Phoenix has many risks of car accidents. The heat, scores of traffic, aggressive and distracted drivers on Interstate 10 or 17, and other factors all contribute to the city’s recent designation as the “worst large city” for traffic-related fatalities.
When a car accident is not your fault, you suffer because of someone else’s carelessness. Their bad day or bad judgment uprooted your life and threw everything into chaos. While it seems black-and-white that you should receive compensation for everything that you have lost, it does not always work out that way.
Your actions after a car accident matter. You can hurt your case and jeopardize your legal rights. On the flip side, you can help your own cause. Here is what you should do after a car accident to protect both your health and your possible financial compensation.
Get Medical Help
If you are reading this page, you probably suffered physical injuries in your car accident, and you are looking to get compensation for them. Your physical injuries need official records and documentation for an insurance company or jury to consider. Not only do you need medical help for your physical health, but it will also help your legal case.
If you do not see a doctor right after your accident, you run several risks. From a physical perspective, there is a chance that you have undiagnosed injuries that can grow worse without treatment, such as a traumatic brain injury.
From a legal standpoint, you give the insurance company a route to challenge your claim. They can argue that not seeing a doctor caused your injuries to get worse. This is particularly true when you may have suffered a back or brain injury. You need to get medical treatment and follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.
The quality of your medical documentation matters. Your diagnosis should be clear and make it very apparent exactly what injuries you sustained.
This can affect these parts of your financial compensation:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Nearly all of your compensation depends on your physical injuries and prognosis. Doctors should diagnose and detail this as close to the accident as possible. Even if you received treatment at the scene, you should visit a doctor for a formal diagnosis. You should never file a claim until the extent of your injuries is apparent.
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Call a Lawyer to Help with the Legal Process
You may find things moving very quickly after your car accident. Besides the need for medical treatment detailed above, you will also be fielding calls from the other driver’s insurance company.
This is dangerous territory for any injured driver. They have you squarely in their sights, with their profits on their mind. When they know that you have a valuable claim, they will do whatever they can to keep you from getting a check entirely or reducing the amount that they need to pay you. Without a lawyer on your side, you are a vulnerable target for an opportunistic insurance company.
While hiring a lawyer does not guarantee you a check, it does get you someone who will look out for you and your interests. Just because you suffered harm in an accident does not mean that you can expect a settlement. It takes work and often a good fight before you get the payment you need. This starts right after your car accident. If you do not call a lawyer, you may find yourself on the receiving end of sneaky and manipulative phone calls from the insurance company designed to trick you at every turn.
What Your Car Accident Lawyer Does in Your Case
You may think that the accident was not your fault, but the key ingredient to a settlement is the evidence needed to prove it. Most injured motorists do not have the time or the skill set to gather and present this evidence. Instead, they will merely tell an insurance company what they think happened. Unless the other driver admits this (or the liability is crystal clear), you cannot expect a settlement.
Your attorney will:
- Review the police report of the accident
- Speak with people who witnessed the accident
- Help reconstruct the accident based on the wreckage and pictures of the scene
- Speak with the insurance companies to present your story
Proving liability is just part of the fight that you have ahead of you. Even when you can establish the other driver’s responsibility quickly, the bigger fight is almost always the amount of the check. Without a lawyer, you might simply have no idea how much to fight for in your case.
We use the word “fight” because this is what the settlement process is. The insurance company throws a lowball offer your way, and you reject it while using the threat of litigation.
Ultimately, you may reach an agreement without a trial, but it takes some grit and persistence. Most cases will eventually settle, but the process is far from easy.
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Hire the Right Lawyer for Your Case
You should not call any lawyer in your case. In other words, you should not just do a Google search and hire the first lawyer that you see. There are differences in car accident attorneys. Not all lawyers have the same level of experience, nor will they handle your case the same way.
Some attorneys will try to settle a case every single time, no matter what. This approach does not always benefit you. Without the threat of litigation, an insurance company does not have the incentive to be reasonable with you. They think they can drag out your case, and you will be happy to take what they offer you.
