10 THINGS TO KNOW WHEN YOU GET IN AN AUTO ACCIDENT
Updated: Oct 3, 2019
1. I HAVE BEEN IN AN ACCIDENT AND IT WASN’T MY FAULT – WHAT NOW?
When you are injured in a serious accident, often times your body is induced with adrenaline. As a result, many people would pop out of their vehicle to ask the other party if they are ok, and to exchange information. I caution you from this instinct and would advise anyone to take a moment before getting out of the vehicle so that you can properly assess your pain, symptoms, and/or injuries. If you are injured or feel confused, dizzy, or any potential pain symptoms, you should stay where you are until an ambulance arrives.
NEVER BE AFRAID OF AN AMBULANCE RIDE
Another major issue that arises when one is filled with adrenaline after an accident is determining if they should take an ambulance ride to the hospital. Because of the excitement of an accident, many people fail to realize until much later just how injured they really are. Also, many people think that they will personally be charged too much money for the ambulance ride or that they don’t have time for it. Don’t let that stop you. My advice to anyone who was not at fault in an accident, PROCEED WITH AN ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION, ALWAYS TAKE THE AMBULANCE RIDE!
Here’s why. The number one reason is “better safe than sorry.” When you lie down in an ambulance and take a trip to the hospital, it allows you to relax and have your body evaluated by a medical professional. If children were in the vehicle, there is no excuse not to get them properly checked out. The number two reason regards the nature of personal injury law suits. The law evaluates the pain and suffering compensation that you would be entitled to primarily by the amount of medical bills you incur. That is, the amount of your medical bills provides an objective basis for a jury to measure your pain and suffering. For instance, if you have $10,000 in medical bills, it can be presumed that you should be entitled to $30,000 of pain and suffering.
Do not hesitate to “get checked out” when you feel “okay, but shaken up.” Many times, the onset of physical complaints begin 12 to 36 hours later. Maybe you did walk away from being rear-ended by a truck and only feel “shaken up”, but tomorrow morning when you get out of bed it may be different. See a doctor following the collision who will ensure that a preliminary diagnosis is made that perhaps will minimize the discomfort and future treatment you may need later.
If you take an ambulance ride, it is paid for primarily by the adverse driver’s insurance company and can be supplemented if you have your own medical insurance. If you have a friend take you to the emergency room rather than an ambulance, you lose out on $2000-$6000 of pain and suffering compensation.
After an accident, you should contact the police so that they can document the details in a Traffic Collision Report (TCR). And if you are not too injured, or have someone else that can, take pictures of the accident location from multiple angles.
2. PEOPLE GENERALLY FEEL MUCH WORSE LONG AFTER THE ACCIDENT
Some injuries are painful right away. However, many injuries can take weeks to be noticed. Research conducted at the Spine Research Institute of San Diego suggests that as many as 45% of people with chronic neck pain attribute that pain to past motor vehicle trauma. Crashes are notorious for injuries that take some time to show up. Taking the time to get examined by a doctor who is experienced with vehicle related injuries is always a good idea, even when only minor aches are present. Here are a few symptoms that may suggest that you could be more hurt than you think:
• Neck pain or stiffness
• Back pain
• Confusion or trouble concentrating
• Insomnia and/or dizziness
• Tingling or numbness in the arms, hands, or fingers
• Ringing in the ears
• Depression or irritability
• Blurry or Double vision
• Sudden Intolerance to alcohol
3. WHAT TYPE OF DAMAGES CAN I RECOVER?
If you have been in an accident, it wasn’t your fault, AND either the adverse driver has insurance or you have uninsured motorist coverage, you will be entitled to compensation for the following:
· medical treatment expenses
· pain and suffering
· lost wages
· future lost wages
· damage of personal property
· damage of vehicles
4. UNDERSTANDING THE PERSPECTIVE OF INSURANCE COMPANIES
When you get injured in an accident, the first thing that you should do is contact a competent attorney to represent you against the adverse driver’s insurance company. They have lawyers working for them, you should have one working for you. Regardless, the first thing that is commonly done is that you will inevitably file a claim with the adverse driver’s insurance company. Once filed, your claim will be assigned to a claims adjuster. The claims adjuster is a professional negotiator (weasel) and will evaluate your claim to determine first and foremost if the insurance company is liable for the accident such that they should compensate you for your injuries. If they determine that their insured was at fault, they then evaluate to what extent the negligence of their insured caused injury to you and determine what if any compensation you should be entitled to. Keep in mind, claims adjusters DO NOT HAVE YOUR BEST INTERESTS IN MIND!
