WHAT STEPS SHOULD BE TAKEN IN A POTENTIAL AUTO ACCIDENT CLAIM?
The first steps taken in an auto accident, and that is if you are injured is either go to the hospital emergency room or to your primary physician. If you do not have a primary physician, you may call my office and I will give you a referral to a physician who specializes in treating people from auto accidents. They will determine the kind of medical care you may need. For example, you might need physical therapy, chiropractic services or acupuncture. Often there is a referral to a specialist, usually an orthopedist, or sometimes a neurologist to diagnose any muscular skeletal injuries. If there has been some nerve impingement and the person is having any tingling, loss of sensation or short pains caused by the impingement, then most likely a specialist would be referred. They will order testing such as an MRI to identify the cause of pain and treat you for that diagnosis.
The most important thing is to get appropriate medical treatment, and get it as soon as possible after any automobile accident. It is also important to retain an attorney so that the accident can be properly investigated. While it is possible to identify witnesses, the memories of some witnesses do fade over time. I do appreciate when a client retains me shortly after an accident. It gives me the opportunity to ascertain the liability aspect, and prepare to prove that the other driver was indeed at fault. There is one more important issue, and that is documenting any wage losses. It is important to keep records of any time off work and to ask your doctor for a disability verification form. It is important that the physician have this information documented for record purposes. If you are unable to work, we will need that information to make a claim for any lost income because of this accident.
For self-employed individuals or someone who has a business, it does become more complicated. We need to prove the lost earnings. There are several ways to do this. I like to have clients work closely with me on those issues so I can help them gather and preserve records and the information necessary to prove business losses or loss of self-employment income.
Is the Injured Party Responsible for Notifying Both Their Own and The Other Party’s Insurance?
You only notify your own insurance company. There is no need to notify the other driver’s insurance company that is their responsibility. When you have retained me as counsel, I will take care of sending the letter to the other person’s insurance company. I will put them on notice about the claim. There is no specific deadline to do that, as long as it is with in the two year statute of limitations. I will present them with a complete demand package, medical records and a very detailed letter describing the effects of the accident, and give them a chance to pay compensation or settle the case without having to go to court. I will work with you very closely in creating that package. But the only obligation you have as the injured party is to make sure your own insurance company knows about the accident.
What Should I Do if The Other Party’s Insurance Contacts Me Asking for A Statement?
You should refer them to your attorney if the opposing insurance company calls you. You should politely decline to give them any information. If you do offer a statement, do note it will be recorded and they may try to use that later on to minimize or deny your claim. They may be able to find minor inconsistencies in what you said in your recorded statement versus what you told your doctors. For example, this can harm your credibility if we are pursuing an arbitration or trial. I always advise my clients you have no obligation to talk to the other side’s insurance company. I recommend that you do not. It does not help your case in anyway; it just makes it harder for me to represent you as a client.
If you have already given a statement, that is okay, and we will obtain a copy. If there are any corrections that need to be made later, we will address those concerns. The best policy is simply not to talk to the other side’s insurance company. They may be friendly, but their motivation is to minimize the amount they have to pay you, therefore, they are not on your side and you should be careful in dealing with them. Keep in mind that as your attorney, I can present information to the other party’s insurance company that explains everything they need to know about the accident, and how it affected you.
They can only use statements that you yourself have made, not what your attorney has made on your behalf. It is a much safer and more effective course of action to let your attorney explain the case to the other side rather than trying to do it yourself.
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