Navigating the Legal Aftermath of a Car Accident
Three simple guidelines to follow in the immediate aftermath of a car crashBy Lisa Stickler | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on October 21, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorneys Samuel Segal and J. Michael Conley
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- 1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention and Ensure Your Well-Being
- 2. Preserve the Evidence for a Car Accident Claim
- 3. Seeking Legal Help for Fair Compensation
- Find a Personal Injury Attorney with Experience in Car Accident Cases
Not every car accident is a life-or-death matter, but even victims of minor fender benders can suffer literal and figurative headaches. Thankfully, there are ways to make the aftermath of an accident as pain-free as possible.
For starters, don’t try to wish an accident away.
“Accident victims are in a high adrenaline state and may want to get right home,” says J. Michael Conley, personal injury attorney at Kenney & Conley. Even if you weren’t in a major accident, take pictures of the other driver’s license and insurance card. “If you go straight home, you won’t have the other driver’s information and your insurance company will not be happy.”
Samuel Segal, a personal injury attorney at The Law Offices of Samuel A. Segal, suggests that every accident victim should follow three simple guidelines: “Job one: get the treatment you need; job two: preserve whatever evidence you can; and job three: find an attorney.”
1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention and Ensure Your Well-Being
“Getting medical treatment and getting better is goal one. It’s good for you and good for your claim,” Segal says.
Symptoms that develop following an accident should not be ignored. “Soft tissue injury symptoms can take 24 to 48 hours to develop,” says Conley, and they can also get worse over time.
Additionally, if you don’t seek medical attention, “your insurance company may take the position that if you aren’t actively treating a problem, it doesn’t exist,” says Segal. “Going to a doctor serves two goals: It helps make sure you get better and preserves the evidence of injury.”
2. Preserve the Evidence for a Car Accident Claim
“If you are able, preserve as much evidence as possible,” Segal adds. It can be difficult to secure traffic cam footage, so you’ll want to take photos at the scene of the vehicles and the environment.
Calling law enforcement helps, too. “If there is damage to your vehicle, you’ll want the police to write up a report,” Segal adds. “You don’t want a ‘they said, they said’ situation. People may change their tune over time. Getting the police to the scene and getting things documented right away is very important.”
However, during the 911 call, limit your discussion to potential injuries—you don’t want to say something in the heat of the moment that you’ll regret later. “I don’t think it’s a great idea to give a lot of detail on the 911 call,” says Conley. “The defense attorney will get the transcript.”
He adds that any conversation with a police officer should be similarly focused. “People experience accidents more than they understand them,” Conley says. “Be careful. This is not the time to think out loud and try to determine what happened.”
3. Seeking Legal Help for Fair Compensation
“If you are injured in a car accident, hiring a personal injury attorney is the smartest thing you can do,” says Segal, because if you are unrepresented, “the insurance company will likely try to settle cheap and fast.”
The Massachusetts no-fault insurance system is referred to as Personal Injury Protection. Under this system, up to $8,000 in benefits can be paid. “This system can get complicated based on your type of health plan. People unfamiliar with the system will be revictimized if they try to do things themselves,” says Conley.
“The insurance company’s job is to save the insurance company money. Your lawyer’s job is to get you the best possible recovery,” Segal says.
“Your attorney will want to know about your life, what [aspects have] been interrupted by your injury, details of the accident, your emergency contacts, what you can deliver in terms of witnesses, and what doctors you have seen. It’s also a good idea to get to know each other a bit to make sure there is a comfort level,” Conley says.
And it’s always a bad idea to conceal information or lie to your attorney.
Many personal injury lawyers work on contingency, which means if the case is not successfully resolved, you pay nothing. Segal says that attorneys typically charge one-third of the total amount they obtain for their clients via settlement or judgment.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney with Experience in Car Accident Cases
If you’ve suffered car accident injuries and are considering legal action to recover compensation for medical bills and other financial impacts, reach out to a car accident lawyer about your potential personal injury claim.
An experienced attorney can provide legal advice and guidance throughout the entire legal process and assist in gathering evidence, including witness statements and the police report. Visit the Super Lawyers directory to find a car accident attorney in your area. For more information about this area of law, see our overview of motor vehicle accidents and related content.
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