You have just had your first automobile accident. Perhaps, you were injured and went to the ER by ambulance. Or, perhaps you shook it off at first and followed up with your family doctor several days later thinking that the pain would go away by then. Fortunately, it appears that your injuries are not life threatening. The strange thing is that the more time that passes, the worse you feel the aches and pains from the collision. You become concerned about how this may affect you in the future. You wonder: “Am I going to feel like this for the rest of my life?” Now, you are left to deal with, not only the ongoing pain, but also the insurance companies who are calling and asking to take a recorded statement. How do you protect yourself in a situation like this?
As an injury lawyer in North Port, FL who represents auto accident victims in North Port, Venice, Englewood, Port Charlotte and surrounding communities, I am often asked by injured people what to do after an auto accident occurs. The first and most obvious answer is: get medical attention for your injuries and obtain a complete evaluation by a physician as soon as possible after the collision — even if you think at the time that the crash and your injuries are minor. Why? Serious injuries may result from what initially appears to be something insignificant. Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong or out of place. You owe it to yourself to get checked out. Of course, if you hit your head and experience dizziness, blurred vision, pressure, vertigo, nausea or other symptoms, these warning signs should also not be ignored. Most physicians will want to order a CT scan in order to rule out bleeding on the brain upon the presentation of these symptoms. Choosing to ignore them could prove fatal.
Another reason to seek medical intervention early on after an auto accident arises from the need to medically document your injuries so that they may be properly attributed to the responsible cause — the auto accident. You would like to believe that an insurance company has your best interests at heart, but they do not. From the moment an auto accident claim is reported, the insurance company will begin to document their file, looking for ways to avoid having to pay on your claim. This means that if you do not have the medical evidence, as documented by a physician, necessary to support your case, the insurance company will dispute your injuries and try to minimize their liability. Therefore, when going to the doctor, you should be very specific and detailed in describing your injuries and complaints of pain so that your physician may properly document your chart. This chart and your physician’s opinions will become the medical evidence necessary to support your insurance claim. Be sure to describe your systems accurately and honestly and do not exaggerate complaints of pain. Follow your doctor’s treatment advice carefully and do not miss any scheduled appointments for therapy sessions.
You have an obligation to report the auto accident to your own insurance company, and you should do so as soon as your immediate need for medical treatment is addressed. If the insurance representative requests a recorded statement from you, let them know that you intend to obtain a personal injury attorney and would like to have that attorney present for any statements you make. Shortly after the auto accident, you are also likely to receive a call from the insurance company that represents the party at fault for causing the collision. You are under no obligation to provide information to the defendant’s insurance company and should not do so outside the presence of your lawyer. Likewise, you should tell them that you plan to hire an injury lawyer and will ask that lawyer to contact them. Be sure to ask that insurance adjuster for the claim number, the name of their insured, and a contact telephone number.
Depending on coverages available under the various insurance policies at issue in the case, your property damage claim will be addressed and ultimately paid by either the at fault driver’s carrier or your own. If your own insurer pays the claim, they will have a right to pursue the other driver’s insurance carrier for reimbursement of what they paid. While many attorneys direct an injured party to handle and negotiate their own property damage claim; upon request, I personally negotiate these claims for my clients and do so without charge provided they have hired me to handle their personal injury case.
Once you have hired a personal injury lawyer to handle your case, he or she should handle the process of establishing the claim and putting parties on notice. Florida lawyers who handle these claims have an ethical duty to keep their clients aware of their progress. You have the right to make the decision as to whether to accept a settlement offer. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer will give you the benefit of his training, education, and experience so that the road you travel toward physical and financial recovery from an auto accident is made as simple and smooth as possible.