WHAT TO DO OR NOT DO AFTER A MOTOR VEHICLE COLLISION
So you have just been in a motor vehicle collision and need to know what to do.
1. Are you safe where you are? You must assess should you remain in the vehicle or get out. That depends on factors such as fuel leaks, can you safely exit the vehicle, is the vehicle in a spot that is dangerous and what are your injuries? Your first focus should be on your safety and well being not about the legal issue.
Now that you are sure of your own safety and well being what else should you do?
2. Assuming you can get out, and assuming you or someone has called 911, it is time to exchange driver information if you can. Do not, even if it seems minor, allow the other party to leave without at least getting their drivers license and vehicle license together with insurance information. Law enforcement often tries to avoid investigating accident scenes, such as minor car collisions with supposedly minor injuries. Be persistent and patient about the arrival of law enforcement. IT is key to remember, you really do not know the extent of your injuries at the time of the collision.
3. Thoroughly document the scene right after the incident: This includes photographing the scene, getting witness information such as full name(s), address(es), phone number(s) and their observations. Everyone has a cell phone these days that can take pictures. Use it wisely. This is not the time for a selfie laughing. IF you have obvious injuries, photograph them.
It is important to remember that bruising many times appears later so photographic evidence does not end at the scene. Photograph or video all injuries over time: Pictures can be worth a thousand words. But Pictures also help an adjuster or a jury to see the extent of the injury.
4. Immediately seek medical treatment from a doctor: Delays in medical treatment allow the defense to assert that the injury was not bad enough to require care and treatment. IT is best if you can be evaluated either at an emergency room if necessary or your primary care physician as soon after the collision as possible.
5. If there is any doubt, get transported for medical treatment by emergency personnel. If you cannot assess your injuries or are feeling badly, it is better to have a professional do so to avoid further injury.. Remember, if you leave the scene and then get dizzy and crash, it is now your fault for a different collision.
6. Be clear, thorough and accurate when discussing the incident and your injuries with health care providers: The Defense “playbook” is to comb through medical records to find discrepancies about the incident or the nature and extent of injuries. How are you feeling question is always one that is looked at carefully especially in full up visits. If ask and you say better meaning better that the last time you were in but not fully recovered, make that clear!
7. Follow your health care provider(s) direction(s) completely: You do not want the defense to argue you did not try to get better. You do not want your doctor to say you did not follow his or her orders. IT is especially important that if sent for X-rays, MRI’s CT Scans, physical therapy that you make time to get the tests and care. Missing appointments will be pointed out as not needing the care.
8. Use your health care insurance and if you have medical pay coverage on your own vehicle use that too to pay for medical bills: This can ultimately help put more money in the injured person’s pocket because the health care insurer may not be entitled to any or full reimbursement from monies recovered in a personal injury case.
9. You need to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The defendant’s insurance adjustor is not your friend and is not working for you. Do not be fooled by the statements you hear how they want to help and are there for you. NO THEY ARE NOT!
10. Be aware of how you conduct yourself in public and on social media after the collision. Insurance defense companies often engage in surveillance of personal injury claimants as well as seek “public” information from face book, linkedin, tweeter and other social media platforms. Remember what you do or say in public will be discoverable and may simply hurt your case.
Equally important as what to do is what not to do.
11. Do Not Provide a written or oral statement about the matter to an insurance company. Insurance companies often ask improper and confusing questions for the sole purpose of undermining your claim.
12. Do not sign a release that allows third parties to obtain records about the matter. Insurance companies often obtain an overbroad array of private, sensitive records they are not entitled to review.
13. Do Not treat with a chiropractor without confirming with your primary care physician first. Although Chiropractic care is being accepted by more people, juries often have a bias against chiropractors. Only treat with a chiropractor if the doctor recommends or prescribes such treatment.
14. Do Not rush to settle your claim. Injuries take time to resolve and if they do not, you will be forever barred from bring any additional claim.
Hopefully these tips will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of dealing with the defendant’s insurance carrier. Remember their job is to limit the recovery not to pay you a fair settlement.