What should you do after you’ve suffered an injury in an accident? In the immediate aftermath, it’s natural to feel uncertain and overwhelmed, unsure of where to turn. You’re anxious, disoriented, and in pain, and the last thing on your mind is arguing with an insurance company over money.
Never fear: to help you during this time, we’ve provided the answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the aftermath of an accident injury (whether it’s caused by a vehicle, a slip and fall on someone else’s property, a construction accident, or another type of accident).
If You’re Injured in a Vehicle Accident…
The first step you need to take if you’re injured in a vehicle accident is to prioritize your safety. If the force of an accident knocked you or your vehicle into the middle of the road, move to a safe and secure area away from traffic and clearly out of harm’s way.
We say “clearly out of harm’s way” because traffic is not the only potential harm. If you’ve collided with a commercial truck, for example, debris and even flammable material can create dangerous conditions like explosions. If you see or suspect such danger, move as far away from it as possible – but don’t completely leave the scene.
The second step is to dial 911 if you physically can. Any accidents that cause injury, death, or property damage that prevents a victim from driving a vehicle require reporting to the police or the sheriff’s department.
If you cannot contact law enforcement yourself, ask a passerby to call 911.
Let emergency responders examine you when they arrive. If they determine that you need emergency room treatment, let them treat you and take you to the emergency room.
From that point on, keep two things at the forefront of your mind. First: ensuring your safety and health. Second: gathering evidence that establishes the causes of the accident.
Law enforcement will talk to all the drivers involved and to any eyewitnesses. The officers will file a crash report, which usually includes information on possible causes of the accident, the circumstances (place, time of day, weather, etc), and any other relevant material. You may either obtain a copy of the crash report at the scene of the accident or as soon as possible after the accident by mail, online, or in person at the police department.
If you notice any circumstances surrounding the accident that law enforcement should know and include in the accident report, speak up. For example, let’s say you noticed another driver seemed intoxicated or unsteady. If driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances seems likely, law enforcement will administer the appropriate tests.
Exchange contact information with all other drivers, including insurance information and email addresses. Consider using your phone to take photos of their license plates, license, and proof of insurance.
If you live in a no-fault state, you need to first tap your PIP benefits before you can file a claim with an at-fault party’s insurance company. If you live in a fault state for vehicle accidents and another driver (or another party, such as a trucking company) is at fault, you can file an insurance claim or bring a car accident suit for the damage done to you. This will include compensation for medical bills, any wages you lose from work if you need time off, and pain and suffering related to your injuries. You need to know the other parties’ insurance information in case you decide to file a claim.
After that, you need to prudently gather evidence. Several avenues exist for this. If eyewitnesses are around, talk to them and get their contact information (phone numbers and/or email) as well.
If you have a camera or smartphone with you, take multiple pictures of the scene, including:
- Any areas that show impact (damaged street signs, barriers, road abutments, tire marks on the road, and more)
- All damage to all vehicles
- Any other conditions relevant to the accident (detour signs, broken traffic lights, and so forth)
Don’t leave until law enforcement clearly indicates that you’re permitted to leave. (Leaving the scene is against the law unless you require emergency medical treatment.)
Next, get appropriate medical treatment as quickly as possible. Never try to determine your own medical condition after a vehicle accident. You need a professional opinion. Many serious injuries don’t manifest physically immediately after an accident, but a physician can examine and diagnose you appropriately.
If your physician indicates that you’re not seriously injured, you’re home free! However, if your physician diagnoses an injury and advises treatment, follow their recommendations. It’s crucial that you keep all records of your treatment, as they will help prove your injuries and expenses. Include records of all medical and medical-related appointments and treatments, such as prescription medication, an assistive device like crutches or a cane, and so on.
The primary reason for this is to get you back to optimal health as quickly as possible. An important second reason, which injured people may not realize immediately, is that the insurance companies of the at-fault parties can use gaps in treatment or omissions in either of these steps as a reason to minimize or even deny your claim.
How? Well, the companies may argue that your failure to promptly see a physician or go to the emergency room is evidence that you weren’t seriously injured, or at least not as extensively as you claim. After all, a seriously injured person would have to go, right? If you later develop serious issues—which is definitely possible—insurers can try to argue that they happened separately from the accident, meaning they don’t bear responsibility.
Similarly, insurers can try to wield a failure to follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations against you. You weren’t injured as seriously as you claim, they may say, or your condition developed later.
Keep all material related to the accident.
Finally, if the accident is the fault of another party (for example, the other driver, a manufacturer, or a repair shop), consult an experienced car accident attorney who can negotiate with the insurer for just compensation or help you file a personal injury lawsuit.
If You’re Injured on Someone Else’s Premises…
If you’re injured on another person’s property, what should you do? Interestingly enough, the broad outline of what you should do is the same as for vehicle accidents: First, ensure your safety and health, and then obtain evidence of what happened.
In Public Premises Such as a Store, Mall, Amusement Park…
The law holds that property owners of premises open for business to the public must keep their properties safe. If a liquid is spilled in a store, for instance, the store’s owner or manager must clean it up as soon as possible and clearly warn patrons of the hazard with signs, cones, tape, etc.
