How Do Car Accident Injury Claims Work?
If you’ve been seriously injured in a car accident, you may be wondering how the process of dealing with personal injury claims works. The steps are basically the same for most vehicle accidents, but will vary a little based on your specific circumstances. The important thing to know from the outset is what triggers a car accident injury claim and how the process will end.
With any motor vehicle crash, the process begins when metal first hits metal and damage results to vehicles and the people involved. Where it ends will either be with a settlement for damages done, a court case with a verdict or the injured victim giving up on compensation. The most positive outcome for those seriously injured in a car accident is a fair settlement for injuries, trauma experienced and any lasting damage, but this is not always the end result.
What should you do after an accident to get your claim started out right?
Immediately after an accident, you should call 911. Injuries resulting from a car accident need medical attention – you often won’t know how extensive your injuries are until you’re checked by an EMT or physician. Victims of motor vehicle accidents are often in shock which can keep you from realizing how much pain you’re in.
Be sure the police come and collect information from everyone involved in the accident. If the EMTs want to take you to the hospital, let them. This will protect your rights later in the process. If possible, use your cell phone camera to take photos of the position of the vehicles and anything else that seems important at the time.
How should you handle medical concerns following an accident?
Don’t be in a rush when it comes to having your injuries assessed. Do what the doctors tell you – let them x-ray or scan you – whatever treatment is recommended should be accepted. You may be tempted to just go home and rest, but if you leave the hospital AMA (against medical advice) it can come back to haunt you later.
Allow yourself to be treated as advised and don’t check out of the hospital until your injuries have been treated and your physician releases you. Any follow-up treatment should be done per instructions including any consultations to specialists such as an orthopedist for broken bones or the neurologist to assess any brain injury.
Why is medical care after an accident so important?
First and foremost medical care will treat your injuries and hasten your return to health and fitness. Second, if your injuries are serious, medical treatment is necessary to improve your chances of making a full recovery and avoid (when possible) any long-term damage.
Third and very important is that if you don’t follow medical advice and have any lingering pain or injury, the insurance company can blame you and say that if you had followed instructions, your results would be better. This is an excuse to minimize compensation for your injuries and a standard insurance company tactic!
What is the next step in car accident injury claims?
The next step can be taken even before you complete your medical treatment and is very important. You should contact a reputable and experienced local personal injury attorney for an immediate consultation. Because some information that needs to be gathered – such as witness statements – is time sensitive, the sooner you call, the better.
Even if you’re in the hospital being treated or recovering at home, you may find an attorney willing to consult with you over the phone or to come to you for a face to face consultation while you’re convalescing.
After you consult an attorney, what can you expect?
Either you or your attorney should immediately contact your insurance company to notify them that you’ve been in an accident. When possible, this should be done within 24 hours. If it’s you that makes the call, only provide basic information such as time, date and location of the accident. Don’t go into details – leave this to your attorney.
Car insurance companies often try to get accident victims who are still in shock, are medicated or not thinking clearly to take blame, dismiss injury symptoms or make statements that can compromise their rights to compensation. It’s best not to put yourself in this situation.
After hiring an attorney and notifying your insurer about the accident, what’s next?
From there, your attorney should take on the rest of the car accident injury claims work for you. They will need access to your medical records, insurance information and may need to ask you some questions during the process, but otherwise, this is where the attorney’s job begins.
Your part is to focus on your recovery and try not to stress over finances. Also, if your insurance company or the insurance company of the other driver(s) contacts you with a settlement offer, you should not talk to them – simply give them your attorney information. It’s unethical for them to talk to you when you have representation and is often just a chance for them to try and cheat you out of fair compensation.
How will you know how the claim is progressing?
A reputable personal injury attorney will keep you updated on your case and what steps they are taking to ensure you get fair compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, time missed from work, pain and suffering and other appropriate compensation. You should also be able to call or email at any time for updates whenever you feel like you need information or have a question.
Once the insurance company makes a settlement offer, your attorney will contact you to notify you of the offer, tell you whether they think it’s fair and if they think the offer should be accepted or a greater counter-offer should be made. This back and forth may go on more than once in order to get you the best result possible for your particular circumstances.
How do you find a reputable personal injury attorney?
First, you want a local attorney. They’ll know the local courts (if it doesn’t settle out of court) and have experience with local insurance adjusters and other attorneys that may be involved with your injury claim. Second, you want an attorney with an impressive track record of settlements for cases like yours.
Third, you want an attorney who is reputable and well-regarded in the community. AVVO reviews and provides customer testimonials on attorneys and is a great tool to assess whether the attorney you’re considering is likely to be successful, ethical and easy to deal with. Finally, you want a lawyer who will be tenacious and will put up a good fight with the insurance companies to get you the compensation you deserve.
Seattle area attorney Rob Kornfeld has been helping car accident victims recover fair financial settlements for more than 30 years. Contact us today for a free consultation about your accident and the injuries it caused. Rob will tell you whether you’re likely owed compensation, if you have a case and how he can help you. His expertise is yours for the asking – call Rob now or click here!