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In the Aftermath of a Car Accident in Minnesota

Steps to take and tips for working with a lawyer

It’s common sense—if you’ve just been in a motor vehicle accident, your first priority should be to seek medical attention if necessary. “It’s surprising sometimes how many people call a lawyer right away and they say, ‘What do I do?’” says personal injury attorney Alicia N. Sieben of Schwebel Goetz & Sieben law firm in Minneapolis, who focuses the majority of her practice on representing victims of vehicle crashes. Her response: “Get medical care. Go to the hospital.”

At the scene of the accident

If you don’t have serious injuries or need immediate medical attention, Sieben suggests securing what evidence you can. That means taking photographs of your car; the vehicle that hit you and any other vehicles involved; and any conditions on the roadway that may have contributed to the situation. “Maybe there’s construction, maybe it’s bad weather or road conditions,” she says. “Taking photos of the area means you can inspect the scene later on.”

Sieben says it’s a good idea to exchange car insurance information and contact information with the other driver, and to contact the police if necessary, so that an accident report can be created. “Police reports tend not to be admissible in evidence in a case,” she says. “However, they can give us a lot of information that we might not otherwise have access to. For example: more information on the other driver, their date of birth, the make and model of their vehicle, their insurance company. So if you don’t feel comfortable interacting with the other driver at the scene, that police report can provide a lot of the details.”

However, you may want to think twice before giving a recorded statement to your insurance company. “At the end of the day, that company is in the business of trying to save money,” Sieben says. “Their goal isn’t necessarily to try to protect you as the consumer.”

She adds: “Oftentimes people are in shock, or their adrenaline is taking over and they’re not thinking as rationally as they would in hindsight, so if those sorts of things—to take photos and assess the area— don’t come to mind right away, that’s OK. That’s where it would be helpful to contact an attorney sooner rather than later, to ensure that the attorney can start asking those questions or help secure any evidence that may not have been obtained right there at the time of a traumatic event.”

Contacting a lawyer

An attorney can also help ensure that your medical bills are being processed properly. “They can help guide you to an appropriate provider and really take a lot of that weight off of your shoulders,” Sieben says. “As a victim, you’re focused on your recovery and your injuries, maybe you’re out of work, and dealing with insurance companies and paperwork really is adding to that stress, right? An attorney can help to process things more quickly to ensure that you’re getting your wage loss benefits, or that your medical bills are being paid without delay.”

Be prepared to provide your attorney with all the evidence you may have collected from the scene of the accident, in addition to your medical history. Some attorneys, including Sieben, also like to learn about a client’s interests and activities, which can factor into the evaluation of a claim. “For example,” she says, “if somebody breaks their hand or their wrist in a car crash, and they’re a dedicated pianist, well, certainly that injury has a profound effect on their wellbeing and on their enjoyment of life.”

As for how long it takes to resolve a car accident case, each one is different. While children and those with less severe injuries may heal faster, Sieben says it tends to take a year before she’s confident in the ultimate prognosis for a client. “We don’t like to rush the resolution of the case,” she says, “because we want to ensure that the client is not having ongoing problems before we attempt to resolve their claim.”

That’s why she advises patience during the process: “The reason why it takes so long is really in the client’s best interest, because we’d hate to rush into a resolution and find out later on that that injury wasn’t completely evaluated.”

An experienced personal injury attorney can help you through the process. To learn more about this area of law, see our overview on motor vehicle accidents

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