Dealing with the aftermath of an auto accident can be very complicated and frustrating. It can feel like your life had suddenly been turned upside down. Fortunately, there are concrete steps you can take not only to protect yourself legally and financially but also to get compensated fairly while you recover physically and mentally from your accident.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you navigate through the often messy aftermath.
1. Don’t Talk to the Other Driver’s Insurance
The other driver’s insurance company might contact you. Should you talk to them? In short, no.
They’re not contacting you out of concern for your wellbeing. Their job is to represent the other driver and not have your best interests in mind. Your own insurance company does.
Whenever the other driver’s insurance contacts you, they are trying to find anything you say that they can possibly use against you during the settlement of the case. The best thing to do is say as little as possible, contact your lawyer or insurance company, and let them take care of it.
2. Make a Claim
One of the most important and beneficial things you can do after an accident is to submit a claim to your own auto insurance company. You purchased your auto insurance for this very reason.
To support your claim against the other driver, you need to request and obtain a copy of the police report. The police maintains records, or police reports, of all accidents within their jurisdiction.
You also should include information such as bodily injuries, medical bills, how many days of work you missed, cost of car repairs, and any other damages caused by the accident. Because you aren’t at fault, your premiums will not increase if you make a claim. Your insurance will cover your car repairs and bill the other driver’s insurance.
3. Assess the Damage on Your Car
If your car was deemed undrivable at the accident, it would have been towed and taken to an auto body shop for a damage assessment. You can have repairs done there or at any other auto body shop you like.
As far as who pays for the repairs, if you weren’t at fault, the other driver should pay. If your car was totaled, you will get paid the fair market value of your car based on the Kelley Blue Book.
4. Document Your Injuries, Medical Bills and Time Off Work
If you were taken by ambulance, hospitalized and racked up medical bills, missing time from work, these costs will usually be compensated by the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Be sure to document your injuries, medical bills and records, and time lost from work. An insurance company uses that documentation to evaluate your claim and determines whether it will pay your claim.
If you have health insurance, use it. Don’t wait for a settlement payout. However, if you do not have insurance, try to defer payment until after the settlement. You may be able to get a medical lien on the ensuing insurance settlement to make sure your treatment gets paid for.
5. Improve the Value of Your Case
Between the time of your accident and the time of settlement, there are a number of things you can do to improve the value of your case. You should also avoid doing things that will likely hurt your case, like posting photos of the accident on Facebook.
Other than posting about your accident on social media, delaying or stopping medical treatment, not keeping documentation of all your damages, or “toughing it out” through the pain at your job will likely harm your case before it is settled.
To support your claim, it is very important not to delay or stop any medical treatment. Having MRIs, CAT scans, and any special diagnostic testing ordered by the doctor will help strengthen your case. Find out if you need surgery before the case gets settled.
Talk to your employer and take the time you need off work. Your lost time from work will help bolster your claim that you should be compensated for your injuries and damages. If you have any family members helping take care of you, keep track of this; it will also help your case to get compensated fairly.