After an accident, you’ll be confronted with important questions
The personal injury lawyers at Wendt Law Firm P.C. have the answers.
In the days and weeks following an accident, victims can be inundated with questions from insurance companies, law enforcement, employers, and opposing lawyers. Make sure you have the information and representation to protect yourself and your case.
The first thing you must do if you are involved in an automobile accident is stop. Accidents happen to even the most careful of drivers, but no one can ever have a valid excuse for failing to stop after an accident. In most states hit and run offenses are felonies, with increased penalties if someone has been injured in the accident.
Yes. If the person is seriously injured, do not attempt to move him or her unless it is absolutely necessary to protect him or her from further injury. Get someone to call the police or 911 if an ambulance is needed. Do what you can to make the injured person comfortable until paramedics or the police arrive.
You and the other driver(s) must exchange information. You will want the other driver’s name, address, phone numbers, driver’s license number, insurance carrier, policy number, agent, and a phone number for the agent. You will be expected to provide the same information to the other driver(s).
Before the witnesses leave you should obtain their names, addresses, and telephone numbers. You should record where the witness was when the accident occurred and if possible a short statement of what the witness observed.
Do not admit fault for the accident to anyone. Do not tell anyone how much insurance you carry. Do not sign anything. (You will have to sign the citation if you are issued a traffic ticket by the investigating officer. This signature is not an admission of guilt; you are merely acknowledging that you received the ticket.)
For any injury, no matter how slight you think it might be, you need to have a qualified medical examination. The examination will help you get the medical assistance you need as soon as possible.
There are many injuries in an automobile accident that are not apparent at the time of the accident. It is a good idea to get a medical examination after an accident to be sure that you have not suffered an injury that will not manifest itself until some time in the future, and then you wonder why all of a sudden your back hurts or your can’t move your neck.
The person who caused the accident, or his or her insurance company, is responsible for paying for your treatment. Your insurance carrier will also be involved in paying your medical claims in some cases. That is why it is important to identify any medical problems caused by the accident as soon as possible.
No. You can use your own doctor. No one can tell you when doctor you have to use.
You need to keep a daily log of your medical condition. List each day any symptoms you have. Include descriptions of the pain you feel and any restrictions on your normal activities. You also need to keep a record of your trips to see the doctor or anyone else he or she sends you to see. Keep track of the mileage and the time it takes and any money you have to spend because of the trips.
Keep a record of the time you miss from work, even if you are still get paid because you use sick time or vacation. Keep track of the amount of money you lose by not being able to work. All this time you cannot work has to be paid for by the person who caused the accident.
Talk with your attorneys about the bills. He or she can negotiate to have them paid by the insurance company directly or, in other cases, postponed until after your case has been resolved. Don’t let the bills worry you.
No matter what kind of accident you have been involved in, you should get a competent legal opinion on your rights and responsibilities that were affected by the accident. Legal rights are affected by any accident and it is in your best interests to have a knowledgeable attorney review the facts of your case before deciding what course of action to pursue. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and tell you what to expect. The attorney can recommend appropriate medical treatment, negotiate a replacement automobile, negotiate to have your automobile repaired, and negotiate a fair and full settlement with the insurance company that takes into account all of your damages, including your pain and suffering. And you can find out all this in an initial, no-cost, no-obligation consultation.
The other option to you is to attempt to negotiate for yourself. Against the battery of lawyers and claims adjusters employed by the insurance company. Who get paid, praised and promoted for keeping their side’s cost down. Who know the business, know what to look for that might be hidden, waiting to be discovered only after the settlement check has been cashed and your rights to a full and fair compensation for your injuries, to yourself and your car, irretrievably thrown away.
Using an experienced attorney can actually increase the amount of money you will be paid to compensate you for the accident, so that even after the attorney’s fee is paid you will have more money in your pocket than if you attempted to represent yourself. An experienced trial attorney knows what you are entitled to receive as compensation. He or she knows all that you should receive to put you back in the position you were in immediately before the accident, and the insurance companies know this. Having an experience trial attorney on your side, representing only you, tells the insurance company that you are serious about protecting your rights. They know better than to try a low-ball offer, misrepresent their obligations or tell you that you have to take whatever they offer. Peace of mind from knowing your interests are being protected allows you to get back to your life with as few delays as possible and with a settlement that fairly compensates you for the accident.
A contingency fee has been called the poor man’s key to the courthouse. You agree to pay a percentage of the amount the attorney obtains for you in exchange for the legal representation and expertise of the attorney. This fee is paid from the proceeds of the settlement, so you do not have to pay any money out of your own pocket to get aggressive protection of your rights. If there is no recovery, there is no fee.
Sometimes a lawsuit is the only option when the insurance company offers an unfair settlement amount. It is then necessary to sue to protect your rights to full and fair compensation. An experienced trial attorney can calculate the value of your case so you will know whether the offer from the insurance company is adequate or not.
Your attorney can advise you but it is your claim and your injury so you have to make a final decision of whether to settle or go to trial. Your attorney’s experience can guide you in making you decision. He or she knows the chances of success at trial and how far below a full and adequate settlement the insurance offer is.
You are entitled to ‘be made whole,’ which is legal language for your right to be put back in the same position after the settlement as you were in immediately before the accident. Some of the process of making you whole is easily calculated and other aspects are more difficult.
You are entitled to be fully compensated for your injuries. The amount necessary to compensate you fully obviously causes the most problems in arriving at a settlement figure acceptable to both sides. There is usually little argument over the compensation for the time missed from work and lost wages, doctor and hospital bills, rehabilitations costs, transportation to and from the doctor and therapists. You will have receipts for these expenses. The controversy arises when you attempt to put a dollar value on the more intangible injuries you have suffered, such as loss of consortium, loss of sexual capacity or desire, emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of future earning and loss of future enjoyment of life.
Finding an acceptable amount for your pain and suffering requires experience with many similar cases. Pain and suffering awards are necessarily subjective and usually are based on similar cases, so the attorney’s knowledge of the community and insurance companies is most important here.
If you have been seriously injured, you may not be able to resume the same type of work you did previously or be able to work as hard or as long. Since your decreased ability to work was the result of the accident, the person who caused the accident should compensate you for your loss in earning potential. In the same way you have a right to be compensated for any decrease in your ability to enjoy the things you did before the accident that are now not possible for you (loss of future enjoyment of life).
Insurance companies count on you knowing the true value of your claim. They try to tell you what it is worth and settle with you before an experienced attorney reviews the facts of the case. Your attorney knows how much money will be necessary to fully compensate you for your injuries and the insurance companies know that. Talk with your attorney so that you will know how much is fair in your case.