One of the most common questions we get as personal injury lawyers is: “What should I do if I’m in a car accident?” It seems like such a simple question, but it’s also a very important one. Most people (thankfully) never have to worry about the steps to take after a car accident. That also means people do not think about it prior to disaster striking. With more than 40 years fighting for residents in the great Phoenix area (including Mesa, Tempe, Gilbert, and Glendale), Scottsdale, Tucson, and Flagstaff, Snyder & Wenner has the personal injury expertise to tell you exactly what to do (and sometimes, more importantly, what NOT to do) after a crash:
1. Call 9-1-1 to report the crash
The first thing to do after a car crash is to call 9-1-1 to report the accident. This is very important because you need a police officer to come out to the scene to interview witnesses and take sworn statements. Unfortunately, once a claim or lawsuit is filed, the at-fault driver denies all responsibility. It is important you tell the officer what happened so he or she can write a complete report. The officer may also collect video surveillance footage from nearby stores, take photographs, and take measurements to determine who was at fault. If you are too injured to call 9-1-1, make sure someone else nearby calls.
2. Go to the hospital for your injuries
This is not as simple as it sounds because after a car crash your adrenaline will be rushing. You may not feel how much pain you are actually in from the impact. Clients often say they refused medical care at the scene because they just didn’t know how hurt they were. If the impact was bad, you need to go to the hospital to get checked out. Brain injuries can occur due to whiplash, even if you do not actually hit your head on anything and even if you are not bleeding. An MRI or CT scan is necessary to ensure there are no obvious problems, but even those studies do not rule out brain injuries. An urgent care is not capable of actually working up any serious problems, so the emergency department is where you need to go.
3. Continue to treat when you are not better
A car accident is not the time to over-treat for your injuries. The goal of treatment is to get better. The defense will hire an expert to say that your injuries must not have been that bad since you didn’t continue with treatment. That same expert will also claim (without any actual scientific evidence) that certain injuries don’t require as much treatment as you had. That is the game the defense plays in nearly every car accident case. Only you know how your body is responding to treatment. If it is working, but you have not yet returned to your pre-crash state, then you need to continue to go to your appointments. If the treatment is not working, you need to talk to your doctor or provider about trying something different. The worst thing you can do is stop treating before you are better, because that will all but guarantee that your injuries will never resolve.
4. Keep a journal about how your injuries affect you each day
Lawyer commercials (and even insurance commercials) suggest that if you’re in a crash you will get a settlement check right away. That is simply not true. Settlements can take months or even years to receive. This is because you cannot settle your claim until you are done treating, otherwise you will not get full and fair value for your case. As the days, weeks, and months pass, your pain and discomfort will change. You will most likely not remember many things that your injuries prevented you from doing or problems you had. That is why it is so important to keep a journal to write down things that happened. Keep in mind that if you stop writing in it, the defense attorney (and their expert) will try to argue that the absence of information somehow means you were totally fine. While that is obviously not true, they do not care about facts or reality. Try your best to write in the journal each day or week. It does not need to be anything extensive. Just a few sentences about how you were feeling and what limitations you experienced. Just like with medical treatment, don’t exaggerate! If you’re ok on one day, that’s great news. The most important thing is to fairly and accurately write down what you go through so you can remember months or years later.
There are many things you need to do after a crash, like contact an experienced and successful personal injury lawyer near you. These 4 tips, however, will help ensure that you get a full, fair, and appropriate settlement for your car crash injuries. If you have any questions, you can contact us at 602-224-0005 or email us. We have been protecting Arizona residents in car crash cases for over four decades, and it is a responsibility we take very seriously.