Accidents, by definition, can happen anytime, any place, and to anyone. Sometimes, these accidents are unavoidable. However, when you suffer an accident due to the fault of another, it would be fundamentally unfair for you to bear the costs of that accident. In addition to medical bills, you might pay for damage to your property. If you miss work, you might lose wages. You might even need to seek out mental health treatment for the emotional toll that the accident and its aftermath caused.
Fortunately, there are several theories that the best accident lawyers can use to ensure that the responsible party compensates you for your losses. Here are some suggestions for steps to take after an accident from seeking medical attention to looking for the best accident lawyers for your case.
Immediately After the Accident
After an injury, you should first secure the scene to prevent any further injuries. For example, at the site of a car accident, you should make sure the cars are off the active roadway or mark the disabled cars with flares. This will warn other cars away from the accident scene so that no further injuries occur.
Similarly, in a slip-and-fall accident, you will need to warn others away from the hazard to both protect the injured person from further injury but also reduce the chances of additional people slipping.
You should seek immediate medical assistance for anyone who requires it for a few reasons:
- Treat injuries: Whether the accident victim is bleeding or has broken bones, quick treatment might be needed to obtain the best medical outcome.
- Avoid worsening injuries: Some injuries can worsen the longer they go untreated. For example, a broken neck or back could result in paralysis if the accident victim is not immediately stabilized.
- Detect hidden injuries: Some injuries, like soft tissue damage and traumatic brain injury, might not be apparent until examined by a medical professional.
- Document injuries: When accident lawyers file insurance claims or lawsuits against the business or person responsible for the accident, they need evidence of the existence and severity of the injuries you suffered. The best accident lawyers know that if you are examined immediately after the accident, your evidence may have more credibility than if you wait before being examined.
Document the Accident
Once any medical issues have been addressed, you should consider how to gather all the information you might need for your insurance claim and lawsuit, in the event you need to hire a personal injury attorney.
The kinds of evidence the best accident lawyers can use to prove your claim include:
- Photos of the accident: Photos of the accident can help accident experts reconstruct what happened. For example, the skid marks and final locations of the vehicles can tell an accident expert how fast the cars were going before the accident and how they collided.
- Witness statements: Video statements taken with the video camera on your cell phone can get the facts about the accident before any of the witnesses have a chance to massage their stories. Moreover, you can document who was there and who might have relevant information about the accident in case you need witnesses in court.
- Photos of the injuries: As discussed above, the nature and extent of your injuries might be a key issue in your case. The insurance company could assert that your injuries were not the result of the accident or that you are exaggerating the extent of your injuries. Photos of your injuries can help rebut that assertion.
- Insurance information: You always want to exchange insurance information with everyone involved in the accident whether it is a slip and fall or a road accident. Your accident attorney will need this information to begin your claim.
- Police reports: For some accidents, a police report might be excellent evidence of what happened for the best accident lawyers. Any road accident that involves injuries, whether it involves a bicycle, truck, or automobile, can be reported to the police in most cities in the U.S.
Get Medical Treatment
The best accident lawyers will tell you that medical treatment is critical to your personal injury case. You will be compensated for your medical costs if you win or settle your case. If you do not have health insurance, your compensation will include your out of pocket medical costs. If you have insurance, you will be reimbursed for any co-pays or deductibles. Typically, any medical compensation above your co-pays or deductibles will be used to reimburse your health insurer.
Medical treatment can also help to prove the validity of your injury claims. Insurance attorneys will often make extreme arguments to try to avoid paying out accident claims. Some examples include:
- Asserting that you are faking your injuries.
- Claiming that your injuries were not caused by your accident.
- Suggesting that your injuries are not as serious as you claim.
Receiving medical treatment for your injuries can provide your accident attorney with the ammunition to counter these arguments. For example, if you strained your shoulder after falling in a grocery store, a slip and fall accident lawyer can use the records from your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist to prove the existence and extent of your injuries.
Medical records can also provide the best accident lawyers with a basis for claiming consequential damages like lost wages and pain and suffering. Without medical records, any missed work would go unexplained and might be rejected by an insurance company or a jury. Likewise, without a diagnosis and treatment, an insurance adjuster or jury would have to speculate about whether you actually suffered any pain or emotional effects after your accident.
Report Your Injury to Your Employer
If you were injured at work, you will need to report your injury to your employer to receive workers compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation insurance is required for employers in most states. This insurance policy pays the medical bills and, in many cases, at least partial lost wages, for workers who suffer on-the-job injuries.
Since the employer is the insured entity on a worker’s compensation policy, the employer must report the injury to begin the claim process in most states. Specifically, the injured worker reports the injury to the employer, and the employer is required to notify its workers’ compensation insurer regardless of how the employee was injured.
This is referred to as a no-fault system because the employee is entitled to compensation whether the employee was negligent, the employer was negligent, or the accident was unavoidable. This is important because human error is responsible for up to 90% of workplace accidents. However, since workers compensation laws require that workers be compensated for all on-the-job injuries, they also bar workers from suing their employers.
