Car accidents take place every day in Nebraska—almost 96 a day, in fact, with almost 50 persons sustaining injuries on a daily basis. Almost 220 persons died in a recent year in Nebraska due to vehicle accidents.
After an auto accident, you may face devastating consequences, especially if the accident involved serious injuries. For example, you may be dealing with injuries, medical expenses, loss of capabilities, and emotional suffering. In the midst of these difficulties, taking the wrong legal steps can damage your personal injury claim and impact your ability to recover compensation for the full cost of your injuries. If you were in a car accident, carefully consider these important steps as you process your claim, recover from your injuries, and determine how to move forward.
At the Accident Scene
Do you know what to do at the scene immediately following an accident? While medical care should be your first priority, especially if you’ve experienced any physical injuries, you should keep in mind several important things separate from medical care after your car accident.
Move your vehicle. If your accident occurred on a busy road, particularly if on a highway or an interstate, you should move your vehicle to the shoulder, if possible. If you must remain on the road, turn on your hazards so that other drivers will be more likely to notice and avoid your vehicle. Moving your vehicle will allow traffic to continue flowing normally, preventing backups and allowing other drivers to more safely reach their destinations. Not only that, moving your vehicle out of the path of traffic will help reduce the risks of a secondary accident.
Call for help. Calling 911 will summon both emergency medical personnel as well as a police officer who will draft an accident report. If any party experienced injuries in the accident, medical attention should remain everyone’s first priority.
Don’t leave the scene of the accident. You can only leave the scene of the accident under two circumstances: (1) if you believe that you are in danger if you stay where you are or (2) if you need to leave to summon medical attention. In either case, you should notify the authorities of your accident as soon as possible. Otherwise, you might find yourself charged with a hit and run, which can result in serious legal complications.
Exercise care in your interactions with others at the accident scene. When you speak to the other involved driver(s) or to the police at the scene of the accident, exercise care in what you say. Your words may create evidence that can later be used against you. Do not admit fault in the accident, even if you know you did something foolish or that you may have contributed to the accident. Allow the police to assess fault. You may also want to avoid making statements like, “I’m okay,” or, “I’m not hurt,” which can also be used against you later during the legal process.
Collecting Evidence at the Scene
If you experienced serious injuries during your accident, you may need to wait for medical help to arrive. If your injuries weren’t serious, however, you should collect evidence that could prove helpful with your personal injury claim. Look around the accident scene and gather key information, including:
Contact information. Talk with the other people involved in the accident. Make note of their names, phone numbers, and insurance information, if applicable. If possible, take pictures of their license or insurance cards with your phone so that you’ll be able to easily access that information later. You may also want to collect contact information from people who witnessed the accident, especially if they are able to provide vital testimony later.
Note the facts. Take a minute and write down the date and time of the accident. Note any weather conditions or other hazards that may have contributed to the accident. In some cases, simply noting the time can offer valuable help later, especially if you need to access traffic cameras or security cameras for evidence. Keep in mind that you may quickly forget any information that you don’t write down, especially in the adrenaline rush and information overload following the accident.
Snap some pictures. In some cases, a simple look at the cars involved in an accident will tell experts how the accident occurred. Damage patterns on the vehicles may also help paint a picture of the events surrounding the accident. If you’re physically able to move around the accident scene, you should collect vital photographic evidence of:
- Damage to either vehicle
- The license plate of the other driver’s vehicle
- Geographic features that may have contributed to the accident, including poor visibility and bad road conditions
- Any injuries that are clearly visible at the scene of the accident
Jot down what happened. Avoid admitting fault if at all possible; however, give an accurate representation of the events that led up to the accident. The longer you wait to record the events of the accident, including what led up to it, the harder you’ll find it to remember the details later on. Your memory may fade quickly, or it may be altered by other people’s versions of the events. The sooner you write down your story, the easier you’ll find it to report exactly what happened.
After You Leave the Scene
If you experienced injuries during the accident, or if you experienced any type of head trauma, you should seek medical care for your injuries. Severe injuries should receive immediate transport to the nearest hospital, often in an ambulance. Less severe injuries may be treated in an urgent care center. You should seek further medical attention immediately if symptoms worsen, or if you have any symptoms of traumatic brain injury, including difficulty speaking, unexpected numbness, or confusion. After you leave the scene of the accident, continue to collect evidence and information that may help you later on with your personal injury claim; accordingly, you should:
Keep copies of your medical reports. Create a file that contains all of the information about your injuries, your care, and your prognosis. This file might include:
- X-rays and scans
- Test results
- Doctors’ statements
- Medical bills, including future bills for physical therapy and other types of care
- Pictures of your injuries throughout the healing process
Obtain a copy of the police report. The police report for your accident will help establish fault and provide other vital evidence. Make sure you have a copy to include in your file. Before filing away your copy of the police report, read through it. Look for any inaccuracies that might work against you later. Did the police report correctly identify the individual who was responsible for the accident? Did it include an accurate depiction of the accident scene? Remember, the police officer will rely on witness testimonies to create a picture of what happened at the accident scene. That officer didn’t witness the accident. If the police report for your accident contains inaccuracies, you may need to contest those statements later on.
Contact the insurance company. To recover compensation for your accident, including funds for your vehicle and for your medical expenses, you will need to work with the insurance companies. You do not have to provide a statement to the other party’s insurance company concerning the accident; in fact, you may want to talk to a lawyer before making any type of statement about the accident. Keep in mind that any questions from the insurance company may seek to establish fault in the accident or to minimize the severity of your injuries. Always exercise care when speaking with an insurance company about your accident or about anything you’ve done after the accident.
Contact a lawyer. In many cases, working with a lawyer is the most effective way to ensure that you receive compensation for the full cost of your injuries, including your medical expenses, lost time from work, and any property damage that occurred during the accident. When you retain an experienced personal injury lawyer to handle your case, you send a message to the insurance companies that you are serious about recovering compensation. Working with a lawyer will often increase the amount of the compensation that you will receive, and it can get that compensation in your hands sooner. In many cases, a lawyer may help establish who was responsible for your accident, ensuring that you don’t miss out on additional opportunities for compensation. Many people worry that hiring a lawyer will be an added expense at a time when they already have to deal with other serious expenses; however, in reality, working with a lawyer may help increase your compensation and make it easier for you to navigate the claim process. Your lawyer can also negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf, allowing you to focus on recovering from your injuries.
Follow your doctor’s recommendations. Following your doctor’s recommendations won’t just improve your overall outlook as you heal from your injuries, but also it will ensure that you don’t miss out on vital compensation because you failed to follow medical advice. Failure to follow medical advice could leave you struggling to prove that all of your injuries were caused by the accident, rather than by your own actions afterward.
Do You Need a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
If you experienced serious injuries as a result of a car accident, you may need legal representation to help ensure that you receive compensation for the full cost of your injuries. While we cannot guarantee a favorable result in your case, we can promise to work hard to maximize your opportunities for compensation. Call the Robert Pahlke Law Group today at (308) 633-4444, or contact us online, to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.