What to do if you may have been injured in a traffic collision, fall, or other traumatic event.
Sooner or later, nearly everyone is involved in a traffic collision, fall, or other traumatic event. Often such events result in personal injuries and the filing of an insurance claim or lawsuit. When this happens, doing the right things to protect your rights and preserve evidence can mean the difference between losing or sharply reducing a valuable claim for damages, and securing full compensation for your injuries. Doing the right things can mean the difference between a fair and just recovery, and being taken advantage of by an insurance company.
The specific things you should do will vary with the type of traumatic event and type of injuries. However, in general, there are several things to keep in mind.
At the scene of the event and immediately after:
- Call police to the crash scene. It is important that police document basic details of the collision.
- If there is any hint that you have been injured or have pain, report this to the police officer. The officer will note this important fact in his report.
- Do not admit fault or offer to pay for damages. Cooperate with police but be very careful about admitting fault or apologizing for the crash; you may not be aware of facts which prove you were not at fault. And any statements you give can and will be used against you.
- Identify witnesses. Get full names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.
- Take lots of pictures. Take them immediately of injuries, property damage before repairs are made, and the injury scene (skid marks, etc.). Pictures of the scene are especially important in fall cases. All pictures are powerful evidence.
- Seek medical care immediately. If there is the slightest chance you have been injured, see a doctor or go to a hospital emergency room. This is important for your health and for proving your injuries. Be aware that pain from injuries often becomes much more severe a day or two after a crash.
- Do not give any statements without first consulting an attorney. This is especially true of taped statements given to insurance companies. Anything you say can and will be used against you.
- Do not sign any papers. Especially for anyone connected to the wrongdoer’s insurance company.
- Before the collision, make sure you have adequate uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance. This coverage protects you if the wrongdoer has no insurance or minimal coverage. You should carry at least $100,000 per person of coverage.
- In slip/trip and falls, get a copy of the written incident report and take pictures of the floor condition that caused the fall. This is very important evidence.
- Promptly contact an attorney experienced in representing injury victims. Delay may seriously harm or bar your claim, since the law sets deadlines for filing. It is also important that an attorney promptly interview witnesses before memories have faded, and preserve other important evidence before it is lost or unavailable.
- Do not fall for the line of insurance adjusters that you should not consult an attorney. Be smart: insurance adjusters are sophisticated at settling claims with unrepresented victims for a fraction of what they are worth. You have nothing to lose by talking to an attorney.
As your medical treatment progresses:
- Keep a diary. Document the facts of the traumatic event, your injuries and pain, medical care, and effects upon your life and work. Note your good and bad days, things you can’t do, and other ways your injuries affect your life. Diaries are extremely helpful later when your memory may have faded.
- Continue to take lots of pictures (and video if appropriate). It is important to document your injuries and medical care as it progresses, such as with surgery, hospitalization or physical therapy.
- Follow the advice of medical care providers and seek treatment if you are hurting. Failing to obtain and follow medical advice can be used against you at trial.
- Keep a list of all medical care providers.
- Keep all medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and other records.
- Keep a log of time lost from work.
- Preserve all other evidence. In the event of a fall, preserve the footwear you were wearing.
- Do not discuss your case with anyone other than your spouse or attorneys. Statements to others can be admissible in court.
- Stay off of Facebook and other social media. Anything on these sites, even if marked “private” or only for “friends,” can be discovered by opposing attorneys and may be admissible at trial. This can be embarrassing and harm your case.
- Use health insurance to pay your medical bills. Do not let medical care providers contact your motor vehicle insurance company or the Defendant’s insurance company.