You've Been In An Accident, Now What?

At the Scene:

Obviously, depending on the severity of a collision, this can be a traumatic time. Your first priority should be the welfare of you passengers and yourself. If injuries are apparent, call for emergency services as soon as possible. Try to remain calm and relay your exact location so that help can arrive as swiftly as possible.

You should exchange identification and insurance information with each driver at the scene of the accident. Whatever you do, do not abruptly leave the scene of a motor vehicle accident. You may be charged with a crime for leaving the scene. Stay and wait for the police to arrive and investigate the scene.

While you have no absolute obligation to make a statement to the investigating officer, you should tell the officer what happened in simple and concise terms. Keep in mind that what you say will likely be written in a police/incident report which may be important if there is an issue of fault. By keeping your account of what happened simple, you avoid the probability of human error in transcribing your statement. Believe it or not, my clients frequently tell me that they did not say what the police officer says that they said. Keep it simple to avoid this problem.

You should also limit your conversations with any other witnesses or involved drivers.

Get the names and addresses of any witnesses at the scene or point them out to the officer. Understandably, this may not be a priority if you are injured.

At the Hospital:

If you complain of physical injuries, you will likely be offered an ambulance to the emergency room. From this point, be aware that your statements relating to the happening of the accident or your symptoms and injuries, will likely be memorialized in medical reports. Make sure you are thorough, accurate and truthful with your complaints. These medical records will become an important part of proving your injuries should you decide to pursue a claim for pain and suffering against a responsible tortfeasor.

Recovering at Home:

Your primary concern should be getting better. In a perfect world, you or a loved one would have taken photographs of each of the motor vehicles involved, the scene of the accident and your injuries (if they are visible). These items may not be a priority, but you should attempt to have someone collect these photographs as soon as possible.

As you recover, consider keeping a diary of your day to day experiences. It will be very difficult for you to recall specific information about your injuries and recovery a year or two later. By keeping a diary of how you felt and how your injuries affected your everyday life, you will be able to recount , in detail, your pain and suffering.

Why is the Insurer at My Door?

You may be contacted by a representative of an insurance company. Insurers have investigators, claims adjustors, lawyers and experts who may try to solicit information as soon as possible. The primary reason is to attempt to gather information from you, your account of the accident and your injuries. It is much easier for the insurer to deal directly with someone who does not have an attorney. The insurer may want to take a statement from you. They may even want to record it. The insurance company wants to know the extent of exposure they may have with your potential claim. The goal, believe me, is to limit their exposure. It is not to give you that warm fuzzy feeling they portray in their marketing and commercials. While you may have to cooperate with your insurer at some point, the best advice I can give is to NOT speak with anyone until you consult with an attorney.

All the paperwork!

Keep copies of any bills and correspondence you receive regarding the accident. Make sure that you consult with your attorney before filling out any forms. You may be requested to provide a summary of the accident or even diagram it on an insurer's form letter. Depending on whose insurance company is requesting the information, you may not have to cooperate at all.

What am I entitled to?

If you sustain medical expenses related to your injuries, Massachusetts requires your insurance carrier to pay the first $ 2,000.00 in medical expenses. After that, your health insurer is primarily responsible for covering your medical expenses. You are also entitled to 75 % reimbursement for your lost wages for the time you are out of work recovering from your injuries. There is a normally statutory "cap" for these type of Personal Injury benefits of $ 8,000.00, unless you elected to purchase additional coverage. Make sure you bring a copy of your Coverage Selection Page for your vehicle to your attorney. Your attorney will likely coordinate your benefits to ensure your medical bills are getting paid and you receive your wage reimbursement.

What is my case worth?

If you sustain a broken bone, a fracture, scarring of a permanent or disfiguring nature or if you sustain medical expenses in excess of $ 2,000.00, you are eligible to make a claim for your pain and suffering against a responsible party. Courts and insurers have no precise and consistent formula for setting the value of someone's injuries. However, every prospective plaintiff's case is evaluated based on certain considerations common to nearly every injury case. These include, but are not limited to: the extent and severity of the injury; permanency of the injury; length of treatment; amount of medical bills; residual effects of injury; amount of time out of work; and out of pocket expenses. Every case is unique. A qualified attorney should be able to provide you with a range of value at the conclusion of your medical treatment or upon your "medical end result."

This article is provided for informational purposes only.