The same is true of landlords you rent an apartment from. If a light bulb over the stairs burns out, that’s potentially dangerous, as you could slip and fall in the dark. The landlord or designee, such as a property manager, is responsible for promptly repairing anything unsafe, or at least appropriately notifying residents to avoid the area.
The law considers you an invitee in both cases. A business or enterprise has opened its doors for business, and the owner has a duty of care to keep the business safe for all guests.
If you are injured on public premises, seek medical attention immediately if it’s an emergency. If it’s not an emergency, take pictures of the area in which you suffered an injury right away with a smartphone or camera.
It’s also a very good idea to take pictures of your injuries.
If anyone saw your accident, get their contact information.
In public premises, alert the manager immediately and let them know you’ve suffered injuries. First, it allows management to rectify the situation and warn others so more people aren’t injured. Second, it lets them know they need to create an incident report. Remember, you’ll need evidence to prevent insurance companies from denying your claim, and an incident report can be a game-changer.
If insurance companies know you didn’t notify a store or attraction’s manager before leaving, they’ll try to question whether your injury actually stemmed from an accident on the premises. If the companies know that you never notified a landlord about an unsafe condition or an injury, the same reasoning applies. Insurance companies will try to hold these actions against you to avoid paying you.
On Private Property
If you visit someone’s home or other property socially, or if the owner invites you to do work of some sort on the property, the law terms you a “licensee.” The property owner owes you no specific guarantee of safety on the property, unlike businesses open to the public. However, the owner must either make conditions safe or warn you if conditions exist that pose a danger (uneven flooring, exposed wires, holes in the ground, etc.)
What should you do if you are injured? Here, too, your first priority should be your health and safety. If you need emergency medical attention, call 911. Beyond that, notify the property owner, take pictures of the area that injured you, and take pictures of your injury as well.
If the owner has not invited you on the property (either explicitly or implicitly), you’re a trespasser by law. Yes, this is true even if you’re doing something inoffensive, such as taking a shortcut over a corner of a neighbor’s lawn. Property owners are generally not required by law to warn trespassers of dangerous conditions, and in this case, you may possess no recourse if you’re injured.
Texas law does has an exception to the trespassing category, however. Features that may tempt children to trespass on private property are termed “attractive nuisances.” Examples include swimming pools, decks with fire pits, croquet pitches, and so on—anything that may pose a danger to young children.
The law requires property owners to make attractive nuisances safe from children, by installing barriers, such as a gate, fence, or similar barrier.
If your child is injured by an attractive nuisance, take them to an emergency room or doctor immediately. Take pictures of all injuries. If the injury isn’t severe, take time to take photograph the attractive nuisance, including any open barriers (or pictures that make the absence of barriers clear).
Contact a lawyer in cases like this, because cases involving the attractive nuisance law are complicated.
What if the injury-causing accident is a dog bite, on a neighbor’s property or in public? Under Texas law, if the dog’s owner knew of a tendency to bite or exhibit violence toward other people, the owner will likely bear responsibility for the injury.
The first step if you or a loved one suffers a dog bite is to get to a safe place. Don’t stay in a place where the dog can attack again.
Then, administer first aid. Clean the wound and put bacterial ointment around it to avoid the risk of infection. Visit a doctor or emergency room if the injuries warrant such a visit.
Contact the owner of the dog to find out if it is vaccinated. Ask if the dog has any medical issues. Consult a physician immediately to discuss your findings if the dog isn’t up-to-date on shots or has other medical issues.
Always contact an attorney for help with a dog bite case.
If You’re Injured on a Construction Job Site…
Construction sites are full of dangers and hazards. Workers may fall from a site, suffer electrocution, be struck by falling objections, or wind up caught between two places and placed in a dangerous vise. These four types of accidents are known as the Fatal Four.
In many states, companies are obligated to carry worker’s compensation coverage. In Texas, however, the law leaves the decision about whether or not to carry worker’s compensation up to each company.
Worker’s compensation is an insurance system that pays for medical care and a certain percentage of wages if workers suffer on-the-job injuries. Worker’s compensation also offers disability benefits if the injury renders the worker unable to perform his or her job functions any longer.
If you are injured, seek medical attention immediately.
However, it is also crucially important to contact a worker’s compensation attorney. Workers’ compensation rules and regulations are extremely complicated, with multiple requirements about when and how to report the accident, as well as follow-up requirements. Failure to follow all of the requirements can result in the denial of your claim.
An attorney can advise you on requirements and appeal a denied claim.
Moreover, construction sites usually involve crews from multiple contractors, like electricians, laborers, teamsters, welders, masons, carpenters, and more. A personal injury lawyer can also see if any of these third parties—companies other than your employer—contributed to your injury. If so, your lawyer may file a claim against them, which could result in you recovering more damages than the workers’ comp system would allow.
In all these types of injury-causing accidents, keep detailed records of medical visits, diagnoses, treatment recommendations, and how you followed the recommendations.
If you require more information, contact a personal injury lawyer today.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.