The first thing to tend into after any car accident is everyone’s safety. You want to make sure any injuries get addressed, and you want to make sure to minimize the potential for subsequent injuries due to oncoming traffic. Crashes are traumatic, and our physical responses to them can cause our minds and bodies to “mask” pain and injuries. Be aware of this. Before you jump to react to your unexpected situation, take a moment to make sure you, and all of your passengers are okay to move or get out of your car before reacting on “auto-pilot.” Once you know the condition of everyone in your vehicle, you’ll want to check on others involved in the crash as well. Be very cautious as you do this. There is a good chance that your vehicle and the other vehicle are still in harm’s way. So, make sure that you don’t do anything to further jeopardize yourself or others as you get out. Where injuries exist, you may need to call for help to assist. What level of care you or others might be able to provide at the scene is dependent upon the urgency of their medical need and the level of training of those present.
Once everyone’s injury status is assessed and help has been called, you will want to get the driver’s contact information. You want to get their name, their address and phone number, and their insurance company’s information (including the name of their insurance agent).
Call the police, preferably before any vehicles are moved. If you present a danger to traffic, that vehicle may certainly have to be cleared from the road, but do your best to take some pictures before any vehicles are moved. You will also want to use your phone’s camera, if you can, to document not only the vehicle location, but also any skid marks and debris left over from the crash, plus the damage to both vehicles and to anyone involved.
If any serious injuries are experienced, then obviously wait to be seen by EMTs and taken to the hospital by ambulance if needed. Even for less serious injuries, you want to get treated immediately. People often don’t know that they’ve been injured right after a crash; there’s a lot going on, including a surge of adrenaline and a flood of emotions, which can mask pain and injuries. Allowing yourself to be immediately checked out by a medical professional will minimize the chance that the insurance company will say you’re faking it or that you weren’t really injured from this crash but afterward.
If you feel any pain at the site of the crash and think you may be injured, be honest about it. Some people try to downplay their pain and their injuries by telling the other driver or the investigating officer that they feel fine when they really don’t. It’s human nature to be polite and to downplay your own aches and pains, but in this case, your good nature can be used against you later by the insurance companies.
Once you’ve been checked out and believe you have a handle on what your medical injuries are, you want to contact your own insurance agent and then an attorney to explore whether you need representation. Don’t talk to the other driver’s insurance adjuster. If they call you, tell them that you’ve consulted with an attorney and provide your attorney’s contact information. Then call your attorney about it.
Throughout your entire recovery process, follow all medical and treatment advice. When in doubt, feel free to get a second opinion, but don’t just ignore medical treatment because that can also be used against you.
Finally, refrain from posting anything on social media because the insurance company has people checking you out right from the get-go. They’ll look you up on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, and if you have pictures that can be misconstrued or posts that can be misinterpreted, that will be used against you, as well. Even though our society respects people who try to downplay their injuries, doing so on social medial will just hurt your case, so avoid that temptation.
How Important Is It to My South Central Indiana Personal Injury Case That Medical Attention Was Sought Immediately Following My Car Accident?
If you feel pain and think you may have anything more than a minor bruise, it’s imperative that you get checked out medically and that you do so very quickly. I used to work for insurance companies in personal injury cases. I did that for almost ten years, and one of the first things that the insurance company will look at is whether you say you’re fine at the scene to the other driver, the police officer, or any of the witnesses—which is a common thing to say. The second thing they’ll look at is whether there was any delay from the date of the accident to the time when the claimant first sought treatment. The purpose in looking at these things is to suggest to a jury (if a case goes to trial) that the person wasn’t really injured and that they’re really just trying to make money from an accident.
As I said before, I think most hard-working, good-hearted people want to push through and hope that their injuries will get better over time. They do that because our society respects the people who don’t make mountains out of molehills – the people who don’t try to make something bigger than what it really is. Then, the tendency is to only seek treatment once they realize they’re not really getting better. That’s often the reason for the delay, but there are two problems with that approach. First of all, you might not realize the extent of your underlying problems, and secondly, the insurance company for the other driver is not going to reward you for your toughness. Instead, they’ll try to use that against you and suggest that you aren’t really hurt. Honest efforts to avoid claims and litigation are typically not rewarded by the very insurance companies who stood to benefit by your efforts at toughness.
When I represent an injured person, I tell them that they have the right to get checked out right away and make sure that all of their complaints are properly addressed by a doctor or another medical professional. I emphasize to them that they only get one shot at recovery from the other side. This isn’t like health insurance where they pay your claims as you go because you have a direct contract with them that says they’ll pay your medical expenses. When it comes to an automobile accident, you don’t have a contract with the other side’s insurance company; the other driver does. And that contract says they’ll make one payment for any damages that they’re legally responsible for, so you’re going to get one shot at settlement. It’s important that you get everything addressed and treated—nothing can be overlooked—because you’re not going to be able to come back. Once you receive payment, your claim is over and you won’t have a second chance to address future complications that have not been addressed.