No one expects to sustain life-altering injuries in a car accident. After all, driving is something many of us have done every single day for years, if not decades.
Unfortunately, an estimated 2 million drivers will sustain permanent injuries each year. Many of these drivers are the victim of someone else’s negligent behavior.
If you are a recent car accident victim, what should you do now? How can you stay focused on recovery when your livelihood is at stake and your medical debt is on the rise?
Read on for our must-do checklist for anyone who has sustained serious injuries in a car accident. We’ll walk you through every step to take, starting with handling the immediate aftermath of the car accident.
Step 1: Evaluate Your Safety and Collect Documentation
In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, your first priority is getting yourself to safety. Whether or not you believe that you have sustained serious injuries, call 911 and inform the authorities about the accident. Evaluate the condition of any passengers that may be in your vehicle and ensure that you are not in the line of traffic before getting out to collect documentation.
If possible, take photos and videos of the scene, including the accident from multiple angles and anything that could aid in recreating the accident. This can include nearby stop signs, stoplights, intersections, and road signs. Collect the information of the other drivers and witnesses involved, and avoid admitting fault.
Step 2: Seek Medical Care
If you were not transported to the emergency room in an ambulance, head to the emergency room or schedule a next-day appointment with your doctor. Many car accident victims skip this step because they do not notice the signs of serious injuries right away. The fact of the matter is that your body may go into shock as a result of trauma, which can cause injuries to go temporarily unnoticed.
Make sure that you push for full physical and neurological evaluations. Continue to seek additional medical care as directed by your doctor. Failing to get proper medical care can lead to worsening injuries and weaken your legal case against the at-fault driver.
Step 3: Hire a Car Accident Attorney
Once you are able to, consult a car accident attorney. Make sure that the attorney you hire has plenty of experience representing car accident victims in your city and is knowledgeable about state and local personal injury laws. During your consultation, explain the circumstances of your injury and ask if the attorney believes that you have grounds to file a claim.
We always recommend consulting and hiring a car accident attorney before proceeding with the claims process. Once you file your claim, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is guaranteed to build a strong defense team. You are going to want to have your own legal representation to level the playing field and prevent you from making critical mistakes when interacting with the defense.
Remember, the clock is ticking. In California, the statute of limitations for car accident claims is two years from the time of the accident or one year from the time that you become aware of the related injuries.
Step 4: Compile the Evidence
Once you have a car accident attorney, you can proceed with filing your car accident claim. This claim will outline the circumstances and conditions that warrant compensation. By filing the claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you open the door to the discovery process.
During the discovery process, you will need to compile and share evidence that demonstrates the following:
- the at-fault driver’s negligence that caused the car accident
- the injuries and other damages you sustained as a result of the car accident
- the financial burden you are now facing because of the injuries and damages you sustained
A good car accident attorney will walk you through this entire process. You will gather documents such as the police report, relevant medical records and bills, paystubs, witness statements, and car repair estimates. Consult your lawyer before handing over any of this evidence to the defense or answering their requests for further evidence.
Step 5: Navigate Negotiations to Reach a Settlement
For most car accident victims, this is the final step. Once the discovery phase is complete and all parties have submitted evidence to support their claims, it’s time to talk numbers. An experienced and reliable car accident attorney will help you to quantify your damages in dollars and put forth your request for compensation.
Remember, the defense team is not operating in your best interest. They will likely offer you a lowball figure in exchange for an early settlement. They may appeal to your growing debt or looming medical bills to convince you to settle as soon as possible.
If the settlement isn’t fair and the evidence is in your favor, they’ll negotiate for a better offer and offer their guidance on when to settle.
Can’t Settle? Take Your Claim to Court
The vast majority of car accident claims are settled outside of court. In rare cases, however, you may find that you will need to bring your claim to the courtroom. If you’re heading to court, make sure that you’re going with a lawyer that you trust.
Once a car accident claim goes to court, only the judge can decide on the settlement amount. It is often in everyone’s best interest to avoid this outcome, but it may become necessary if the defense team won’t offer what you deserve.
If You Are a Car Accident Victim, Fontana Injury Law Group Is Here to Help
No one expects to have their life turned upside-down by a serious car accident. When it happens, you may not know what to do next. We hope that our guide will aid you in the process of navigating a tough and traumatic situation.
If you’re a car accident victim in Fontana, contact us today for a free consultation. We’re here to fight for you.