Preparing For Your Case
Recovering from an accident can be a tremendous job. Undertaking the steps to get medical treatment and file claims can be onerous work entirely on its own. When confronted with a recalcitrant opposing party or insurance company, it can often feel overwhelming.
A skilled personal injury attorney can help guide you through the process. However, there are some things that you can do that will protect yourself and your case, and help speed the process of recovering damages or getting an adequate settlement. As attorneys with decades of experience, we‘ll show you the steps you can take after an accident to help protect your claim and establish your case.
At the Accident Scene
The first thing you should always do after suffering an injury is immediately secure medical attention. Not only is your own health vitally important, but if you delay treatment, the opposing party may be able to cite your decision to do so as contributing to your damages. This could harm your case. Immediately seek medical treatment after an injury.
Do not provide any statements about what occurred. You are required to provide your license, insurance, and registration to a police officer upon his asking. However, if asked for any details of the accident, the safest thing to say is, “I do not wish to provide any statement until I have spoken to an attorney.” A police officer cannot force you to answer their questions. They may threaten you with arrest or other consequences, but stand firm and repeat, “I do not wish to provide any statement until I have spoken to an attorney.” Do not consent to a search of your person or vehicle under any circumstances, but do not attempt to physically impede the officer. Cooperate with all commands that do not involve answering questions.
Document everything you can about the accident. If you can do so safely, or you have someone who can help you, take photographs of:
- The accident scene from many angles.
- Speed limit signs, nearby intersections, traffic signals, and road signs. Make sure to capture the street name and nearest cross streets where the accident occurred.
- All vehicles involved from multiple angles, including any license plates.
- Photograph any safety devices, such as deployed airbags. If you have a ‘seat belt burn’ (an abrasion across the neck, shoulder, or abdomen where you strained against a seat belt during an accident), photograph that as evidence you were wearing a seat belt.
- Any injuries you sustained.
- The information of the responding officer handling the scene, and a case number.
While you should not give any statements, it is a good idea to document your recollection of the accident to the best of your ability in a notepad or journal afterward. Memory fades, often rapidly, and having your recollections documented shortly after the accident can be valuable evidence.
After The Accident
The days after your accident are critical for gathering evidence and ensuring your case to the fullest extent possible. You should immediately call and schedule an appointment for a consultation with an attorney to review your case. The sooner you contact an attorney, the more evidence is likely to be preserved, and your case will be safe from legal limitations on filing times.
Most personal injury attorneys will offer a free review of your case, and many do not charge unless you win your case or secure a settlement. Financial concerns should not be a barrier to procuring competent representation and making sure your claim is protected. Your chances of securing an adequate recovery drop dramatically without skilled legal representation.
You will likely be contacted by insurance companies and investigators. Do not answer any questions. You may give them the same answer that we suggest you provide to police officers. “I do not wish to make any statement until I have spoken with an attorney.” Insurance companies will pressure you heavily to sign releases or provide statements that may appear harmless, but will often be used against you. You should arrange for representation, and all contact with the insurance company or other parties should be handled by your attorney.
Be incredibly cautious about posting on social media. These posts are often trivial to access even on ‘private’ accounts, and might be used against you. Avoid posting specific details about your accident or injuries online.
Finally, you will want to gather evidence.
Ideally, the evidence-gathering process will begin at the scene, as we mentioned above. However, after an accident, victims are often not thinking clearly about what they need to do. They may also be too injured to gather evidence effectively at the scene. Either way, you frequently need to gather evidence after the fact. Here are samples of the most critical information to compile for your attorney to review.
- The police report from the accident. (Your attorney can assist you with getting this if you have trouble.)
- All medical records from the accident, including medical history prior to the accident.
- Documentation of all ongoing medical treatment.
- All medical bills from the accident.
- All identifying information you were able to acquire.
- Any communications with the police, the other parties, and any insurance companies involved.
- Names and information of any witnesses.
- Physical evidence, such as torn clothing or damaged personal belongings
- Employer records indicating time or wages lost from missing work.
- Any video footage from your Dashcam, or any recorded by passengers at the time of the accident.
How We Can Help
The aftermath of an accident can be emotionally stressful, financially exhausting, and extremely confusing. It is critical to make obtaining competent legal counsel a priority. With decades of experience in personal injury law, and having brought over 70 cases to trial, our team has the experience to walk you through every step of your case and protect your best chances at a settlement that adequately addresses your financial damages afterward.
We can handle the maze of legal paperwork and the predatory practices of insurance companies, leaving you free to focus on recovering and getting life back to normal. Call our team today and schedule your free consultation.