Claims adjusters work for the insurance company. It is their job to save as much money as possible for their employer. Claims adjusters will use intimidation tactics and other psychological maneuvers to attempt to get you to settle your claim for the lowest possible dollar amount. Often times, claims adjusters will attempt to convince you that you were somehow at fault and that the insurance company does not owe you anything. They will also attempt to persuade you that you don’t need an attorney and that they will work with you to get a speedy resolution of the claim. This assertion is always FALSE.
Claims adjusters will call you and record the conversation and attempt to get you to admit that you did something wrong and use that recording as evidence against you. They will try to ask you if you are all right and get you to diminutive your own injuries. You are not a doctor and could never provide them with an accurate assessment of your injuries so why try? Also, as will be explained later, you may suffer latent injuries that do not manifest until much later so you may not even know what to describe to the claim’s adjuster. YOU SHOULD NEVER MAKE A STATEMENT TO A CLAIMS ADJUSTER. YOU SHOULD HIRE AN ATTORNEY TO PROTECT YOU AND SAVE YOUR CASE!
Even if liability is clear, the claims adjuster will try to DELAY, DELAY, DELAY so that the insurance company gets to keep their money in the bank. The longer the insurance company gets to keep their money in their own accounts, the more interest they get. So essentially, it pays to prevent you from collecting compensation too early in the game.
If you are attempting to deal with the insurance company directly, you increase the insurance company’s odds of achieving a favorable outcome against you. The insurance company knows that you do not have legal knowledge and that you certainly can’t file a lawsuit against them. Thus, they feel no risk nor fear and will continue haggling, delaying, and ultimately low balling you. Because an attorney is a professional negotiator with the ability to sue, it is proven that an attorney often gains three times more than individuals would bargaining for themselves.
Ultimately, a claims adjuster is going to offer you only a nominal amount of money to compensate you for your injuries. Without litigation or the risk of litigation, they will never provide you the full amount of compensation to which you are entitled. I have seen it so many times. People think they don’t need an attorney and can do it themselves. They try…and try…and try, and get exhausted and tired of the games played by the insurance company. You can’t put a price on peace of mind.
5. FILING A LAW SUIT- WHY & WHEN
I have been involved with personal injury law for the past 15 years. In my experience, I have found that working with a claims adjuster generally constitutes a monumental waste of time…UNLESS, their insured is clearly liable AND the extent of your injuries clearly exceeds the monetary limits on the insurance policy. For instance:
While driving your vehicle at a safe speed, you were side swiped at an intersection by a negligent driver who ran a red light. That driver has a 15/30 policy. That is, the maximum dollar amount the insurance company has to pay is $15,000 per person with a $30,000 cap if there are multiple injured persons. SO, if your injury caused $50,000 in medical bills, it would be easy to foresee a claims adjuster agreeing to pay you the policy limit of $15,000. Here, liability is clear and the injuries clearly exceed the monetary limits of the insurance policy.
If in the above example the adverse driver had a 100/300 policy ($100,000 per person/$300,000 for multiple persons), the claims adjuster likely would not offer you $100,000 for your medical expenses and pain and suffering. They would make you jump through hoops and would try to give you as little as possible. When this occurs, the remedy is a law suit.
