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What to Do if Injured in a Car Accident?

In the U.S. alone, there are nearly 6 million car accidents each year and that number seems to rise quite frequently. Approximately 27% of car accidents result in non-fatal injuries, while about 6% result in death of at least one party.

When a car accident occurs, everything can become chaotic and you most likely aren’t immediately thinking of the ways to protect yourself or pay for any injuries. In fact, you or a loved one may not even be conscious immediately after the accident to even have the chance to consider these things. A lot of people who are in car crashes are fueled by adrenaline and don’t even know that they may have been injured. There may be a rush of relief that “it wasn’t worse” such that you don’t recognize or even feel what has happened. It’s no unusual for back and neck injuries to take days or weeks before they become evident.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, there are certain things that they should do to protect themselves. Consider that the costs of being treated for any injuries can quickly become outrageous. What do you do?

We’ve put together a simple guide to help you know what to do if injured in a car accident.

1.   Check for Safety and Call Authorities

First things first, an accident that occurs in a heavy traffic area might quickly become a bigger problem. There is only so much you can do to maintain safety but do your best to check the safety of the area and get yourself out of harm’s way if at all possible.

The authorities should immediately be alerted, especially if there are any potential injuries or serious property damage. This is one of the most essential steps and should be the first thing to take place. A police report will be vital when it comes time for claims to be filed to various insurance companies.

Safety first, and then call the authorities. It doesn’t matter how big or small the accident appears to be, both of these things are absolutely vital, especially if there are any injuries involved.

2.   Watch Your Words

It is best if fault is not discussed between you and the other parties and you should never openly admit fault, even if perhaps you think you were at fault. We’re not telling you to lie. You should never lie or withhold information, especially from the police, but you certainly don’t need to raise your hand and say “I’m sorry” or “it was all my fault” or anything along those lines. Sometimes a crash you think you caused was not really your fault. It all happens so fast, it is best to let the police sort it out.

It is up to the police to document the scene and determine fault based on witnesses, testimonials, and the scene itself. Let the system work as it is intended, without purposefully concealing or hiding information.

There could be more at play than just the things that you saw or did in the accident. Additionally, there are times when the other driver’s insurance might have to pay some expenses even if you are determined to be at fault in any degree.

3.   Exchange Information

It is necessary to exchange insurance information with the other drivers involved. While you don’t need to be investigating or instigating anything that might be questionable in nature, you should be sure that they are ok and exchange information that may be necessary later in the process.

4.   Document the Scene & Gather Evidence

This may be a two-part process. If you are in any state to do so, or have someone with you, try to document the scene. It’s ideal if you can take pictures or videos of the scene and the vehicles and participants. The locations of the final resting point of the vehicles, roadway markings and damage to the cars from every angle will be essential to have. It might also be beneficial to take some notes about the details so those descriptions and details don’t get lost in translation or forgotten later on. Having video and photos of the scene is something that cannot be reproduced later so it is better to be safe than sorry.

If you don’t have a paper and pen, you probably have a notes section in your phone that you can use. Take note of day, time, your perception of what happened, the vehicles, any injuries, and the reactions involved. The littles of details might be incredibly helpful later on so notate every little thing for your references.

Even things like skid marks, nearby objects, vehicle angles, broken car parts, and more can help determine details later on. This is where photos of the scene might be helpful as well. You don’t have to make a big deal out of it, just take photos and document the scene to the best of your ability. Look around and see if there are any security cameras at nearby businesses or doorbell cameras on nearby homes. If there are, take pictures or videos so your lawyers and investigators can obtain any video footage.

5.   Seek Immediate Treatment

It is best to get treated immediately at the scene. Sometimes, there are injuries caused that might not actually present themselves right away. As noted above, neck and back injuries often do not show up immediately. This is why any sense that you are having discomfort, “pulled muscles” or pain should be noted and examined by the emergency medical providers. Under Florida law, you must obtain medical treatment for any injury from a car accident within 14 days of the crash or you will lose your PIP (personal injury protection) benefits.

Most states have limitations on a timeframe as to when a claim can be filed for an injury. In Florida there is a four year statute of limitations. But recovery for an injury becomes harder to prove the longer the time between crash and treatment. If you are first treated for an injury two years after an accident and then want to come back and seek recourse, this could be a problem.

When emergency responders arrive at the scene, tell them every little symptom you might be experiencing. If they want to take you to the hospital for additional treatment, you should let them. Do not refuse to go with them if they suggest they transport you. This is a natural reaction and our nature to want to deny that we are really hurt. Better to be safe than sorry.

Even if you might not experience immediate injury symptoms, we recommend seeing your doctor as quickly as possible, the same day if you can. It is better to be checked out and evaluated right away.

However, if you refuse medical treatment at the scene or you delay it dramatically, this gives further opportunity for your claim to later be questioned, reduced or even denied. And as we stated, to preserve your PIP benefits you must get treatment within 14 days.

6.   Hire a Skilled Attorney With Medical Expertise

Finally, if you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, you should seek legal assistance. Find an attorney that has a proven track record working with injury and accident cases. Look for a firm with a reputable reputation that will get the job done.

There are plenty of options out there for injury attorneys so make an effort to choose the best. You can ask around for recommendations or you can check out reviews and public information. Attorneys who often win or obtain large settlements from such cases might be a good place to start.

Conclusion

Know that if you are injured in a car accident, you are not alone. You don’t have to face this burden on your own. There is support available and people who will go to bat for you so that you don’t have to bear this burden on your own.

Take action, and do so quickly.

 

Article by:

John Leighton

A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite

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