Updated: May 29, 2020
Motor vehicle accidents happen every day all over. We’ve all seen the aftermath on the roadways, and we are always thankful it wasn’t us. But what happens when it is you? First and foremost, seek medical attention if you have any injuries. Even if your injuries do not warrant a trip to the emergency room, be sure you go to your family doctor or a walk-in clinic if you need anything.
Second, call your insurance company. Many insurers have a requirement in their policy that you contact them immediately when you have a potential claim. There is also a duty to mitigate (limit) your damages as much as possible, so waiting around for a month to see if the other party’s insurance will accept the claim may cause unnecessary losses the insurance company will dispute. Even worse, if the other driver was uninsured, there would be a delay in getting your car fixed and resolving the property damage side of your claim.
Third, get your medical treatment timely. Some people wait months before starting treatment, or maybe went to the ER the same day but waited months to follow up with their doctor. They often think that it will get better on its own, and then it doesn’t get better. This history of treatment is a red flag for insurers who will try to claim nothing after the delay is related. Not only that, but sometimes the medical issue could have been resolved with no residual problems, but the delays in treatment cause a condition to be permanent. No one likes to see someone have chronic pain after a motor vehicle collision.
Be sure to keep all of your receipts. I also recommend my clients keep a journal that tracks injuries, treatment, dates and times of phone conversations, who they spoke with and what did the other person said, and any other relevant information pertaining to the wreck or personal injury claim. If the medical treatment lasts several months or requires surgery, there may be a lot of smaller details you won’t remember down the line. If you have to file a lawsuit over your personal injury claim, you will want as much detail as possible. You only have one (1) year from the date of the collision to file your lawsuit. That isn’t a lot of time if you have lengthy conservative treatment followed by a surgery and recovery. The statute of limitations deadline can happen before you are finished treating. If you don’t file your lawsuit, you cannot get anything out of the insurance company or the person who hit you.
After your treatment is concluded, you will be looking to negotiate with the insurance company. In many cases, the insurance adjusters tell people that they will not give them what the case is worth, but if they go to an attorney the attorney will get a huge fee and the injured party will receive less money anyway. This is NOT the case. Many attorneys only charge a fee on the additional money they can get you unless their regular fee would be less. This insures that the injured party does not lose money by seeking legal counsel! If their offer is fair, an attorney will tell you it is a fair and reasonable offer. Often there are many bills that have not yet been obtained (from ER billing, ambulances, radiology, diagnostics, etc.) which results in a lower offer by the insurer. An attorney experienced in this area of law knows exactly what to look for to make sure all of the bills are considered by the insurer.
Other issues attorneys can help with include subrogation concerns. A good attorney will help to make sure all of your medical bills were paid, and negotiate reductions where possible where there are liens against the case. The case isn’t over if you have a bunch of unpaid medical bills or your health insurance wants their money back.
Navigating the world of personal injury is very stressful and complicated. Insurance adjusters use intimidation tactics or avoid you completely. While you are trying to recover from an injury, trying to get back and forth to work while your car is out of commission, and manage your other obligations, the last thing people have time for is dealing with insurance adjusters and bill collectors. The statute of limitations only gives you one year to have things all wrapped up or you’ll have to file a lawsuit. Having an experienced attorney on your side helps you focus on your health and recovery rather than the stress of the claim or the statute of limitations.