Make Sure Nobody Is Injured

Your immediate priority should be to ensure nobody involved in the accident is hurt.

Go To The Doctor If You Are Hurt

One of the worst mistakes you can make is to not obtain medical treatment if you are really hurt. Insurance companies use that to make it sound like you “decided” to be hurt later. We all know that’s not true, but the reality is gaps in treatment can hurt your personal injury claim if you end up having one.

Don’t Act Crazy

After you’ve determined everyone is okay, then you should maintain your composure at the scene. The officers might be called to testify one day and you want them to have positive memories of you–or no memories at all.

Stay Out Of Traffic & Get Info

If possible, you should move the vehicles, so you are not blocking traffic. Take as many pictures as possible from all different perspectives prior to moving the cars. Sometimes this isn’t feasible; you don’t want to cause another accident or other injuries because you’re trying to take pictures. Use good sense.

Take a picture of the other driver’s license and proof of insurance. The police will gather this information, but it won’t be available for a few days. The officers will allow you to take a picture of everything, if you’re calm and collected.

Do Not Admit Fault

Stay calm when giving your statement to police. Don’t make any admissions of guilt or that you did anything wrong (even if you did). You can say you are sorry that an accident happened, and be caring and concerned without admitting guilt.

Say as little as possible in your interactions with the other involved parties and with the police, particularly if you are at fault. You cannot leave the scene, but you don’t have to chat up the officers either.

Did You Get A Ticket?

Just because the police officer issues a citation, that does not mean you were at fault or won’t recover for your damages. The officers don’t know what happened. The police will draw a sketch of the scene and make determinations regarding ticketing and fault, but that is not 100% binding on the insurance company. Even if it is your fault, depending on your insurance, you may still have coverage.

After The Accident

You must decide if your car is driveable, or if it needs to be towed. You can have it repaired at your choice of shop. You could go without a car for a few days until the police report is finished, then see if the other driver had insurance, or you could make a claim on your insurance policy to get a rental car immediately if you have coverage for a rental car. If you don’t, this won’t be an option. When the accident is someone else’s fault, that company must provide for you a rental car comparable to what you were driving in the accident.

Then, get your car repaired, and be choosy.

Now It’s Finished, Right?

Not so fast. Anytime a car is in a wreck, its value is reduced. The wreck is on its record, attached to its VIN, and if you went to trade it in or sell it, the wreck would pop up. That diminished value is also part of your property claim, and they have to pay you for it. The industry standard is roughly 1/3 of the cost of the repairs.

Will You Need A Lawyer For Your Property Damage Claim?

There are two kinds of claims related to a car accident – property damage (repair and diminution claims and personal injury claim (medical bills, lost work, pain and suffering, etc).

If you are not hurt and the only claim is property damage, you don’t need a lawyer! In fact, no lawyer worth his or her salt would take your case. You will have to handle your property damage and diminution in value claims yourself. You can do it!

The most you will ever get is exactly how much it costs to repair the car (or the value if it’s totaled) and your diminution amount. If a lawyer handles the claim, we take a percentage of the amount recovered. Let’s say your car is totaled and it has a value of $10,000, even with a reduced fee of 25% for property damage (versus a higher percentage on personal injury), and you only get $7500 which is not enough to repair your car. A lawyer can really do you no good on a property claim.

What If You Are Injured In The Wreck?

Let’s say you wake up the next day with throbbing pain in your neck and upper back. What we are dealing with is what is called “soft tissue injuries”, the opposite of obvious injuries like a broken leg or bleeding wound (which would’ve required immediate medical attention). Soft tissue injuries are harder to prove. Insurance companies are leery of soft tissue injuries and take the position if we can’t prove it, then there is no injury.

Proof Of Injury

In our legal system it is the burden of the person bringing the claim (you) to prove the liability and damages of the claim. If you can’t prove you are hurt, then you can’t win your claim. The truth does not matter; what matters is what a jury would believe at the end of the trial. This is why consistent and immediate treatment is critical.

