Knowing what to expect in the hours, days, and weeks after a crash should reduce your stress, help you manage the process better, and even help you develop a strong legal case against the at-fault party. First and foremost, you must put your health as your top priority. Get the medical care you need and worry about everything else later.
Then, as soon as your injuries allow, you should consider speaking with a car accident lawyer about your options for holding the at-fault driver financially responsible. Most personal injury firms provide free case assessments. Discussing your case with a knowledgeable team member from a local firm could help you decide what to do next.
Focus on Getting the Medical Care You Need
From the first moments after a collision until your full recovery, your medical needs must come first. Check yourself and those in your vehicle for injuries before you do anything else, and afterward, prioritize your recovery.
In the initial minutes after a collision, the police should arrive. Other first responders could come to the scene, too. This often includes ambulance personnel and firefighters. Sometimes, a rescue squad could come, depending on the circumstances. You should allow the paramedics to assess your condition, especially if you have any pain, bleeding, or swelling. If they recommend letting them transport you to the hospital, agree.
A Healthcare Professional Can Stabilize and Treat Your Condition
Victims of car accidents suffer a range of injuries, and not all of them have immediate symptoms. You could have a serious injury that is not apparent. For this reason, the doctors at the hospital will assess you again. They may conduct imaging scans, such as X-rays, to rule out serious fractures or internal injuries.
The process at the hospital will likely include:
- Stabilization, as needed
- Assessment, testing, and imaging scans
- Surgery, if necessary
You might go home the same day or the following day for relatively minor injuries. More serious injuries often require hospitalization for more in-depth treatment and observation. A transfer to a Level I trauma center or rehabilitation facility might be necessary in some cases.
Follow Your Doctor’s Prescribed Treatment Plan
You want to do everything possible to reach maximum medical improvement. This does more than promote your health; it also shows the involved parties that you’re committed to making a full recovery. What’s more, it prevents the insurance company from alleging that your injuries came from another incident and not the car accident.
Following your doctor’s treatment plan may require:
- Taking medications as prescribed
- Undergoing surgery
- Attending physical therapy
- Visiting a mental health professional
- Reporting any symptoms to your healthcare team
- Refraining from strenuous activity (which may include taking off work)
- Using assistive devices, such as motorized scooters and wheelchairs
Your doctor may also recommend some lifestyle changes to promote your recovery. These changes may include losing weight, regularly exercising, and quitting smoking.
Keep All Receipts, Bills, and Other Paperwork
After your injuries are stable, your next priority should be your legal matters. Keep all injury-related receipts, bills, records, and other documents in a folder so you have access to them in the future. If you took pictures at the crash scene, save them to a thumb drive to keep them safe. You want as much information to support your case as possible.
When a car accident attorney builds a case, they identify, gather, and analyze evidence to support the claim.
They need to show:
- The other driver caused the crash.
- Their client was the victim.
- Their client suffered injuries, financial losses, and pain and suffering.
They must have convincing evidence to show the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier, the jury, and other parties what happened.
Each crash case is different, but some common types of evidence in a car accident case include:
- Witness statements given to law enforcement or from interviews
- Videos of the crash, when available
- Photographs from the crash scene
- The accident report filed by the responding law enforcement agency
- An accident scene survey
- Accident reconstruction data
- Physical evidence
- Relevant medical records
- Expert input from doctors, specialists, economists, and other experts
- Documentation of expenses and losses
If you handle a claim on your own, you will need to collect this evidence and use it to convince the insurer of its policyholder’s negligence. This is often tricky since much of this evidence is difficult to collect as the victim. Working with an experienced car accident attorney provides a significant benefit when building the case.
Not only do they know how to manage this investigation, but they use their firm’s resources to do it. Additionally, you do not have to pay your own money or use your own time trying to prove the case against the other driver. You focus on your healing and let your lawyer deal with building the case.
The Insurance Company Could Approach You During Your Treatment Period
Sometimes, insurance carriers do not wait for a crash victim to file an injury claim and demand fair compensation. Instead, they make an offer. This usually occurs in the first weeks or months after a crash and often before your injuries fully heal. Accepting an initial offer is never a good idea, especially when you do not know the extent of your injuries or the potential value of your case.
The other driver’s insurer could also take other steps to reduce how much it pays. You should be aware of any tactics to protect your right to a fair payout. These methods could include requesting a recorded statement, asking for access to all your medical records, or telling you they will not make additional offers.
When you work with an attorney, they will protect you from these tactics by managing all communications with the insurance company. When they handle the adjuster, they do everything in their power to settle your case for what it’s worth.