If you delay the reporting of an on-the-job accident, you might jeopardize your workers compensation. Specifically, while some delay can be excused under the workers compensation laws, delaying too long can create uncertainty surrounding how you were injured and what injuries you suffered.
Even if you were not injured on the job, you may still benefit from telling your employer about your injuries. The reason is that if you need to miss work due to your injuries, you want to be able to document your lost wages.
Find a Lawyer
Most people have no idea where to start looking for the best accident lawyers.
A few sources where you might search include:
- Directories: Many legal organizations provide lawyer directories. The advantage of these directories is that they are often organized by practice area. This ensures that you call a personal injury lawyer rather than a criminal attorney.
- Referral services: Your state bar association might run a lawyer referral service to point you to a personal injury lawyer.
- “Best of” lists: Legal publications give awards to lawyers based on client ratings and reputation in the legal community. A list of the best accident lawyers in your area can often be found this way.
- Online searches: Like most service providers, you can find lawyers using your favorite search engine. The advantage of this source is that you can find very specific practice areas, like bicycle accident attorneys.
Choose a Lawyer
Instead of hiring the first lawyer you talk to, you might want to talk to a few different lawyers so you can get different viewpoints about your case. Moreover, different lawyers often have different approaches to cases. Talking to a few lawyers allows you to pick a lawyer with a strategy that fits your goals.
Other considerations when choosing a lawyer include:
- Cost: Most auto accident attorneys and other personal injury lawyers work for a contingent fee. This means that the lawyer deducts fees from your settlement or damages award. As a result, you are usually not required to pay upfront or an hourly fee for the lawyer’s work. Rather, you will only pay after your win or settle your case. However, the amount of the fee will vary, so you might want to shop around to determine your options.
- Experience: You will want to find a lawyer with experience in your desired field. For example, if your accident involved a semi-truck, you might want to seek out a truck accident attorney who has experience dealing with trucking companies and their insurance companies.
- Case load: Although you do not want to be a lawyer’s only client, you also do not want a lawyer who is too busy to speak to you on the phone. An overloaded lawyer will spend less time on your case than a lawyer with a reasonable caseload.
- Staff: Most of your interaction with the lawyer’s firm will be with the legal staff. The staff will keep your documents organized and track deadlines in your case.
- Network: Personal injury lawyers usually have a network of medical providers, auto garages, and even lenders who can help you through the after-effects of your accident. This network can be very helpful since they are familiar with the common workplace injuries and other accident injuries that personal injury cases involve.
- Communication: You need to be able to communicate with your lawyer to obtain the best possible outcome for your case. You should pick a lawyer who you get along with and “gets” what you talk about.
Work With Your Lawyer
After you hire a lawyer, you will sit down with the lawyer and map out your strategy for the case. While some cases, like auto accidents, are fairly routine, other cases might be more unusual and will require some creativity on the part of the lawyer.
For example, if your injuries were the result of a criminal act, like domestic violence or sexual assault, your personal injury lawyer might need to take the stages of the criminal prosecution into account in your civil lawsuit. When your attacker posts a bail bond and is released from jail, your personal injury lawyer can serve the lawsuit on the attacker and even provide advice on how to obtain a protective order against your attacker.
In almost every personal injury case, your lawyer will need to negotiate with an insurer. For example:
- Auto accident: When you are involved in an auto accident that was not your fault, most states place the responsibility for your medical bills and other damages on the insurance company for the at-fault driver. A few states use a no-fault insurance system where your insurance company always pays for your damages. In either case, your lawyer will deal with an insurer to obtain your compensation.
- Slip and fall accident: If you slip and fall on someone else’s property and the property owner is at fault, their property insurance will be responsible for compensating you. For example, if you slip and fall at a private home, your lawyer would file a claim against the homeowner’s home insurance policy.
- Customer accident: When a customer is injured in an accident at a business due to the business’s negligence, the business’s general liability policy is responsible for paying the claim.
- Workplace injury: Workers injured while on the job are covered by the employer’s workers compensation insurance policy.
- Dog bites or other animal attacks: One unusual case arises when you are injured by another’s domestic pet. Regardless of where the attack occurs, dog bites are usually covered by the pet owner’s home insurance policy. For example, if a jogger’s dog bites you in the park, your lawyer would file a claim against the jogger’s homeowner’s insurance policy.
Dealing with insurance companies can be frustrating for injured people. However, the best accident lawyers usually develop ways to deal with insurance bureaucracies. As a result, injured people who hire a lawyer receive a settlement over 90% of the time. By contrast, injured people who deal directly with the insurance company only receive a settlement about half of the time. This difference makes hiring the best accident lawyers well worth it in most cases.
Dealing with an accident and its after-effects can be difficult for almost everyone. Just remember to stay calm and secure the accident site quickly after the accident. Document the accident scene after everyone who needs medical assistance has been helped. Seek medical treatment for any injuries you receive so your medical records contain a full account of what happened. Notify your employer so you have records of your lost wages. Finally, find and talk to the best accident lawyers to determine how they can help your case.