Car accidents are some of the most devastating and traumatic injury events. While modern cars are a great deal safer than automobiles of the past, a car accident can and too often does leave a person with lasting injuries, chronic pain, and disability – in fact, hospitals record over 3 million cars accident-related ER visits per year.
Recouping these costs can be difficult, especially if you require long-term treatment or special care. Maximizing your car accident settlement has nothing to do with greed, and everything to do with ensuring that the settlement helps cover the financial and physical impact of a grievous injury. Here’s what you need to know.
Get Medical Help First
It goes without saying, but your safety and well-being should go first. Even if it might appear that you are not hurt, seeking medical attention after a car accident is crucial. Not only is your system flooded with adrenaline, but a lot of common car accident injuries are internal rather than external, including muscle strains, sprains, injured or bruised ribs, and concussions. While you might feel fine now, you could feel bedridden for weeks.
More than just common sense, however, this step may also be legally advisable. The earlier you can get a full medical checkup, the better the evidence of your physical damage. Save as many records and receipts as you can. If possible, take pictures.
Taking too long to get treatment for your injuries may also call into doubt the severity of those injuries and limit your chances of an improved car accident settlement. Seeking treatment to prove the extent of your physical injuries, however, may put you in a better position for negotiating a settlement.
Get a Lawyer
Once your immediate medical needs are taken care of, get a lawyer. The opinion of a physician and first-day evidence can help both you and a legal professional get a better handle on the kind of settlement you might be looking at here. But gathering evidence can be difficult – you may not know what to look for, and there will undoubtedly be other things on your mind. Car accidents can be physically as well as emotionally devastating.
More than just a repository of legal knowledge, a personal injury lawyer will be able to advise you on your conduct with any insurance agents, help you gather crucial evidence for your case, and process the evidence to help you maximize your claim. You want to make sure you cover as much of your damages and lost wages with the car accident settlement as possible.
Write Down What Happened
While it might not be the first thing that comes to mind after surviving a car crash, write down what you remember, or take note of anything that stood out to you. Get it all on paper while it’s still fresh in your memory. The longer we wait, the more muddled the details get, and we lose ourselves in the exact chronology of the events.
Write down as much as you can remember, as early as you can. Try to recall what the other driver said to you, and whatever else you heard. Bringing this information to your lawyer is crucial – they can take care of the rest of the investigation, including obtaining traffic footage, taking pictures of the scene and the vehicle, and interviewing witnesses.
Get the Police Report
When a car accident with injuries occurs, the police will file a report. If you were involved in the accident, you have a right to see that report. This will be one of the first things your lawyers will request during their investigation. They will take note of the names and badge numbers of the police officers on the scene and those involved in the report. Speaking of which…
Continue to Follow Medical Advice
Getting follow-up appointments and doing what your doctor is telling you to do isn’t just in the interest of treatment adherence, although that should be your primary concern.
It is also in the interest of establishing your veracity and the severity of the accident’s aftermath, supporting your claim.
It’s important to note that chronic injuries cannot be established until several weeks after the pain starts. You have no way of knowing if you are struggling with acute discomfort or something you might need to deal with for years to come, greatly altering the actual damages you have incurred as a result of the car accident. Later on, the insurance adjuster or the defendant may want you to seek an independent medical examination.
Furthermore, failing to follow medical advice may lead to a reduced settlement, because it might indicate that you don’t feel that you need the treatment.
Keep Track of Non-Economic Damages
There’s more to a car accident than lost wages, property damage, and medical bills. There are many other kinds of pain. Car accidents can be traumatic, for children and adults alike. Even without the loss of life or limb, a severe car accident can cause nightmares, symptoms of anxiety (such as panic attacks), and trauma-related symptoms of stress, such as episodes of irritability or depression.
Any physical disability caused by a car accident can also have an emotional and mental impact. You may be unable to walk unassisted for a long period. You may struggle to hold your child, let alone play with them. Your injuries may affect your relationships. The emotional toll of a car accident should not be understated. Consider seeking the help of a therapist or counselor to address these issues, as well as document them for the case.
Don’t Chat With the Insurance Agent
Insurance agents specialize in being friendly, especially on their first call. You will undoubtedly be contacted by an agent soon after your car accident, and they will voice concern for you, and do their best to convince you that they’re on your side.
Be concise, but don’t offer any information you don’t have to. If possible, talk to your lawyer before divulging anything, or acquiescing to any requests. Even if it seems like innocuous information, anything you can say may be used to minimize your claim.
File an Injury Claim
Once the extent of your injuries is better understood and you have a lawyer at your side, file an injury claim. Filing an injury claim rather than talking to or negotiating with the insurance company before a claim is created will increase your chances of a good car accident settlement.
The First Offer Is a Play
Insurance companies settle thousands of claims a year and do their best to limit their liability whenever they can and maximize profits.
Their interests are completely aligned with yours – but they need to give you something, especially if you’ve gone through the trouble of exhaustively proving that you were not at fault. However, an insurance company’s first offer is famously low. Say no.
When future offers come in, always seek the advice of your legal counsel. Once you say yes, it is close to impossible to roll things back.
Putting it All Together
Prioritize your mental and physical well-being. Document as much of your treatment as you can. Seek the help of an experienced law firm. Meet with your attorney and recount everything you remember, in addition to anything else that you feel might be relevant. Finally, continue to seek treatment, and keep your attorney updated on the physical and emotional impact of your accident.
Your legal counsel’s job is not just to represent you, but to strengthen your claim, and talk strategy. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer is crucial. If you have been in an accident recently, contact OPO Law today to get started.