When to Hire an Attorney to Manage Your Car Accident Case?
You should consider contacting an attorney about your next steps as soon as your injuries allow. You want an attorney on your side quickly after a crash. They can review your prognosis and treatment-related expenses to fight for a fair outcome.
Hiring a lawyer allows them to gather and preserve evidence, protect your rights, and manage all aspects of your legal case so you can focus on healing. You do not want to try to go to appointments, therapy, and rehabilitation between making phone calls and hiring experts to build your case.
Car accident attorneys generally provide free initial consultations for victims. It is possible to speak with a team member and get a free case assessment as soon as you are able to make the call. Many firms provide telephone, video call, and in-person assessments. A firm’s representative might come to your hospital, rehabilitation facility, or home to discuss your next steps.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Car Accident Attorney?
Car accident attorneys, like other personal injury lawyers, usually work based on contingency fees. They do not charge a retainer, hourly fees, or other upfront payments. Instead, they receive a portion of the money they recover for you in the case. This ensures all victims have access to legal representation after a serious injury accident.
There is no set percentage for a contingency fee. Some states have maximums set by law under certain circumstances. However, it generally depends on the firm’s experience and reputation, the average rates in the area, the complexity of the case, and other factors. Your lawyer should be willing to discuss their rates openly and honestly during your free consultation.
What Do I Need to Know About the Deadlines in My Case?
There are deadlines for suing in a car accident case. Each state has a statute of limitations for these cases, which sets a general deadline. Most states give injured claimants anywhere from one to four years to file their lawsuits. Yet, you could have more or less time based on the circumstances.
These deadlines apply only to suing the at-fault driver in civil court. There are many steps your attorney will need to take before deciding if this is the best option in your case. For this reason, you should connect with a law firm near you as early as possible after your crash. The attorney can meet all case-related deadlines when possible.
Understanding the Process to Recover Compensation After a Crash
Once your lawyer takes over managing your car accident case, they can deal with the next steps. They should provide frequent case updates and be available to answer your questions as they arise.
As the weeks and months progress, your attorney will navigate many steps to promote your case. There are numerous approaches to how firms handle car accident cases, but all involve understanding what happened and seeking compensation. Some require insurance claims, others call for lawsuits, and some firms frequently use both approaches concurrently.
Your lawyer should explain their process and the steps they will take to seek compensation in your case.
What Is Involved in Developing a Car Accident Case?
When a crash victim hires a law firm, one of the first tasks is almost always preserving evidence. Some evidence disappears quickly after an accident. This could include key evidence, such as videos of the collision that clearly shows what occurred. Attorneys know where to look for evidence, what is needed to show negligence and liability, and how to document damages.
As a part of developing the claim or lawsuit, a traffic accident lawyer must estimate the possible settlement value of the claim. This is essential since using documentation of damages, expert input, and knowledge of similar cases is the only way to determine what a fair settlement offer might look like.
Demanding Compensation and Negotiating with the Insurer
Car accident attorneys deal with insurance adjusters every day. They know how the claims process works and are not afraid to go toe-to-toe with insurance carriers on their clients’ behalf. After developing strong support for the claim, the lawyer demands fair compensation from the insurer. They use evidence to show why the policyholder is liable and how much the victim deserves.
This generally leads to a counteroffer, and negotiations begin. Your attorney will use proven negotiation tactics to fight for a fair payout. This is the most common way lawyers recover compensation for clients after a crash.
Will I Have to Sue the At-Fault Driver?
Sometimes, an attorney will recommend suing the at-fault driver. There are several reasons why your lawyer might want to take this step, and they can explain why based on your case’s facts.
Remember, though, that filing a lawsuit does not mean your case will need to go to trial. Most car accident lawsuits end in settlements or other outcomes before the trial date arrives. When a case goes to trial, your attorney will represent your best interests, present the evidence in the case, and ask the jury to award the compensation you deserve.
A Car Accident Lawyer Can Explain What to Expect After a Collision
Personal injury law firms generally provide free initial consultations for accident victims. When you call, you speak with a team member knowledgeable about these cases and the applicable laws in your area. They assess your case, answer your questions, and explain how their attorneys help victims recover compensation.
Once you hire a personal injury attorney in Atlanta, you hand the management of your claim or lawsuit over to them. You go back to focusing on your treatment, rehabilitation, and physical recovery. They take care of the legal case and seek fair compensation on your behalf. You do not have to handle insurance claims or lawsuits on your own. As the injured party, you have options.