What To Do If Your Injured In An Auto Accident
The accident and injury attorneys of Lyons, Snyder & Collin oftentimes receive inquiries from clients asking about the most effective tools an accident victim can use to have the highest likelihood of securing a favorable settlement or jury award after an auto accident. As a result of these inquiries, the accident and injury attorneys at Lyons, Snyder & Collin have created this concise Rule Book to help injured victims obtain maximum financial compensation after an auto accident.
Rule #1: Like a boy scout – Always Be Prepared
Auto accidents are traumatic. Always try to remain calm, cool, and collected. A clear mind will help you remember the facts and circumstances of the accident.
First and foremost, check for injuries that may require immediate medical attention.
Second, call the police, no matter how minor the accident or your perceived injuries. Do not feel bad that the other driver may receive a ticket as it is imperative that the police document the accident. Request the police to obtain a statement from the at fault driver– especially if he/she admits liability. Inculpatory statements made by an at fault contemporaneous with an accident are worth their weight in gold in personal injury cases. This recorded statement will preclude the at fault driver from making an excuse for their carelessness, or worse, attributing the blame to you at a later point in time. If you believe the at fault driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs, ask the officer to request that he/she submit to roadside exercises.
Third, while waiting for the police to arrive, obtain the at fault driver’s name, license, and registration information. Sadly, it is not uncommon for at fault drivers to leave the scene of accident prior to the police arriving on-scene. When speaking with the at fault driver, do not make any admissions of fault or negligence. Do not apologize for the accident.
Fourth, document all physical evidence. Obtain the contact information of any pertinent witnesses. If possible, take pictures or video (mobile phone) of your vehicle, the other driver(s)’ vehicle (including license plate), accident scene, road conditions (i.e. tread marks), and injuries (i.e. blood from head, seatbelt marks, etc.). A picture or video can be worth a thousand words at trial. Also, don’t rely on the police to take pictures of the accident scene. For that matter, don’t rely on the police to do anything. Be proactive.
Finally, takes notes, notes, and more notes concerning the nature of the accident, specifically focusing on how the accident occurred and your injuries, even slight. After the accident, keep track of the doctors you visit, any pain you exhibit, and what activities you cannot perform as a result of the accident (including missing work and/or lack of intimacy).
Rule #2: Insurance Companies do NOT like to compensate individuals who do NOT receive medical treatment.
After an auto accident, go to a doctor ASAP. Car accident victims oftentimes only exhibit minor swelling and discomfort immediately following an accident. Many times these perceived “minor” injuries are in actuality major injuries in hiding, such as herniated disks and fractured/broken bones. Waiting to see a doctor can, and will, hurt your personal injury case (i.e. low settlement offers).
Additionally, insurance companies (and juries) are very skeptical of individuals involved in a car accident who claim injuries weeks or months after an accident and who do not seeking immediate medical attention. Individuals who are in pain see doctors – period. The bottom line, if you want to receive a fair compensation for your injuries, you must obtain medical treatment.
Rule #3 Insurance Companies are NOT your friend
Soon after filing a claim with the at fault driver’s insurance company, you may receive a follow-up phone call from an insurance adjuster. The insurance adjuster will speak to you in a friendly, non-threatening tone and ask you questions about the accident (including approximate damage to your vehicle), your injuries (i.e. pain or discomfort), and possibly ask you to sign authorization to obtain your medical records. They may also ask you to provide a recorded statement or submit to a medical evaluation (with their “recommended” doctor). Worse yet, they may make you an offer to settle your case.
Do not under any circumstances speak with the insurance adjuster about the details of your case, disclose your medical history, or sign any documents (especially releases) without first speaking to an experienced personal injury attorney. Do not discuss your injuries. Do not provide an estimate of the damages. Do not discuss previous injuries, if any. Your answer to any question should be that you have retained or are in the process of retaining a personal injury attorney and do want to speak to anyone until my lawyer is available.
The insurance adjuster is looking for ways to defeat your claim and have no interest in making sure you are properly compensated for your injuries. Insurance adjusters oftentimes discourage injured drivers from seeking counsel. Why would they do that? … because they know that individuals represented by experienced accident and injury attorneys obtain larger settlements (i.e. more money paid by the insurance company). The adjuster’s job is to minimize the amount paid to you. They will try to “trick” you into admitting fault or minimizing your injuries. As such, never, never, never, provide any detailed statements to the at fault driver’s insurance company – especially concerning the nature of the accident, who was at fault, or the extent of your injuries. Politely decline to answer their questions and seek legal representation.
Using these helpful rules after an auto accident could be the difference between obtaining a favorable settlement offer and not receiving one at all. As always, when in doubt, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer to guide you through the process.
Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer Marc P. Lyons is a founding partner of Lyons, Snyder & Collin, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Fort Lauderdale accident attorney Marc P. Lyons handles all personal injury matters including, auto accidents, slip and falls, premise liability, and wrongful death. The Fort Lauderdale personal injury law firm of Lyons, Snyder & Collin, P.A. is located at 312 Southeast 17th Street, Third Floor, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316. Telephone: 954.462.8035. http://www.lyonssnyder.com/