Attorneys earn a reputation with insurance companies and juries. When an insurance company knows that you have the right legal representation, they will take you more seriously because they know that you have a fighter in your corner. Insurance companies do not like us, and for good reason. We are not here to make friends with the Allstates and State Farms of the world. Instead, we are here to zealously fight for our clients at every step of the way.
You should pay attention to attorney reviews and learn more about their reputation. We have satisfied clients who got the money they deserved.
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Save Any Evidence that You May Have
Insurance claims (and even more so, jury trials) are very evidence intensive. You never know which piece of evidence can prove your side of the story or your damages. You should save everything that you have that relates to the accident itself or your damages after the accident.
If you have any recollections or leads for your attorney, you should mention them, so your attorney can pursue them in investigating your accident. If you are able, try to organize what you can for your attorney, although your injuries can prevent you from doing too much. If you cannot get organized or do anything because of your injuries, you can trust that your attorney will handle all the details.
Document Your Damages
Both insurance companies and juries will take a “prove it” attitude towards your damages. Unless you can prove that you lost something in the accident, you will not get money for it. You will need to be very specific with your claim, giving detailed information about your losses. If it is not in the paperwork, the insurance company will not pay you for it. Your lawyer will help you prepare a precise claim that makes your damages evident.
This means saving information about your medical costs and lost wages. Even though most people do not get pay stubs anymore, they should have a history of what wages they received along with a reasonable prediction of what they might earn in the future.
One major part of your settlement check or jury award is pain and suffering damages. They compensate you for what you went through and what you will deal with in the future. The insurance company will assign a number to your case based on their own experience without knowing anything about yours.
This is why it is critical to keep a log or have people describe your pain and suffering. If you have dealt with significant physical and psychological pain, you should get full payment for it.
Fight for What You Legally Deserve
You will not receive a reasonable amount in your settlement check that reflects what you deserve just by asking for it. If it seems like every attorney talks about fighting and describes themselves as fighters, there is a reason for it. Sometimes, insurance companies only understand one language, making the settlement process a sort of combat.
Do not take an offer that ignores your true entitlement to damages. Do not settle a valuable claim for pennies on the dollar. We understand that settlement agreements usually pay you less than you might get in damages from a jury, and there are important reasons why you might settle your case instead of taking it to trial. This does not mean that you have to accept a bad settlement offer. We cannot say it strongly enough. You are under no obligation to take what an insurance company offers you.
Some accidents will require you to go to court because you cannot get the right settlement offer. If this is what you need to do, you should not be afraid of the legal process. Filing a lawsuit is sometimes what you have to do to make the insurance company take you seriously. It does not mean that you cannot settle your case before a trial.
Do Not Speak With an Insurance Company
The other driver’s insurance company may seem like they want to help you and be your friend after your accident. Do not buy it. They do everything to cut their payment to you. They may try to call you after the accident. They can ask questions that seem innocent.
They are anything but harmless questions. Everything that they ask you intends to get information out of you that can harm your claim. The insurance company can trick you into admitting fault or downplaying the extent. Once you have said it, you can expect that it is on the record and they will use it against you. Be very careful of whom you speak to after the accident. Only speak with your lawyer. If you do not have an attorney, this is the time to get one.
Be Patient and Do the Best You Can
The legal process does not happen overnight after a car accident. It is quite the opposite. There is little reason for the insurance company to give you everything that you ask for right off the bat. They will test you out to see what you are willing to take. If you accept less than you deserve, they have made more money.
We understand that you are under a lot of stress and worried about your finances during the legal process. You have a very good reason for this. It is a difficult time, and there is plenty of uncertainty to go around. It will take time to get what you need in the settlement process. If the insurance company will simply not come around, you may need to file a lawsuit, which will take even more time.
It is easier said than done to remain patient throughout the process, but you should let the legal process play out. When you hire us, you can trust that we are diligently working on your behalf and doing everything we can to protect your legal rights.