An important step for you is to address your injuries. If you need medical assistance, you should seek it immediately. Even if you think your injuries are minor, you should see a doctor to obtain confirmation that you are okay. There are clients who, at first, believe that their injuries are minor, but upon visiting the emergency room, discover they have serious injuries. A car accident will make our adrenaline spike, which sometimes masks the pain from injuries. Seeking medical care right away can reduce the chance of accidentally ignoring potentially serious injuries.
Another thing I always encourage is to notify your own insurance company of the accident. Even if they do not end up getting involved in the claim, by notifying them, you will meet your obligations under your insurance policy to notify them of an incident, which is required in most policies.
Obtaining a consultation from a personal injury lawyer is another important step. Almost all personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, so there is no fee to speak to them. By discussing your situation with a lawyer, you can obtain helpful advice and a clear idea of what you’ll need to do to proceed with your claim.
One tip I give most clients is not to give any statements to the other insurance companies, especially without speaking to a lawyer first. If there was a police report taken at the scene, the other insurance companies will have access to it, and do not need to take a separate statement from you.
Keep in mind that you cannot rely fully on the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Their obligation is to their insured, not to you. Their job is to pay the claim, not to protect you. You should not rely on statements from the at-fault party or their insurance, such as promises to pay your bills. Sometimes, you will need to pay your bills until you receive compensation from the other insurance company. You do not want to accidentally have your accounts enter collection because of your misunderstanding of the process. Speak to an attorney to understand the process that applies to your particular situation.
Yes. In motor vehicle cases, it’s a less cumbersome process to prove that the other driver was at fault when there is some basic information taken at the time of the accident that is public record, and I can get those police reports. Most of the time, police officers will take photographs of the scene, take photographs of the vehicles, and take measurements. That’s information I can access almost immediately, which is really helpful. If liability is in question, we can obtain the contact information of any witnesses and get their statement. If their statement puts the other driver at fault, we can establish liability much more quickly. If a police report is thorough, we can obtain a lot of important evidence from it which will help your claim.
There are two main reasons to make sure that your medical treatment is thorough. The first reason for obtaining consistent medical treatment is, of course, to ensure that you are on the fastest and most efficient route to recovery. Your health is the most important aspect of your case.
The other reason to receive medical treatment is to create physical evidence of your injuries. If you do not seek medical treatment, your injuries are not documented by healthcare professionals. Therefore, if you have an injury that persists months later, the insurance companies are not going to want to pay for treatment, because you refused to treat right after you were injured. By seeking the care of a healthcare professional, you can obtain documentation for all your injuries, advice on how to proceed, and have evidence of your physical damages. If doctors make suggestions for treatment, you have every right to refuse their recommendations, but it is always best to seek out medical care to have your injuries in the hands of professionals.
If you claim medical treatment as part of your damages, the other insurance has a right to obtain those records. The problem with not having an attorney represent you is that the other insurance will request that you sign over your medical records for them to look at. As a lawyer, I prefer not to sign things over to them. I simply have my client sign a release for me to obtain the records for them. Then, I review the records, address any issues that may exist, and then send only what is necessary and pertaining to your case.
By having the opportunity to review your records before the insurance company does, I can address any issues, such as a doctor’s report being too vague, or explaining any pre-existing issues. By anticipating and fixing any potential issues, I can avoid the insurance company or the opposing lawyer refusing to pay part of a claim because there is existing confusion or disputes.
A lawyer can act as a ‘gatekeeper’ for your medical records by sifting through your information and releasing only what is relevant to your claim, as opposed to the other insurance having a chance for a ‘fishing expedition’ through your life.
One of the most common defenses is a denial of liability. In other words, they argue that their insured driver was not at fault for the accident. Another defense is to argue that their insured driver was not entirely at fault, and that the victim was partially at fault.
Another defense tactic is to argue that the victim’s injuries were not caused by the accident. For example, if a client had a previous injury to the same body part that was injured in the accident, insurance companies will argue that their insured is not liable for the new injury. By arguing that you were previously injured, insurance companies try to minimize your monetary recovery.
Having proper and thorough documentation will help to establish liability against the at-fault party. For example, if a client hits their chest on the steering wheel during an accident and fractures a rib, which leads to problems breathing, which leads to pneumonia, it will be extremely important to have the medical diagnoses for each of those issues, so that we can connect the dots from the accident to the pneumonia.
To fight the insurance defense of prior injuries or pre-existing conditions, we must show that the accident decreased their quality of life. For example, if an elder woman has arthritis that was worsened by the accident, we can compare her quality of life before and after the accident. If, before the accident, she would walk 2 miles every day, but now she cannot do so due to the pain, the insurance company cannot argue that the injuries were pre-existing and not caused at all by the accident. Perhaps someone had back pain they rated 2/10 prior to the accident, but 10/10 afterwards. By showing the difference in the pre- and post-accident states, we can fight against the insurance companies’ arguments that are meant to minimize your injuries.