Injured in a car wreck? Suggestions on what to do and when to do it are below. These suggestions or tips are designed to apply to your typical car wreck. Other blog posts note that wrecks involving 18 wheelers or other commercial vehicles can be different and more complicated. You may need to consider hiring a lawyer almost immediately in those instances involving significant injury or property damage, particularly when an 18 Wheeler and/or other commercial vehicle are involved. Also, keep in mind that many vehicles now have downloadable data recorders in them that can reveal speed, hard breaking events, air bag activation, and seat belt usage. This data can become very important at times in cases where both sides are claiming fault on each other or in cases where there are no witnesses besides the parties involved. To preserve this data, you may need the help of a lawyer.
What to do at the scene of the wreck:
1) Call the police. Whether you’re injured or not you need to call the police to make a record of the collision.
2) Do not move your vehicle until instructed by the police to do so. Police officers use the location of the vehicles and vehicle debris to make determinations of fault.
3) Never leave the scene even if the other driver flees the scene. If possible, get the other driver’s license plate number, but do not, under any circumstances leave the scene to try and track down the hit and run driver. It is more important (and safer) to stay at the scene and wait on the police to arrive.
4) Be truthful. Be truthful with police when asked about how the wreck occurred. Be truthful with police and emergency responders about whether you’re injured. If you’re injured, let someone know so that you can get the appropriate medical treatment. If emergency responders say you need to go to an emergency room, follow their advice.
What to do in the days following the wreck:
1) Call your auto insurance company. Even if the wreck is not your fault, you’ll want to call your auto insurance company to find out what insurance coverages you have available to you and to report the incident. Arkansas law requires your auto insurance carrier to provide you with certain coverages: $5,000 for medical benefits (commonly called medpay) and up to $7,280 for income disability benefits. See Ark. Code Ann. 23-89-202. The only insured drivers in Arkansas who don’t have these coverages rejected them in writing. See Ark. Code Ann. 23-89-203. You also may want your auto insurance company to handle your property damage claim.
2) Get a copy of the police report. Check it over to make sure the information in the report is accurate. If it is not, consider notifying the investigating police officer.
3) If the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company requests a recorded statement, be prepared. You may want to consider at least talking with a lawyer at this point depending on the severity of the wreck and/or the severity of your injuries. It is helpful to understand what questions the insurance company may be interested in asking. Be truthful in the statement. Part of being truthful is not guessing at what happened or what will happen. If you don’t know some of the details about how the wreck happened, don’t guess at them. Tell the insurance company representative precisely what facts you know and what facts you don’t know. If you don’t know the extent of your injuries, don’t guess at them. Tell the insurance company representative about what injuries you suffered, the medical treatment you’ve received to date, and the instructions you’ve received from your doctors.
4) Take pictures of your physical injuries and property damage. If you have cuts, bruises, or surgical scars, then take pictures. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Make sure to take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and request copies of any vehicle damage photographs taken by any insurance company.
5) If you need medical treatment, get it. Not all injuries heal with time. If you are in pain after your wreck, make an appointment to see your primary care doctor. Use common sense. If you feel like you need medical care, get it. If not, don’t.
6) Your doctor’s office should file any charges for treatment on your medpay – see 1) above – or on your health insurance. At fault drivers insurance companies typically want to pay one lump sum for the settlement of your case at the end of all your treatment. You have medpay and health insurance coverage for a reason. Do not risk damaging your credit while you wait to finish your treatment or wait for the at-fault drivers insurance to make you a reasonable offer. Remember there is nothing in the law that requires the insurance company of an at-fault driver to pay you for your personal injury claim. You might have to go all the way to court to make them pay for your injuries and time missed form work. If you make a recovery, in certain circumstances under Arkansas law, your health insurance company will be paid back. In other circumstances, the law may not require reimbursement to your med pay provider or health insurance company.
What to do in the weeks and months following the wreck:
1) Follow your doctor’s instructions. Attend all doctor and therapy visits scheduled.
2) Do not attempt to settle your injury claim until you understand your prognosis or until your doctor releases you. The number one mistake most people make in handling their own injury claim is that they want to rush to settlement.
3) If you’re feeling overwhelmed by medical bills, insurance company phone calls, or anything else related to the wreck, give us a call for a free consultation. We’ll listen to you and give you our opinion on whether your case requires an attorney. If we don’t think our representation can add value to your injury claim, we’ll let you know. If we think we can help bring value to your injury claim, we’ll tell you how so you can make an informed decision about retaining our law firm.
This was post was drafted by Carter Stein and Will Bond and will be updated. Please excuse any typos.