When it comes to what to do after a car accident, there's a lot to think about. Questions come at you fast, and dealing with insurance companies can be overwhelming and annoying. How do you file a car accident claim? What information do you need? How fast can you get help? You just want to crawl into bed, recover, and be done with the whole ordeal.We get it. We've been there. The personal injury attorneys at Trust Guss Injury Lawyers have guided thousands of people through the personal injury claim process and helped them obtain a fair settlement for their personal injury. We have over 20 years of experience helping clients file their insurance claims and representing them in court if their case becomes a personal injury lawsuit. Our skilled personal injury attorneys have a wealth of knowledge to share to help improve our clients' chances of recovering maximum compensation in their personal injury cases. Below are some “Do's and Don'ts” of the personal injury claims process—things we'd tell our own family members who are coping with the aftermath of an accident. Most importantly: Don't give a recorded statement to an insurance company, don't accept a settlement offer from them, and never admit fault until you follow these steps.
How to File A Personal Injury Claim
Once you reach out to our law firm about your potential accident injury claim, we do everything we can to alleviate your stress. Our intake specialists will collect your information and guide you through the claims process, and before you know it, you'll have an experienced personal injury lawyer advocating for you and helping you recover compensation for your personal injury case. But there are so many steps and choices you have to make before that point.
Here's what to expect at the other phases of your journey, like what you can do to help strengthen your case and what common mistakes you should steer clear of:
What to Do in Personal Injury Accidents
- Get all detailed information from the person who caused the accident, such as their name, address, phone number, license plate number, and auto insurance information.
- Call the police and request that a police report be made. Do not settle for an exchange of information among drivers only, as this could potentially delay a liability decision or have insurance companies debating your word against their client's word. Call law enforcement officers to the accident scene no matter how minor the damage seems to you. There's no such thing as “too much evidence,” and a crash report strengthens a case.
- Take as many pictures as you can. Of everything—the scene of the accident, nearby signage, property damage, damage to any personal property, bodily injuries, your vehicle, and any other vehicles involved. Take pictures of the other driver's license plate, insurance card, and driver's license as well.
- Seek medical attention right away. You need a comprehensive understanding of your injuries, and some of them can take days to show any symptoms. By then, it could be too late and you may be left coping with a chronic issue. Get the medical treatment you deserve, as soon as possible. Medical records showing swift treatment also prove to skeptical insurance adjusters that you were genuinely hurt. Do stay consistent.
- Attend your follow-up medical appointments and any recommended physical therapy. We all have responsibilities, but your health should never be neglected or put on the back burner.
- Contact an experienced attorney ASAP. The sooner we can start on your case, the better! The greatest support you can have after an accident is that of a dedicated personal injury attorney. We'll handle all the stressful ins and outs of filing your claim, connect you to the medical care you need at no upfront cost, and fight for the compensation you rightfully deserve.
- Contact your auto insurance to tell them about the accident. Your experienced personal injury attorney will maintain communication with them afterward and with the defendant's auto insurance as well.
- Keep track of all the time you've missed from work for recovery, doctor appointments, etc. Your attorney will fight to get you compensated for these lost wages.
- Track other accident-related expenses as well, like rideshares or rental cars if your vehicle was totaled
What to Do in Premises Liability Claims
- Report the incident to the manager. When you fall in public, it might be tempting to brush yourself off and avoid embarrassment and attention. However, you should always report your fall to the manager of the premises, even if you don't know if you are injured.
- Get the manager's info. We know it can be hard to remember in the heat of the moment, but you should ask for the names and contact information of the manager, staff, and all witnesses.
- Ask if there is a corporate phone number you can call to follow up with your incident report.
- Get a copy of your incident report. Premises liability claims differ slightly from other accident claims because most stores will file incident reports. (Note: establishments are under no legal obligation to provide you with a copy of an incident report.) While an incident report is not necessary to pursue a personal injury claim, it can help. When you speak with management, ask about their incident report protocol and how you can receive a copy.
- Take photos. Staff or property owners should promptly fix hazards in order to prevent other patrons from being injured, but before they do, make sure you take photos. Snap pics of where you fell, the surrounding areas, your injuries, and any spills, faulty structures, or other dangers.
- Seek treatment if you are injured, even if you don't have health insurance. Don't let financial woes stand in the way of proper healing.
- If you're hurt in a slip-and-fall accident, contact our personal injury lawyers for help and get connected to the medical care you need, at no upfront cost.
What Not to Do in Personal Injury Claims
- Do not leave the scene of the accident unless you are leaving in an emergency vehicle. No matter who was at fault, it is illegal in almost every state to leave the scene of an accident when someone is injured or there is property damage and you won't know if this is the case until you speak with the other driver(s) involved.
- On the other hand, do not stay in harm's way after a car accident. If possible, move your vehicles to the side of the road to inspect the damage. Preventing a pile-up is important, and you don't want to stand in the path of oncoming traffic.
- Do not engage in any arguments at the scene of the accident. Stay calm and level-headed. Wait until the police arrive. Tensions are high after a car accident, and you don't need to add an assault to your troubles.
- Do not accept a cash bribe to not call the police or file an insurance claim. Sometimes, drivers who cause an accident try to offer cash or a check to victims in order to dodge the hassle of an injury claim or a rising insurance premium. This can be tempting but beware: you may have injuries you don't even notice yet. Certain soft tissue injuries, for example, could take days to show symptoms and you could be staring at some hefty medical bills in the near future with no way to pay. Go about things the right way by reporting the accident to the police and to both of your insurance companies.
- Do not let the tow truck take your vehicle to storage. Instead, have them take it to your house. Storage yard fees rack up quickly, and you don't want to get stuck with the bill. If your vehicle is in storage, take it out ASAP and keep the receipt so you can be reimbursed once the other driver's insurance accepts liability.
- Do not give a recorded statement to any insurance company, especially if you have not yet retained legal representation for your personal injury case. This recorded statement can be used against you. Trust us, this is the single most important piece of advice on our list, so it bears repeating: DO NOT GIVE A RECORDED STATEMENT TO THE INSURANCE COMPANY!
- Similarly, do not discuss your injuries or ongoing medical treatment with the insurance company. Again, insurance adjusters use all kinds of tricky language designed to trip you up. They'll twist your words to downplay the severity of your injuries, meaning your settlement amount could suffer.
- Do not post on social media regarding your auto accident. It's sad and sneaky, but insurance companies will use your social media posts against you if they can find them. For example, you may feel inclined to post a photo of your totaled car with the caption “so thankful I'm all right,” but this can be used to invalidate any pain you are coping with because you said you're “all right,” right!?
- Do not send anything directly to the insurance. Allow your lawyer to handle it. Remember, the insurance company is not your friend, no matter how nice they may be to you.
- Do not sign anything from the insurance company before talking with your attorney or case manager.
- Do not agree to settle or accept checks from any insurance company without talking with a personal injury lawyer. You could be throwing your whole case away. Even if an offer sounds good to you, you might still be missing out on tens of thousands of dollars.
- Consult a personal injury lawyer about any offers and let them negotiate with insurance companies. You don't know what you're owed, but it's our job to know.
- Do not downplay your injuries or underreport your pain levels. Remember, your medical care providers and lawyers want to get an idea of how the pain will impact your daily life. You might've been taking it easy in recent weeks, resting and recovering, but what will your pain levels be like once you return to work? Can you still enjoy your hobbies? Can you play with your kids? Is your range of mobility different? Consider all these questions when discussing your pain and your limitations with your doctor.