In a separate FAQ , we already covered the steps to take at the scene of a car accident: basic things like getting the other driver’s information, talking to witnesses, and taking photographs of the accident. These steps are important, but they don’t address what to do in the hours, days and weeks after the accident. Your actions during this time period matter, and they can affect both your health outcomes and your chance of recovering money for your accident.
The “Do” List
These are the most important steps you can take after your accident:
- See a doctor (even if you don’t think you need to). If you weren’t taken directly to the emergency room from the accident scene, you should make a point of going to a doctor. A good choice in these circumstances is to go straight to an urgent care clinic that accepts walk-in appointments; this will allow you to get immediate treatment for conditions that may be more serious than they appear. You may not realize you have a concussion, for example, and it can be dangerous if left untreated. Similarly, if you already have early signs of whiplash, there’s likely to be much more pain tomorrow than there is today. The doctor can help keep it to a minimum.
Even if you don’t go straight to an urgent care clinic, at least schedule an appointment with your normal physician. Take the earliest appointment available.
- Write down what happened. Get a notebook or open up a document on your computer and write out the entire accident—from what you were doing moments before to what happened at the scene afterward. The more details, the better. Include the speed you were traveling, the time of day, how long it took police to respond, etc. Then, write about any pain you have, or any injuries. Chronicle them in as much detail as possible, including the doctor(s) you saw, when, and what they said. The more details you can record—now, while it’s fresh in your memory—the better.
- Talk to a lawyer who offers a free session. Many accident victims avoid seeing a lawyer because they worry about cost. But there should be no cost at all to speak to a lawyer about your accident. Dedicated car accident lawyers understand that making legal help accessible is the best way to help the most people. That’s why some lawyers offer a free consultation. This consultation is approximately a one-hour session where you meet with the lawyer at your home, their office, or anywhere else convenient. By the end of this session your lawyer can give you a clear answer about how strong your case is and some recommended next steps. This is probably the single most important non-medical step you can take.
- If necessary, see a specialist about your injuries. Once you have an idea of what (if any) injuries you have, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with a doctor who specializes in that kind of medicine—preferably one who routinely works with recovering accident victims. This is because general practitioners often lack the knowledge to see early signs of complications, or give an overly optimistic prognosis. For example, imagine your physician told you that all you need to do for your whiplash is take ibuprofen for several weeks and it will be better. You go ahead and accept an insurance payment that covers the doctor visit and your car repairs, but nothing more. Later, it turns out that your whiplash goes on for months, develops into migraines, and requires physical therapy—which you now have to pay out of pocket. A specialist may anticipated these complications from the start.
The “Do Not” List
The actions you don’t take are often as important as those that you do take. Here is our short list of “do nots”:
- Do not tell people you’re “fine.” It’s easy to talk down your injuries or try to put on a strong face for coworkers, loved ones, even witnesses at the accident scene. But the insurance company will find a way to use these words against you. Take your injury seriously from the start.
- Do not disregard your doctor’s orders. It’s hard to make a case for your injury claim if you put off going to the doctor, skip a followup appointment, or attempt physical work when you were told not to.
- Do not sign anything the insurance company sends you—even a check. Accepting money or signing anything could mean giving up your right to much more. Talk to a lawyer before you sign anything.
- Do not put off dealing with your claim. It’s easy to procrastinate all the steps above. Doctor visits, lawyer consultations and paperwork all take time. But these steps are important. An accident victim who seeks immediate treatment and legal help has a much stronger case than one who waited months before reporting that they were injured. And, if you wait too long, you could miss the legal deadlines to file a claim altogether.
The point of all of these do’s and do-not’s is to take care of yourself. Every point on the list is designed to help you be your own best advocate, getting the care you need while documenting why you need it. This results in a strong claim that can easily turn into a financial recovery—which could make a vital difference when medical bills show up, or when you deal with the financial fallout of missed work time.
Have you been injured? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.