Attorney Matt Jett
What to do After You Are Hurt in a Car Accident
A car accident is never expected, so it is no surprise most people are unaware of what they should be doing to ensure they are not taken advantage of after the crash. Injuries from car crashes are one of the most common types of cases that my firm handles. From my experience in dealing with St. Louis car crash cases every day, here are some tips to help make sure you are not taken advantage of if you find yourself in the unfortunate place of being injured after a crash:
1. Never make a statement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company without first consulting with a personal injury lawyer.
- If an insurance company is contacting someone in the days or weeks following a crash, often times they push very hard to get the victim to make a statement about the crash. Adjusters use these statements to weaken a potential injury claim that the insurance company knows it will ultimately be defending when it comes time for them to do the right thing and pay up.
- Adjusters are trained to ask specific questions to weaken your case! They may ask questions that are specifically crafted and designed to elicit a response from you that will hurt your case.
- Insurance companies know you will probably end up hiring a lawyer down the road; but while you are not represented, they take full advantage as an opportunity to discredit you and what you are going through.
2. Get to the doctor as soon as injury symptoms develop
- A delay in onset of injury symptoms is extremely common after a car crash. There are scientifically proven reasons for this, but a delay in getting treatment is one of the insurance company’s favorite weapons to use against you in your case.
- If you try to wait it out and see if you get better on your own this causes some pretty big problems in your case. The longer you wait to get care, the more uncertainty there is in drawing a medical conclusion that your injury began from the impact of the crash. This is called the “mechanism of injury.” It is paramount to tie the crash to your injury or your claim could be denied, and you could be left on your own to deal with the consequences.
- The best way to ensure that your injury is properly documented is to get to the doctor as soon as you begin to feel any symptoms. Your treatment records will become one of the most important pieces of evidence that your injury was a result of the crash. Likewise, a lack of treatment records provides an opportunity for an insurance company to discredit whether the crash caused you to be hurt.
3. Follow up with your doctor’s treatment plan
- Insurance companies will discredit your injury case if you are not compliant with your treatment provider’s instructions after being diagnosed with the injury.
- Things like missing follow-up appointments give the insurance an opportunity to place doubt in the severity of your injury. Insurance companies claim that an injury victim’s injuries are less severe when there are missed appointments or if the injured person doesn’t follow through with all of the recommended care from the doctor.
4. Follow up with any specialist your doctor refers to treat your injury
- If you doctor recommends you obtain treatment from another type of doctor or treatment provider, you should follow their instruction. Often times, one specific type of doctor will not be able to treat all of the symptoms of an injury as effectively as a team. For instance, your doctor may recommend you complete physical therapy, or go have an MRI performed. In these scenarios it is very important for an injury case that you follow through with the referrals, not only for your recovery but also for your case.
5. Never agree to a settlement with an insurance company BEFORE you have finished getting medical treatment
*unless you are represented and have discussed this with your attorney prior to entering settlement.
- You cannot settle more than one time with the other driver’s insurance. Once it is done, you are locked into that deal, no matter how bad or unfair it ends up being for you.
- Any settlement prior to finishing treatment puts you at a major disadvantage in actually getting your medical bills paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance. The agreements typically call for the insurance company to pay accepted medical expenses, but never define with any certainty what they actually will pay.
- What if your case ends up becoming more severe than you thought it would when you settled? What if the insurance company refuses to agree that the treatment you needed was actually necessary?
- I cannot stress enough how bad these agreements can be to enter without representation. Always beware when dealing with a company that has economic interest in giving you a bad deal.
For the average person, it is a very rare occurrence to be injured in a car crash. Having some knowledge about what to do goes a long way toward ensuring you get the best recovery possible. Not only in the sense of your physical recovery; but also the financial recovery you are entitled to receive from any insurance company. The best thing you can do for your case is to consult with a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in helping injury victims. An injury lawyer should know what the insurance company is up to and be able to assist you in making decisions that will put you in the best position for your case.