With the continuing increase in traffic, being injured in a car accident is not a matter of if, but of when.
Whether you choose to consult an attorney or plan to work with the insurance company yourself, the Department of Motor Vehicles (dmv.gov) suggests several steps that will protect you and your claim for compensation if you are injured in an accident through no fault of your own.
In serious accidents, an ambulance is often on the scene and the injured parties are quickly transported to the hospital. In a simple fender-bender, injury is not always so evident. Upon noticing any pain, discomfort, dizziness or numbness at the time of the accident, or even if it occurs days after the accident, go to the doctor immediately. Do not assume it is nothing.
Getting a doctor’s diagnosis strengthens your claim of injury. Waiting too long may prove problematic since the discomfort may be a result of other activities and not directly associated with the accident.
If you have taken pictures of the accident (typically with your smartphone), save them or print them for future reference. It is important to begin a journal of the accident.
You should write down how the accident happened, the names and addresses of witnesses (this may be in the police report) what the weather conditions were and any unusual events that occurred around the accident. You will need to write specific details about the degree of pain, the difficulty you have doing simple activities and caring for yourself and family. You should list any doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist or any other medical professional who treated you for the injuries.
After the Accident
It is imperative that you retain any and all receipts, bills and travel expenses for services that you used to care for your injuries — hospital, pharmacy, doctors, etc.
If you receive emails or calls from the responsible party, the insurance company or an attorney, these notes should also be part of your journal. It would also be helpful to take pictures of your injury and the damage to your car. When you take pictures, take a lot of pictures. It is best to document the damage and injury from many angles to better understand the nature of the injury or accident.
The insurance company will try to settle your claim as quickly as possible — for your sake and for theirs. Do not settle until you understand the full extent of your injuries and damages. Once the claim is settled it is extremely difficult to reopen the case, if it can be reopened at all.
No one wants to cause an accident and no one wants to be in one. Protect yourself first by watching traffic, keeping distractions to a minimum and following traffic laws. Speeding does not really save time, all you do is get to stop at the next traffic light faster. Of course, texting while driving is a definite no-no so be aware of those around you who may not be as careful a driver as you are.
Mary Fox Luquette, MBA, CLU, ChFC is a finance instructor in the BI Moody III College of Business at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.