the position of both cars, and any damages. You should also try to get all relevant information (including name, address, contact information, license plate number, car make, model, and year, and insurance information) from the other driver. In addition, look around and see if there were any witnesses to the accident. If there are witnesses, make sure to get their names and contact information so you can reach back out to them if need be. You might also want to get statements from them about what they saw.
What Could Happen If I Don’t Seek Medical Treatment After My Injury?
Not seeking medical treatment after an injury can have serious negative consequences, both medically and for your personal injury case.
As alluded to above, it is actually quite common for people who sustain injures in car accidents not to feel like they are badly injured—or injured at all—in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Oftentimes, people who receive these injuries feel that it isn’t urgent or important for them to go to the doctor’s office (or an urgent care, or an emergency room), since they aren’t in immediate pain.
However, many of these people do wind up in very serious pain a few days later, once the injury sets in and all of the adrenaline is gone. My recommendation is to seek medical treatment right after the accident, but if you didn’t do so, you should absolutely seek medical treatment as soon as you start feeling pain.
There are several reasons why I suggest seeking immediate medical attention after a crash. First and foremost, it is the safest medical decision. A medical provider will be able to assess your injuries more accurately if you come in as soon as possible, which means they will be able to provide you with the best possible care. They may offer imaging tests and other diagnostic tools that will help establish and document exactly what types of injuries you have sustained, and exactly how bad they are. The more accurate information a medical provider has about your injury, the more accurate their medical advice will be. They will be able to give you a more targeted, specific treatment plan, which often produces better outcomes.
There are also legal reasons to seek immediate medical attention after a crash. The first legal reason is the matter of causation. Causation in a personal injury context basically means linking the injury to the accident. So, if you’re injured in a car accident and you seek immediate medical attention, you create a link on record between the injury and the accident. During that medical visit, if you complain about physical symptoms (for instance, back pain), it also ties that symptom to the accident. It is much easier to establish linkage (or causation) of the injury and symptoms to the origin point of the accident if you seek immediate medical attention.
Unfortunately, the longer a person delays seeking medical attention, the harder it is for us to show causation. For instance, if you wait two or three weeks before going to a doctor, it is much harder for us to show that the injury definitely came from the accident. If weeks go by before you have any documentation or report of the injury, it will cause problems when you are trying to legally prove that your injuries and symptoms came from the accident, as opposed to any of the number of other things in life that could injure you.
Another important legal reason to seek immediate medical attention is to reduce your own damages. In personal injury cases, the law requires you to take steps to lessen your damages. Therefore, if you are acutely feeling pain and missing work or reaching a point where you may potentially be unable to work, you’re required to at least try to seek medical attention so you can reduce your pain and suffering.
Once I Hire A Houston Personal Injury Attorney For My Car Accident Case, What Important Information Should I Share With Them?
You should share all of the information you have about the accident and your injuries with your personal injury attorney. You should also give them any and all documentation you were able to take at the scene of the accident, including the police report (if one was taken).
This is where documentation of the scene of the accident comes in handy. Having your own pictures, videos, and even witness statements is crucial, since it will verify your version of events. Often, when the at-fault driver recounts the accident to their insurance provider, their account will differ from what actually happened, or even from what they told you at the scene of the accident. I often have clients tell me that the other driver admitted to being at fault at the scene of the accident, but later changed their story.
Therefore, the more documentation you can get, the better. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or official. You can simply use your phone to get the relevant pictures and videos. Having documented information to verify your story (such as police reports, pictures, and recordings) helps your case in light of any potential inconsistency. Therefore, you should provide all documentation to your personal injury attorney.
Another thing that is often helpful is to make an audio recording of yourself telling the story of the accident. It is best to record this narrative while it is still fresh, as soon after the accident as is possible. You can also do this on your phone: high tech equipment is not required. You might think you would surely remember all the details of the accident, and would never forget, but memory is infamously fragile and impressionable. However, it is very common for people to forget exactly what happened during an accident, especially over time. As the months go by, it may be more difficult to recall the details of events as vividly as you did before. Therefore, making a voice memo or even a word document of exactly what happened from start to finish can be a very useful tool to provide to your attorney. This will help them build your personal injury case.
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