You’ve just been involved in a motor vehicle accident, caused by the carelessness or negligence of another person. You’ll have the right to file a lawsuit to recover for any physical injuries, as well as property damage. What steps should you take to ensure that your rights are fully protected?
The most important thing, in the immediate aftermath of a car accident, is to ensure that you get the care you need as soon as possible. First, the sooner you get care, the better your chances of a full recovery. But it’s also important to protect your legal rights. If your injuries seem minor and you wait a few days or a week, you may be providing ammunition for a defense attorney to argue that your injuries were not that serious, or that your injuries were caused by some intervening event.
If you don’t think you can move under your own power, don’t try to move. This isn’t the time to be strong or be a hero—it’s the time to take every precaution to minimize risk of further injury. Wait until emergency medical technicians arrive and let them do their job. If they believe you need to go to the hospital in an ambulance, let them take you there. When you are treated, be sure to advise doctors and nurses of any pain, discomfort or trauma you experienced. Don’t ignore the minor discomfort in your neck or back because of your broken leg. The back or neck trauma may cause you more problems in the long run. Also, ask that everything be documented in writing.
If you are able to, try to get contact information from the other driver and from all witnesses. This includes name, address, phone number, e-mail address and auto insurance provider (for any other drivers involved in the accident). In addition, take pictures of everything, from the damage to all vehicles to any injuries sustained, from the weather conditions to any defects in the roadway—potholes, loose gravel, missing or damages road signs. The phone on your camera is sufficient.
The sooner you retain legal counsel, the better chance you’ll have of fully protecting your rights. You may need legal counsel to ensure that your own insurance company honors its agreement. You’ll definitely want a lawyer to represent you in any dealings with other parties to the accident.