It goes without saying that a car accident is a driver’s worst nightmare. But, knowing what to do after a crash gives drivers more confidence in handling an inherently stressful situation.
Typically in non-injury accidents with minor vehicle damage, drivers and their insurance companies work out the matter among themselves. However, it’s complex accidents that involve bodily injuries and feuding insurance companies that can turn into unpleasant situations for drivers.
If you have been injured in an accident and you find yourself having difficulty getting compensated for your losses, one of the best supports you can have been a personal injury law firm in Los Angeles. You may wonder why you would need to contact a law office. There are two primary reasons:
- A Los Angeles accident attorney will represent your interests and protect your rights.
- An accident attorney located in Los Angeles understands California’s car accident law and can help you with the legal process of pursuing compensation for your losses from the accident.
Before involving an attorney, however, let’s look at steps you can take to help build a solid personal injury case.
7 Steps to Building a Personal Injury Claim
Whether you decide to file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit, it is important to first take the following 7 steps:
1. Do not admit fault for the car wreck—even if you believe you caused the crash.
By admitting fault, you are placing yourself in a position to pay for damages before an investigation can be conducted by police or insurance companies.
2. Check for injuries.
Bodily injuries are not always visible after a crash. Nonetheless, you should check yourself and others involved in the crash to determine if anyone sustained injuries. If so, dial 9-1-1 to request an ambulance and police.
3. Wait for the police.
The police officer responding to the scene will take statements from you, the other driver, and others on the scene. Having an official police report that records the accident will support your injury claim. Also, insurers want police reports when investigating car accidents.
4. Exchange information with the other driver.
While waiting for the police, get the driver’s name, contact number, license number and insurance information.
5. Talk to other witnesses.
In some instances, bystanders who saw the accident may be willing to speak with you about what happened. Get their contact information while waiting for the police.
6. Take photographs of the accident scene.
As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and this holds true when it comes to car accidents. Take photos of the damage to the vehicles involved, your injuries (if they are visible), debris on the road and whatever else you believe will show the severity of the crash.
7. Report the accident to your auto insurer. Whether or not you were at fault, you are required to let your insurance company know about the crash.
A word of caution: Be mindful when approaching the other driver (or the driver’s passengers) for information. If the driver appears angry and is threatening bodily harm, go back to your vehicle and wait inside (or another place, if possible) until police arrive.
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Seek Medical Attention Immediately
The adrenaline that flows after a car accident can easily mask physical injuries. So, it’s not unusual for drivers to feel as if they were not hurt in the crash, only to find out later that they were injured.
With this in mind, if an emergency medical technician offers treatment at the scene or offers to take you to a hospital, do not deny the offer.
If you are not treated at the scene, go to the emergency room to ask for an examination. Some of the most common injuries sustained after an accident include:
- Neck injury (whiplash)
- Broken bones
- Closed-head injuries
- Spinal injuries
Not all injuries or symptoms appear immediately; some are delayed for days and weeks. While you may feel sore or stiff after the accident, you may not feel pain until later. You should not ignore the pain but visit your doctor. The pain could indicate that your injury is worsening.
Here is something else to consider: If you did not seek medical attention immediately after the accident, and later file an injury claim, the insurer may reject your claim or reduce your compensation request. Why is this so? It’s common for insurers to contend that you were not seriously injured because you did not get checked out after the accident.
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Filing an Insurance Claim
The information you gather about your injuries and property damage plays a big role when filing an insurance claim. This is because California is a fault state which means that a driver found at fault for causing an accident must pay for damages resulting from the crash.
Generally, the driver’s insurance company pays the bill. But, without proving fault, an insurer is not likely to pay out a claim. This is why insurance companies have a claims adjuster to investigate accidents and review information a driver has filed with the claim.
So, what do you do if you followed the seven steps, filed a claim but the insurer denied it or you received a compensation offer that does not sufficiently cover the costs you incurred from the accident? This is where a personal injury attorney comes in.
Legal Assistance in a Personal Injury Case
It’s not unusual for the at-fault driver’s insurer to wrangle with an injured party over an insurance claim. In this type of situation, a personal injury lawyer can investigate the crash, secure additional evidence, if necessary, and apply California’s car accident law to your case.
A Los Angeles accident attorney can also determine the value of your case by speaking with you about the physical, economic and non-economic losses you sustained from the accident. Having this information helps your attorney negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
You may be able to recover compensation for damages that include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Damage to your vehicle and other personal property
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
The amount of compensation you receive depends on the circumstances of your accident and the extent of your bodily injuries and loss of personal property.
If you are under stress over a car accident that has caused you considerable injury or resulted in a fatal injury of a loved one, contact Attorneys/lawyers at West Coast Trial Lawyers. The legal team at the personal injury law firm will defend your rights and help you get compensation for your losses. Contact West Coast Trial Lawyers for additional information today.