Car accidents happen every day, but no one ever expects it to happen to them. The experience of even a minor crash can be upsetting and overwhelming. What you say and do in the immediate aftermath could determine your financial liability and who pays for your medical bills.
Here are five ways to protect yourself after a car accident:
1. File a Report Right Away
No matter how minor the accident, you should always report it to local authorities as soon as possible. If you are unable to report it at the time, you should file a report no more than twenty-four hours later. Filing a police report is a good way to ensure that your side of the story is recorded in an official capacity (and in some states, it’s legally required.) When making your report, it’s important to know what to say and what not to say. Insurance companies and the other party’s attorney may use the accident report to determine liability and settlements.
If you feel shaken or like you aren’t thinking clearly after the accident, ask the officer if you can give your report at a later time. Otherwise, be sure to cooperate with the responding officer and be as detailed as possible in your report. If you are asked by anyone at the scene how you are feeling or if you are injured, avoid saying “No” or “I’m okay.” The best response to this question is, “Only my doctor can determine that.” Many accident-related injuries don’t become obvious until a day or two later. Any statement at the scene that make it sound like you aren’t injured could be used to reject your claim.
Try to stick to firm, provable details in your report, such as, “The light was red when the other driver went through it.” Avoid statements like, “He wasn’t paying attention.” While it may be true, that statement can’t be proven (unless you get lucky with a traffic camera). It’s the provable details that will help you with your case. If you have minor injuries like scrapes or bruises, take photos of them if possible and include them in your report.
2. See a Medical Provider
You should get checked out by your healthcare provider within forty-eight hours after your accident. Get examined even if you aren’t in pain. Symptoms of concussion and musculoskeletal trauma can be delayed. Since these injuries are invisible to the untrained eye, they often go overlooked or are disputed by insurance companies. Having a doctor or other medical professional document your injuries soon after the accident is your best defense.
Your provider can fill out paperwork from the insurance company documenting how severe your injuries are, how long you may need to be treated for them, and whether they will interfere with your ability to work. Be sure to tell your provider if any of your work duties will aggravate your injuries. Whiplash, herniated discs, and muscle strains usually require many treatment sessions over weeks or months. Your provider should be as specific as possible and err on the side of longer treatment rather than an optimistic assessment.
3. Hire an Attorney
Having a reputable personal injury attorney on your side after an accident is the best way to make sure you get what you deserve. The best part is that the attorney only gets paid if you do. Having an attorney doesn’t mean you are suing the other driver. A personal injury attorney can assist with paperwork and talk to the insurance company for you. Insurance companies don’t always play fair. Insurance adjusters are trained to lead accident victims into saying things that will hurt their case. Something as simple as, “How are you today” could be a ploy to get you to say something positive about your health.
An attorney takes on these hassles for you and will make sure you aren’t taken advantage of. This is even more important if you’ve been seriously injured. You may not be up to dealing with all the paperwork and insurance run-around. A personal injury attorney will take this off your plate so you can focus on healing.
4. Start Treatment for Your Injuries Right Away
Many accident victims are hesitant to begin receiving medical treatment until they are sure their expenses will be covered. The truth is that even with an attorney on your side, insurance companies move slowly. If you’ve hired an attorney and followed the other tips on this list, then you will likely be compensated for at least a portion of your medical expenses. A provider experienced with accident claims can bill the insurance company when you start treatment and work with you later to pay any balances that aren’t covered.
The sooner you begin treatment, the better your chances of full recovery. Whiplash and lower back injuries can cause chronic pain if they aren’t treated properly. This could cost you more money down the road in treatment and missed workdays. Try to begin your treatment plan within two weeks of the accident or sooner if possible.
Personal Injury Treatment in Houston
At Vanguard Spine and Sport, we have experience working with accident victims and insurance companies. We keep a list of personal injury attorneys who have served our clients well in the past and refer them to new clients. When you come to see us after an accident, you can rest assured that your medical and financial concerns will be in good hands. Our providers use proven, non-invasive treatments to heal whiplash, disc injuries, and more. We employ a range of providers to meet all your needs, including physical therapists, chiropractors, and nurse practitioners. Schedule a consultation today to get on the road to recovery.