Protect Yourself Straight after an Accident
Whether you’re walking through the office and slip on a wet floor or you end up in a horrific car crash on the drive home, an accident can happen at any time.
The unfortunate reality is that it doesn’t matter how careful you are — often, accidents will happen through no fault of your own. That slip at work might have been avoided if the person responsible had put down a wet floor sign or cordoned off the area, while that car accident probably wouldn’t have happened if the reckless driver who caused it wasn’t drunk behind the wheel.
But when you’re in an accident — whether at work, on the road, or anywhere else — you might be entitled to claim compensation for your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and more. However, there are several key steps you should take to protect yourself if you intend to claim compensation.
1. Document the Accident and Your Injuries
The first thing you should do after an accident of any kind is to document it. If it happens at work, this means giving your employer an account of what happened and the injuries you’ve sustained.
If you’re in an accident on the road, regardless of whether you were in a crash with a car, truck, motorcycle, or another vehicle, the police will usually be called to the scene. Here, an investigating officer will create a police accident report, documenting the crash itself, the injuries of those involved, and any witnesses on the scene. They’ll also list any contributing factors to the accident, including whether a driver was intoxicated, exhibiting road rage behavior, or speeding. This crash report can form a vital piece of evidence if you want to file a compensation claim.
If possible, you’ll also want to gather the details of any witnesses to your accident and take photographs — both of the scene and any physical injuries.
2. Seek Medical Attention
It’s also vital to see a doctor immediately after an accident. Your health should be a priority, and you should get checked out even if you feel fine and don’t have any physical injuries. Even minor injuries can worsen over time and lead to significant medical bills and substantial time off work. At this point, you may want to claim compensation, but it will be much harder for you to prove that you sustained your injuries during the accident, and the at-fault party’s insurance company will try to argue that your injuries happened later. This could result in you settling for less than your claim is worth or even derail your case entirely.
If you’re worried about seeking medical attention because you can’t afford costly bills — a very real concern for many — speak to a personal injury lawyer. If you have a claim, your attorney may be able to arrange treatment for you and postpone payment until after your claim is successfully settled.
3. Watch What You Say
At some point after your accident, you’ll likely be approached by an insurance adjuster employed by the insurance company of the person or party responsible for causing your accident. This person will want to get your side of the story, and while they may present themselves as concerned about your wellbeing, their true motive is a little more sinister. It’s the job of an insurance adjuster to gather information, which they’ll use to inform the amount they’ll offer you to settle the case. Insurance companies want to avoid court, but they also want to get away with paying as little as possible, so it’s no surprise that the majority of initial offers from an insurance company will be well below what you deserve.
They’ll also try to use anything you say against you to reduce the at-fault party’s liability. For example, if you’re in a car accident and you apologize because the other car “came out of nowhere,” an insurance adjuster may use that apology to indicate that you were partly responsible for your accident. This could significantly reduce how much you receive.
If you’re in a state with contributory negligence laws, you may be barred from claiming compensation entirely. Negligence laws vary by state, with the majority allowing you to claim compensation — albeit a lesser amount — even if you were partly responsible for your accident. Contributory negligence is the most severe, preventing you from filing a compensation claim if you are found even slightly liable for causing the accident.
It’s important to know that you are under no obligation to speak to an insurance adjuster, but if you do, be careful about what you say. Avoid apologizing or making statements such as, “I could have…” and “I should have…”.
You might also be tempted to share your experience on social media. However, insurance adjusters will dig into any updates you share, looking for statements they can use against you. This could be as simple as replying to a comment from a concerned family member or friend and downplaying your injuries. To ensure nothing you say affects your claim, avoid sharing anything related to your accident until your personal injury claim is settled.
4. Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
Your final step should be to get in touch with a personal injury lawyer. An attorney can do so much more than simply file your claim — they can also postpone payment of your medical bills until after your claim is resolved, secure credible eyewitnesses to testify about the long-term impact of your injuries, and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf so that you can focus on your recovery.
This is important, as many insurance companies will use pressure tactics to convince you to settle early to avoid potentially lengthy negotiations. You may even be tempted by these offers, but a personal injury lawyer can advise you on how much you’re entitled to and negotiate the best settlement for your situation.
When looking for a personal injury lawyer, there are two key things to bear in mind:
- Statute of limitations.
Many personal injury lawyers specialize in different areas, such as car accident injury, truck accident injury, or work injury claims. Each area of law is complex, so it’s important to find a law firm with demonstrable experience in negotiating claims of your type.
The statute of limitations is also important to consider when making a claim. Each state has an independent statute of limitations — or how long you have to make a claim. If you don’t claim within this time, you release the at-fault party of all liability and cannot claim damages for your injuries, time off work, or any other costs, even if they impact you over the long term.
If you’re in South Carolina, for example, the statute of limitations is three years. This means that if you were injured in a car crash in this state, you’d want to look for a dedicated car accident lawyer in South Carolina within three years of the date of your accident.
Being in any type of accident is devastating. Even minor accidents can upend your life, leaving you out of work and struggling to provide for your family. More severe injuries can be completely life-changing, causing permanent conditions. Whatever your circumstance, you could be entitled to compensation. No amount of money will take away the pain you might endure, but it can help relieve your financial burden. With these tips, you’ll be prepared so that you can get the payout you deserve.