Almost every driver will experience at least one car accident over the course of their life; while such incidents can sometimes be prevented by exercising caution and driving responsibly, it is not always possible to protect yourself against the recklessness of others. If you have already experienced a car accident, you may know how the process of getting back to normal proceeds; you may have worked with a car accident lawyer, or settled with an insurance company on your own. If you have not yet been involved in a car accident, it’s likely that you are anxious about how you should go about handling the situation if and when it happens to you. While a collision or other incident while driving is always a stressful situation, it can be much more manageable once you understand the process of filing and following up on a claim, and when you know whether or not to contact a Boca Raton car accident attorney or another legal professional to assist you.
Right After the Accident
It is likely that when the accident has just occurred, you will find yourself feeling anxious or angry; the body’s response to a sudden crisis is a rush of adrenaline, which most people understand as the “Fight or Flight” hormone. It is important not to give in to the urge to either confront the other party involved in the crash or flee from the scene. Almost all states have statutes in their laws that make penalties for fleeing the scene of an accident without exchanging information a much greater crime than the accident itself. It is a good idea to contact the police, especially if the other party is irate. In addition, make sure that you and the other party move your vehicles out of traffic, if at all possible—for your safety as well as the safety of others.
If both you and the other party are calm, and no one is seriously injured, wait for the police to arrive. It’s a good idea to avoid talking extensively to the other person; the same hormone cocktail that kicks in when your body anticipates the danger of the accident could lead you to feel guilty—even if you aren’t. Exchange information and make sure that you and the other party are aware of when to expect the police report, as well as how to access it—many insurance companies require the police report to proceed with a claim.
Keep in mind that if you or the other party is severely injured due to the accident, that the need for medical attention may trump the need for documentation. Make sure that when you call for the police, you also inform the dispatcher that a paramedic is needed; the police will take care of the details necessary, and have the authority to follow up with the other party to complete the investigation and file the report.
A Note About Witnesses
If there were witnesses to your accident, make sure that you do your best to get their contact information before they leave. Witnesses can not only make the process of your claim go faster, but they can be extremely valuable if your claim has to go to court at a later date. Make sure that you contact them shortly after your accident to get their statements; the farther from the actual event they are, the less likely they will be to remember. Experienced car accident attorneys are aware that memories are freshest early on—follow their advice on that issue.
Make sure that if you decide to work with an attorney, you provide them with the information to contact your witnesses quickly. Your attorney will keep in touch with anyone they may need to call upon to assist in proving your case, if your claim must go to court; they can also take statements that are admissible in court, in case your witness is unable to appear.
Should You Seek Medical Care?
Even if you don’t believe that you have been injured, or if you think that your injuries are minor, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible after a car accident. A medical professional can evaluate your injuries, and a record of your initial visit provides a timeline in case more complex issues—not necessarily apparent at first—develop as a result of your car accident. For example, it can take hours or even days for whiplash injuries to make themselves fully known. Keep in mind also that the adrenaline that is surging through your body when the accident happens can make it difficult for you to realize how injured you are. While it may seem like an unnecessary expense at first, particularly if you are not in a stable financial situation when the accident first occurs, it is important to make sure that you document your injuries early and often. Documentation is everything in a personal injury claim after a car accident; without it, your chances of proving your case are severely weakened.
If you are seriously injured, it is particularly important to receive medical attention quickly. It may be difficult for you to go through the steps that are needed with the police right away, but as much as you can, make sure you get the bare essentials of information, or that someone has collected the details, and seek treatment immediately. Make sure that when you are being treated, you tell the medical professional about any symptoms that you have at all, as long as they are related to the accident, or have occurred alongside the accident. Aches, pains, stiffness, tenderness, all of these are important, and it’s vital for you to get them on the record for your claim. If it isn’t established early on, there is a possibility that the insurance company will argue that the symptoms are unrelated—and that they might win the argument, even in a court of law.
Should You Work With an Attorney?
Some car accident claims can be worked out between the insurance companies and the injured parties involved with no trouble; however, there are many situations in which the services of a Boca Raton car accident attorney could make the difference. If the insurance company attempts to pressure you into an early settlement, or if there are complex issues involved in the accident, it is a good idea to seek an attorney early on, to ensure that you are fairly represented and to make the best use of your time. While it isn’t always strictly necessary to work with a car accident lawyer, such a legal professional can often do a much better job of keeping up with the deadlines and other complications of an extended personal injury case, as well as being able to secure a better settlement.
In addition, if you have been working one-on-one with the insurance company and find yourself getting nowhere, or if you suspect that the company is simply trying to waste as much time as possible, working with an attorney is excellent insurance that the claim will be pursued without losing the statute of limitations. A Boca Raton car accident lawyer can also advise you as to whether your case would be better handled with a settlement or in a lawsuit—an important decision to make. Because they are actively working in the legal system, they also have the benefit of knowing the most recent precedents, and all of the up-to-date information about filings and disclosures that an average person wouldn’t have any reason to be aware of.
Author Bio: Darin Carter has been in the Internet marketing industry for over 15 years, specializing in search marketing, affiliate marketing, social media marketing and online reputation management.