By Todd Julian
Certified Specialist in Injury and Wrongful Death Litigation
Arizona Board of Legal Specialization
Each year there are over 6 million car accidents in the United States, and every day people are hurt in accidents involving many types of activities and products. What should you do if you’re hurt as a result of someone else’s fault or negligence?
The first thing to do is remain calm, and quickly determine if anyone is seriously hurt or in need of immediate medical attention. Call 911 if there is any question and let the professionals provide the necessary medical care. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, be careful of other vehicles, and move your car or get out of the way if it is safest to do so.
Pay close attention to the details of how the accident occurred and talk to any witnesses who might provide more information. You should always call the police and request that a report be made in any car accident that is not your fault. Even if the police do not do a complete investigation, they will obtain needed information on how to contact the other driver and the insurance company. Make sure you have the information on whoever was responsible for causing the accident or injury as well as any witnesses.
The most important thing is your health. Go to the emergency room, if necessary, or follow up with your regular doctor. You should bill all treatment through your regular health insurance, if you are covered, just in case there is a dispute on who was at fault or if there is no other insurance to pay your bills. Some doctors will provide treatment on a “lien” and wait to be paid from a settlement. You should not sign a lien, however, unless you have no health insurance to cover the treatment. If you have questions or concerns you should talk to an attorney.
You should always report the accident to the other person’s insurance company or whomever is responsible for the accident. You do not need to give a statement nor should you talk about your injuries until you have been released from care by your doctor. Always be polite and cooperate, but be careful what you say. The investigator may try to get you to admit that you were at fault, and unless you are a doctor, it is better not to guess about your injuries and prognosis, especially shortly after the accident.
Don’t forget to look at your own insurance policy or talk to your insurance agent. You may be entitled to payments for medical bills (“med pay coverage”) and your insurance may apply if the other driver does not have insurance or if there is not enough insurance (“uninsured and underinsured motorists” coverage). An attorney can also help you determine what insurance may apply.
In addition to obtaining the information at the scene of the accident, it is important to document any injuries and to keep track of any expenses you incurred. Take photographs of the vehicles or the accident scene, as well as your own injuries if applicable. Save all bills and receipts and be sure to document any time lost from work due to the accident. Finally, under the law you are entitled to make a claim for pain and suffering, but there is no “formula” or method to calculate what this may be, and every case is different. Here again, the advice and experience of a well-respected attorney will be very helpful. Always remember that there are deadlines for bringing a claim, and if you wait too long you may not be able to recover anything.