Each state has a different law on when and how you can file a law suit. First off, you must file a law suit within the statute of limitations. This means if you fail to file the law suit within a prescribed number of years from the date of the accident, you are forever barred from filing the suit. In California, there is a two-year statute of limitation for personal injury (tort) claims. This would mean, if you fail to file suit within 2 years, your legal rights are waived. If your injury was caused by a government entity, your statute of limitations may be shorter than normally prescribed.
6. HIRE AN EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY WHO CAN DELIVER FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY
When you have a medical issue, do you try to diagnose yourself and nurse yourself back to health? No. You seek the consultation of a professional medical provider. The same holds true for legal issues. If you have issues regarding the law, hiring an attorney is the best solution. While other law offices charge for their services, my office takes your case on contingency, at no cost to you. As they say, the insurance company has lawyers working for them, shouldn’t you too?
When you contact our office, we will provide you with our expertise and evaluate your case for free. We will explain to you how to maximize your recovery to protect your and your family’s future. We will work with your medical providers, the opposing claims adjusters, and opposing attorneys to protect your legal interests. Don’t gamble with your financial future. If you have been injured and it isn’t your fault, call the knowledgeable attorneys at Louis | White PC at (888)992-1LAW.
7. JOURNAL YOUR EXPERIENCE AND LIFESTYLE CHANGES
When you are injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation based on your damages. For instance, you will be reimbursed for your property damage and medical expenses and you are entitled to pain and suffering. Pain and suffering take into consideration the emotional and physical toll taken on your lifestyle. For instance, if you are an avid golfer and can no longer enjoy it due to your injury, that is compensable. If you love to garden and have to hire someone else, that is compensable. If every night is a sleepless night and you have significant limitations on your regular activities, you are suffering.
The best way to explain to a potential jury your pain and suffering is by documenting it. You can do this by videotaping certain aspects and journaling in a diary. This way you can remember how it is that your life was impacted by your injuries.
8. DO NOT IGNORE THE EMOTIONAL TOLL OF THE ACCIDENT
As many injuries take some time to manifest, (12 to 36 hours later), if you begin experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, fear or sleep disturbance, you should seriously consider a psychological assessment. If your doctor or family members suggest this type of treatment, take them up on it. Ask your doctor for a referral.
9. IMPORTANCE OF UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE
The importance of different coverage limits and your need to have uninsured motorist coverage (UM) cannot be understated. The majority of drivers only carry minimum 15/30 liability only coverage. Moreover, many other people drive vehicles with no insurance at all! This means a negligent driver can run into a family and if everyone is severely injured, the family may get nothing or only get a total of $30,000. That amount may not even be enough to cover ½ of the cost of medical expenses.
For this reason, I believe the most important coverage to maximize on is uninsured/under insured motorist coverage. This coverage is offered by your own insurance company and is meant to compensate you if the adverse driver doesn’t have enough coverage to compensate you.
Think of this example. Driver hits you and causes $100,000 in damages. Driver has a minimum 15/30 policy so insurance company pays you $15,000 to settle your claims. There is no more money available to the adverse drive to compensate you thus you are entitled to nothing further. However, if you had a $100k UM coverage, after being paid $15k from the adverse driver’s insurance, you could then file a claim with your own insurance and your insurance a carrier would pay you the difference of $85,000.
I assure you, if you were seriously injured in an accident and the opposing driver had insufficient coverage, it could be financially devastating to you and your family. Therefore, I believe everyone should carry at minimum $100k/$300k of UM Coverage.
10. LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR AND/OR GET A SECOND OPINION
When you visit the ER or your primary physician after an accident, it is important to include all your injuries in your description to your physician. Sometimes when someone is experiencing major pain in one area, they forget to explain the other areas of their body where they are experiencing less degrees of pain. You need to create an inventory of your pain areas and symptoms so that you can provide your physician a comprehensive list of your ailments. That way your doctor can provide you a comprehensive list of treatment for your injuries.
REMEMBER: If you overdo it or exaggerate your injuries, it will often be used against you so be frank and truthful.
Please do not hesitate to call our many California offices for help or questions. Your call is free and I promise you will be in good hands. Call us today at (888) 992-1LAW