When an individual has been injured in a car wreck, there are three important factors that need to be documented:
- the facts of the wreck,
- the person’s injury, and
- the expenses incurred by the individual as a result of the wreck.
The first thing you need to do when you’re in a car wreck is call the police. You must make sure that you properly document the facts as to what actually took place in the wreck. If it is a situation where you don’t have to go to the hospital via ambulance, attempt to talk to as many witnesses as possible and get their contact information. Try to get as many pictures of the vehicles before they are moved from the scene. Most importantly, relay your version of the events to the investigating police officer. Although police reports are hearsay and generally not admissible at trial, insurance companies will try to use the police report as the basis to deny your claim. Consequently, it is extremely important that you relay your side of the events to the police officer so that they get documented.
Obviously, in a situation where an individual has been severely injured and must be taken to the hospital via ambulance, that individual would not be able to speak with a police officer. However, you must contact the investigating police officer to tell him/her your side of the story. In those situations, you can request the investigating officer file a supplemental report to add your version of the events. In many cases when one person is taken to the hospital, and the non-injured person is left at the scene, only one side of the story is told. If the person that remains at the scene of the wreck tells the police officer that you are the individual who caused the wreck, there’s a high likelihood that the insurance company will deny your claim. If you have a passenger in your vehicle that is not injured, ask the passenger to try to talk to as many witnesses as possible and get their contact information. Also, ask that person to take as many pictures of the vehicles as possible. To pursue a personal injury claim, will be required to prove the other driver was responsible for the accident. Any proof you have that the other driver was at fault will help you prove your case.
The second aspect of your car wreck that has to be documented is your injuries. Even though you may think you are not injured immediately after the wreck, if you experience any pain, it is imperative that you go to the doctor as quickly as possible. You may not have to go to the hospital via an ambulance; however you need to go to the emergency room as soon as possible. The sooner you go to the hospital, the less likely the insurance company will be able to argue that your injuries are not directly related to your wreck. The longer you wait to get treatment for your injuries, the less likely the insurance adjuster will be to relate your injuries to the wreck. On numerous occasions, my clients did not think that their injuries were severe. When the police officer asked about their condition, they told them that they were okay. However, in the hours following the wreck they begin to experience pain in various parts of their body. Although they were injured in the wreck, the insurance adjuster tried to use their statement on the police report to argue that they were not hurt or that their injuries were minor.
Documenting your injuries through the proper healthcare provider is as important as establishing who’s at fault in the wreck. After going to the emergency room, or the first available healthcare provider, it is important to follow up with a specialist as soon as possible. In many of the car accident cases I handle, my client is suffering from some sort of spinal injury, which is the most common injury suffered in a car wreck. Most orthopedic surgeons will tell you that a Magnetic Resonance Image “MRI” is the best way to diagnose any spinal injury. This type of injury may not be documented in the emergency room because a MRI was not been administered. Therefore, it is important to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to have a MRI administered. If you are still experiencing pain from your accident following the emergency room visit, schedule an appointment with your family physician as soon as possible so that he can refer you to an orthopedic specialist.
Recently, I began representing a new client who had been involved in a rear end collision. There was substantial damage to the vehicle, but he did not believe his injury was severe. After the wreck, he began treating with a chiropractor. Although chiropractic treatment is very useful, in most circumstances, a person who has suffered a spinal injury needs to seek treatment from an orthopedic. After numerous chiropractic treatments, the client had not improved. The insurance company attempted to settle my client’s case for a minimal amount of money because it had been several months since the wreck. The insurance adjuster was analyzing this case as a low impact “whiplash.” I suggested that he make an appointment with his family physician to get a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. An MRI was administered to his spine on his first visit with the orthopedic surgeon, and it was discovered that he had two herniated discs. If he had settled his case prior to going to the orthopedic surgeon, he would have accepted a settlement that was less than he was entitled to receive. Scheduling the appointment with the surgeon and getting the herniated discs documented substantially increased the value of my client’s case.
All of your medical bills, medical records, and your lost wage information must be documented to be submitted to the insurance company. Most insurance companies utilize a computer program to analyze personal injury cases. The insurance adjuster inputs the diagnostic codes from the medical records into the program to ascertain the value of the case. If you have not obtained all of your medical bills and records, the adjuster will not be able to input all of the information into the program, which diminishes the value of your claim. The adjuster is not going to explain how the process works. He or she will take whatever information you present to them and make you an offer in order to close the file. Any offer to settle your case will probably be significantly less than what you’re entitled to receive. Always keep in mind the insurance adjuster will not be looking out for your interest. It is his or her job to save the insurance company as much money as possible and not to fully compensate you for your claim.