What You Should Do Immediately Following an Accident
After the dust has settled, the wrecker has towed away your car, and the initial shock of the situation has subsided you will inevitably ask yourself – what do I do now? Here are some tips and suggestions for what to do in those precious moments following the accident:
1. Make sure you are physically ok. Many people physically feel fine at the scene of the accident and it is only hours or days later that the true physical effects of the accident are felt. Muscle pain and soreness are felt hours and sometimes days later. Don’t assume that this will go away on its own. Seek medical treatment immediately – call you doctor or, if needed, go to the emergency room. This serves a couple of purposes. First, and most importantly, you get medical treatment for the injuries that will, hopefully, result in your healing as quickly as possible. Two, it documents the injuries for any claim that you decide to make later.
2. Call your car insurer. Even if the accident is not your fault you should notify your car insurance company immediately. If the person who caused the accident does not have good insurance with significant coverage then you could be foreclosed from making a claim under you uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage if you don’t notify your insurance company of the accident in a timely manner.
3. Use insurance to pay for the medical treatment. I talk to so many people who say “this accident wasn’t my fault, why should my insurance company have to pay for it?” The bottom line is that settling these cases can take years and medical providers are not going to wait that long to get paid. This can result in accounts going to collections and your credit being ruined. In addition, your medical insurance company will get the money back that they pay out when you settle your case.
Your medical insurer will send you a letter telling you that they understand that they are paying for injuries caused by someone else and want to be reimbursed out of your settlement. Any settlement you get, if you have an experienced personal injury lawyer, will include full reimbursement for all medical expenses, not just the amounts you pay out of pocket.
4. Don’t settle the case too early. There is no way you can settle your case with the insurance company until you are fully healed. Insurance companies will not partially settle a case and give you some money to keep going while waiting for you to finish healing – they just don’t work that way. Patience is a virtue and a requirement in this process. Settling the case before you are completely healed means that you could be selling the case short.
5. You may want to get your car appraised after it is fixed. If your car is worth less after it is repaired than it was prior to the accident you may be able to get compensation for this loss in value. We all know that a car that is in an accident is worth less than one that has never been in an accident. If you can show through appraisals that your car lost value because of the accident the insurance company will add that into the claim and compensate you for that loss. You should speak to the mechanic or auto body shop about getting an appraisal after your car is repaired – many have certified appraisers, or know a certified appraiser, who can assist with this part of the process.
6. Call a lawyer. Even if you do not know if you need a lawyer call one. They will be able to answer your questions and help you figure out if you need legal representation. The lawyer may see things about the case that you haven’t thought about. Finally, a lawyer can take the pressure off of you and let you focus on healing by fielding all of the phone calls and paperwork required by the insurance company.
For a free consultation to discuss your unique case and circumstances, call me, Attorney Sarah Churchill at 207-879-4000 or visit me at 1250 Forest Avenue, Portland, Maine 04103.
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