Commonly, after an accident, your body may be in shock. So, you won’t think you’re hurt. The next day is frequently when pain starts. If you are hurt and you do go to the doctor, you must follow your doctor’s orders, fill all your prescriptions and take them as prescribed. If you’re referred to specialists, go. Maintain records for missed work and why you missed. The insurance company will use anything, such as your refusal to follow directions or take medicines as prescribed, as an excuse to lower your claim value. The insurance company, like any corporation, is going to protect its shareholders and bottom line.

If you are told not to ride a bicycle or lift weight over 10 pounds and you do anyway, which worsens your medical condition, the insurance company will argue that’s your fault and they should not have to pay.

The crux of any personal injury claim is always the medical records. You must be clear and consistent in your treatment and with your doctors. Anything you say will be included in your chart; you should tell the doctor about everything, all your symptoms, and do everything your doctor tells you to do.

Your Phone Will Ring

As soon as the police report is available, you will be inundated with calls from physical therapists and chiropractors. Unlike lawyers, who are not allowed to call car wreck victims, there is no law or rule that prevents medical professionals to call you. You could receive at least 10 calls the day the police report is released. They will lie to you to get your business, because your injury is worth money to health care sharks.

Arkansas law requires that all insurance policies provide “med pay” coverage unless it is specifically rejected by the person. Rejection is unusual, so most people have at least $5,000 in med pay available to them for treatment. If you don’t have medical insurance or you have a high deductible, then that $5,000 could be the difference between receiving the treatment you need timely and not receiving it at all. Don’t waste it on chiropractors and physical therapists. If you sign up with one of those shark phone calls, they will “treat” you up to $4,999 in treatment and drop you like a hot potato.

Knowing this, don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of. If you are hurt, then you should go to a real medical doctor and be evaluated. Physical therapists and chiropractors are not doctors. Not to mention, the insurance company will eat you alive on a claim that consists solely of chiropractic treatment.

The Four Categories Of Damage

In all personal Injury claims there are four categories of damage:
1) medical expenses/bills
2) lost wages
3) pain and suffering
4) permanent injury

We will never be allowed to recover punitive damages or attorney’s fees separately. Medical bills are just that – total expenses incurred in your treatment. Lost wages are also self-explanatory – the dollars that you lost missing work related to the accident or treatment of injuries. Categories 3 and 4 are harder to pin down because they are directly related to the injuries, treatment and doctor’s opinions. The higher your medical bills, the worse you were hurt and the higher your pain and suffering is valued. It’s the same for permanent injury, but you must actually be diagnosed with a permanent injury that will not improve, such as a lost limb or permanent paralysis.

Will You Need A Lawyer For Your Personal Injury Claim?

Yes. A personal injury claim always needs legal representation. Unlike property damage claims, an experienced law office will almost always obtain a bigger recovery for you even after the percentage taken out for attorney’s fees, whether through settlement or trial. Not to mention we handle additional issues like medical lien negotiations, or better yet lien invalidations. An attorney can also help you get treatment even if you can’t afford it or don’t have health insurance, by granting attorney’s liens on your case and negotiating with medical providers.

You should consult with a lawyer immediately to obtain guidance in your case; but, know that negotiations won’t begin until your medical treatment is done. We can’t settle a case based on a few doctor’s visits knowing that you will have to have neck surgery in the next six months. You have to have the surgery and incur those expenses and pain and suffering so those are included in the negotiations. Once it’s pointed out to you, it makes sense that Personal Injury Claims take so long to finish.

We can and will obtain all your medical records in our investigation and representation of you. We will aggressively ensure that you receive all the compensation you are due as a result of your personal injury.

How Much Will An Attorney Cost?

Personal Injury claims are always on a contingency basis – meaning that you don’t incur any expenses – the attorneys take all the risk in incurring costs of medical records, expert testimony and evaluation, and focus group studies in preparing for trial. Attorneys get a percentage of the recovery, usually around 40% if it goes to trial, for their work and risk. If you don’t recover, you don’t owe the attorney anything, including reimbursing them for the costs they incurred in preparing for your trial.

Call For A Free Case Evaluation

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