No one plans to get injured in a car accident making it likely those with injuries in Rhode Island are not prepared for what’s next. Having insurance is a great start but it’s not enough to make sure you’ll have your medical expenses covered and receive the total value of your claim. What you say and do after your car wreck could have a huge impact on the compensation for the harm and losses you’ve suffered.
Sometimes, it’s common sense as to why these things matter. Though, you need to be aware of how the law works to understand why taking a certain action – or avoiding one – is important.
9 Things You Should Do If You’re (Injured) in a Car Accident
- Call 911 for assistance immediately.
If you’re injured, but able, take pictures of your injuries. We fully realize this may be difficult or even impossible, physically, and psychologically. If you’re able to do so without harming yourself, take pictures of your injuries or ask someone to do so on your behalf. These pictures may help your personal injury claim, and treating physicians may even find them useful.
- 2. Secure the scene.
Remove vehicles from the road, if possible, to reduce hazards to other drivers. If possible, quickly snap some photos of the scene before moving vehicles and debris from the road. Remember that your safety is paramount.
- 3. Exchange information.
Getting the other driver’s information is important. It should be on the police report as well, but it’s a good idea to get this as soon as possible for your records. Remember, if the other driver was at fault for the crash, what you’re getting is the contact information of those responsible for making you whole again, whether it’s repairing your car, paying medical bills, and so on. Be sure to get the driver’s name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, and vehicle details.
- 4. Document the details.
If you are not seriously injured, thoroughly document the scene of the accident by taking pictures and making notes about what happened. Take pictures of all the vehicles involved in the crash, drivers and passengers involved in the crash, and other elements of the scene, such as smashed guard rails, tire tracks, and broken glass. Any pictures or notes you take can assist in the handling of a potential claim.
- 5. Cooperate with law enforcement.
The accident report composed by the officer who responds to the scene of your crash will be important, and it will have a lot of information on it. It is not always the determining factor in a car accident injury case. What matters most is what you can prove, which is why documenting the details is important.
- 6. Seek medical treatment.
Once medical help arrives, be sure to get the treatment you need. This may be as simple as some first aid or just a brief examination. Not all injuries may be immediately obvious – such as a concussion, whiplash, or internal bleeding – so prompt medical attention is important to ensure the treatment of serious injuries.
- 7. Contact your insurance company.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible, either at the scene or once you get home. You will need to provide details about the incident and whatever documentation you have.
- 8. Talk to an attorney.
We recommend you speak to an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your case and learn about your rights. Many firms, including ours, do not charge a fee. If you receive compensation from the insurance, then and only then do we get paid.
- 9. Keep all records about the accident and its aftermath.
Maintain records of your accident, including your police report, photos and/or notes you took, conversations you had with the insurance company, medical treatment, repair estimates, and any other relevant information. These documents will be useful if you pursue a personal injury claim.
Remember, some laws require you to report accidents (this is why hit-and-run is a crime, for instance), and those laws vary by state. Knowing what to do is a step in the right direction, especially if you’re dealing with an injury as a result of a crash that wasn’t your fault. Following these steps could strengthen your compensation claim. Every case is unique, so it’s best to gather and keep all the information about your accident. It may be important down the road.
5 Car Accident Injury Mistakes You Should Avoid
- 1. Neglect to seek immediate medical care.
Seeking care – and treatment, if necessary – as soon as possible is vital to your well-being. As it happens, it’s also crucial to your case when you seek compensation for an injury. Our experience shows that if you do not seek medical treatment shortly after your injury, insurance companies are likely to use that against you when you make a claim. They will argue that if you were genuinely hurt, you would have sought treatment sooner. We know, however, that some injuries can take time to appear, and some minor injuries can worsen over time.
- 2. Talk to the insurance company without preparation.
The at-fault person’s insurance company may try to record your statements. They also may take what you say to try to reduce or deny your claim. If they ask for a recorded statement and you have not spoken to an attorney, decline to give one. According to some of the former insurance adjusters at our firm, the insurance companies are trained to try to get you to talk about the accident soon after it occurred. You may still be shaken up, your recall may be a bit unclear, you may be in pain, or on medication that may confuse your thoughts. In some cases, this contact can happen before all your injuries may have manifested. Some of the seemingly benign questions they ask could lead you to answer in such a way that can be used against you when negotiating your financial compensation. “How are you doing today?” may simply be a pleasant way to begin a conversation. Or it could be a tactic to elicit a health status from you. The wrong answer could cause you major setbacks.
- 3. Neglect to seek proper follow-up care.
Insurance companies pay a great deal of attention to the type of follow-up medical treatment you receive after a car accident. If your follow-up care is inconsistent, ineffective, with the wrong kind of doctors, or if the doctors can’t credibly tie your injuries to the incident, it may be detrimental to both your health and your claim.
- 4. Wait for the insurance company to do the right thing.
We see it all the time. People want to “wait and see” what the insurance company does first. These are usually clients who trust insurance to do right by them. Insurance companies make money by limiting their payouts. Your best interests do not align with theirs!
Simply by waiting, many people end up damaging their cases beyond repair – by not preserving evidence, saying something to an adjuster that seems innocent but winds up being used against them, or inadvertently committing any of the other mistakes outlined here. Meanwhile, the insurance company will almost certainly be working to limit their losses and pay less.
- 5. Take quick cash or lowball offers.
Just remember one thing and you’re more likely to avoid mistakes: The insurance company is in business, and profits by paying less money out in claims. That’s it. The less they pay, the more they keep. This can and does work against injured people.
Quick cash offers: Some insurance companies might offer you fast cash upfront before all your medical treatment is completed. Don’t cash that check! If you do, your case is likely over. What if you have medical issues that manifest later, which can happen with any injury? Head injuries and internal injuries can easily become worse over time, especially if misdiagnosed. We have seen fractures and broken bones diagnosed as simple sprains at first. If you cashed the check, your case is probably closed and the insurance company may not be legally obligated to pay for those newly discovered, misdiagnosed, or worsening injuries.
Lowball offers: We see it often – some insurance companies lowball victims. Sometimes, this is the initial offer. Other times, it’s after the insurance company withholds money until the claimant is so strapped for cash, they will take any amount. By the time many people realize that the insurance company is lowballing them and they contact us for help, it is sometimes too late to try to right the ship.
If it seems like a lot of these mistakes are avoidable with the help of an attorney, it’s because they are! We see these happen all the time. An experienced car accident injury lawyer is going to fight for your best interests – something an insurance company is very unlikely to do.
Contact the experienced car accident attorneys at Rob Levine & Associates.