After an Auto Accident, Don’t Cause Yourself More Harm
8 Simple Rules for Handling a Personal Injury Case
By: Frederick S. Long, Esq.
First and foremost, seek the necessary medical treatment in a timely manner. Your safety comes first. Do not ignore signs and symptoms of an injury. Don’t downplay your pain, or your injuries. You may not need emergency treatment. It is advisable, however, to see your regular treating physician for a check-up following a motor vehicle accident. It is important for an insurance adjuster, or a jury, to see that you took this accident seriously, since you are asking them to do the same.
(1) Take Photographs. Photograph the scene, the damage caused, and your injuries. A photographic image captures the true nature of a moment, where words may fall short. The term “a picture is worth a thousand words” is absolutely true. We trust photographs. The more one is called upon to rely on human recollection, the less credence is given.
(2) Document the Incident. Write down everything that you remember about the incident. Include dates, times, weather conditions, names of witnesses and responding emergency personnel. Did the person at fault make a statement to you? Write it down. Write down all that you remember, even after the fact. Our ability to recall details declines as time passes, so do not delay.
(3) Contact the Police. Police officers will make an independent record of the accident. This record will often include the responding officer’s opinion concerning who is at fault. The record may also include a diagram of how the incident occurred. These records will make it more difficult to dispute fault and liability.
(4) Keep Everything. Keep everything you have pertaining to the accident in a safe place. I recommend starting an organized file with all of your information so that you may easily share with your insurer or your attorney. This includes receipts from out of pocket expenses, information from insurance providers, notes, photographs, medical discharge summaries – EVERYTHING.
(5) Document Treatment. Keep a record of all of your doctor visits. Note the names of attending physicians, and the names of the medical treatment facilities. I recommend keeping a journal of your medical treatment. We often forget our feelings and emotions as time passes, and we forget the severity of our limitations. A well-documented journal will help your case tremendously. It is as simple as this:
2/20/14 Doctor Smith, LCA Medical Providers. Neck pain and stiffness. Difficulty sleeping.
(6) Be Truthful with Medical Providers. You should not exaggerate your injuries; nor should you withhold medical history. This will detract from you recovery, and it will hurt your case. Insurance adjusters and opposing attorneys will have an opportunity to review your medical records, even from before the accident. If you had a preexisting injury that was aggravated, be sure to explain that to your treating doctor. Imagine the following scenario: The Doctor treating you writes his opinion that your neck injury was caused by the accident. When questioned about this opinion, the opposing attorney asks whether this doctor is aware that you injured your neck two years ago in a bicycle accident. The doctor says “no, the patient never said anything about that.”
(7) Be Truthful with Medical Providers. This is not a typo. It works the other way, too. Don’t downplay your injuries – particularly emotional injuries. If you are suffering from emotional trauma, i.e. depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress, etc., it is extremely important that you discuss this with your doctor. These serious concerns can be as detrimental to your health as broken bones, or bruises.
(8) Keep a Record of the Impact on Your Life. Did you back out of the annual summer vacation because of your injury? Do you no longer take your scheduled daily walk around the neighborhood? Is it difficult for you to care for family members? Are you unable to enjoy your favorite hobbies? Did you have to hire a landscaper, where you would have otherwise done the work on your own? These are all extremely important details that must be explained to your attorney.
The tips above are provided with one simple idea in mind; be proactive.