Medical & Legal Rights for Auto Accident Victims

Addressing your medical needs should be your primary concern immediately after an auto accident, and victims are encouraged to report the auto accident and seek needed medical assistance. Every auto accident victim is entitled to proper medical attention after an auto accident. Seeking a medical assessment for even minor injuries after an auto accident could prove legally beneficial in the long run. Auto accident victims are also entitled to  insurance and contact information from the other drivers involved in an auto accident.

Following an auto accident, mounting medical bills, insurance paperwork, vehicle repair costs and missing income from being unable to work can add unwanted stress to an accident victim’s recovery time. After an accident, it is important to keep scheduled doctor appointments and carefully follow all prescribed treatments. Allotting time for injuries to be properly diagnosed might impact an auto accident settlement. Auto accident victims have the right to take a wait-and-see approach before agreeing to any legal settlement. In many instances, time and patience are key tools to proper auto accident litigation and beneficial resolutions.

Those involved in auto accidents have the right to advocate for themselves in the legal arena. Seeking a consultation from a qualified and reputable attorney is a smart move, but keeping aware of the details of the case and being personally involved in any auto accident litigation can save time, money and frustration. Looking over police reports and medical records for discrepancies can eliminate misinformation, and it is important for auto accident victims to double-check the facts surrounding their cases.

Often, the confusion and stress at an auto accident scene can lead eye-witnesses and those involved in an auto accident to offer details about an accident that are inaccurate. One person’s perception of what happened might not take into account issues like  mechanical failures, malfunctioning streetlights or driver intoxication. Details like these can alter the outcome of an auto accident legal case dramatically, and verifying facts related to the auto accident on official medical and police reports can help eliminate future confusion.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do I have to wait before I can collect for my injuries?

Depending on the complexity of your personal injury case and the level of cooperation from the opposing side, it could take anywhere from a few months to a few years to collect compensation for your injuries. Generally, you want to wait until you finish medical treatment before trying to settle a case or go to trial. This allows for a more accurate assessment of your injuries. Also, if your injuries are permanent or long-term, a medical opinion regarding future medical care will typically need to be obtained before completing your case.

Should I wait until I finish my medical treatment before contacting an attorney?

If you think you have an action against a negligent third party, it’s best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to assess your case and protect your rights. There are deadlines for personal injury cases that must be met. If you fail to act in a timely manner, you might lose your ability to recover forever.

Additionally, the evidence to prove your case can be obtained more easily right after an auto accident while memories — yours included — are still fresh. Critical third party witnesses can be found and their statements taken. The insurance company for the opposing side is working hard to gather that evidence, and you should have someone on your side doing the same.

Should I talk to the insurance company?

You should never speak with the other party’s insurance company without speaking to an attorney or researching how the insurance claims process works. There is an inherent conflict of interest between you and the insurance company. To make a profit, the insurance company wants to minimize your claim. You, on the other hand, want to maximize your claim. Considering the experience and knowledge that comes from dealing with thousands of insurance claims each year, you will likely be outmatched by the insurance company every time.

This concept also applies to speaking with your own insurance company regarding reimbursement of vehicle damage and medical bills. However, with an auto accident, the amount at issue is usually comparatively low — unless you are filing an uninsured motorist claim — so your  adjuster is less motivated to put the full-court press on. Since the insurance company’s custom and practice is to minimize claims, it’s likely they will try to slant any information you provide them in an unflattering light purely out of habit. This becomes problematic during the litigation phase if the other side subpoenas your insurance company’s records to get any statements you’ve given them. If your insurer twisted your words into an unhelpful statement, your insurance company’s meddling could come back to haunt you.

Do your research and/or contact an attorney as quickly as possible. Never give a statement — recorded, written or otherwise — to anyone from an insurance company or sign any document without seeking legal advice.

I was injured. What should I do?

If you are involved in an auto accident or any other type of personal injury accident, there are certain immediate steps you should consider taking to protect yourself and your rights. Most importantly, see a doctor if your injuries require it (i.e., you are in pain or having physical difficulties).

Take pictures of your injuries, vehicle damage, and the location of the auto accident as soon as you are able. Keep track of any lost wages, as well as changes in your job, job duties, or salary. Throughout your case, you should save all medical records and bills —along with pill bottles, casts, braces, and any other health care-related items. Be sure to save all receipts itemizing each and every expense you incur as a result of your accident (e.g., transportation costs, home care costs, etc.).

What is the attorney’s fee?

The majority of law offices work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not pay a fee unless a verdict or settlement is recovered in your favor. After a successful recovery, the fee is paid out of that recovery at an agreed upon percentage. You do not need to pay for legal services up front.

What should I bring with me to my initial consultation?

The better prepared you are for the initial consultation, the more an attorney can help you. Try to bring everything related to the auto accident and your injury, including pictures,  police reports, written communications, reports, letters from your insurance company, letters from the negligent party’s insurance company, and reports from your doctor and/or health care providers.

Can you tell me how much my case is worth?

It is impossible to tell immediately how much money, if any, you will recover in connection with your personal injury case. The following factors typically play a role in determining the value of a case:

  • The nature and extent of injury, including whether the injury is permanent, and the amount of disability.
  • Medical expenses, both past and “reasonably certain” to be incurred in the future.
  • Wages lost, both past and future and loss of capacity to earn a living.
  • Pain (the physical sensation one feels as a result of an injury) and suffering (the emotional and mental anguish one feels as a result of pain or injury).
  • Property damage, including your motor vehicle and other items of personal property.
  • Past and future loss of consortium for your spouse (loss of a spouse’s comfort, society, companionship or affection; loss of sexual function or desire).

Most of the above information is not known right away. Additionally, the amount of insurance coverage available may also determine how much a case resolves for.