Car accidents happen daily throughout the St. Louis area. The Missouri State Highway Patrol reports over 14,000 collisions every year, which cause injuries to more than 6,000 drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. That means the likelihood that you will be involved in a car accident at some point is very high, whether it is a minor fender bender or a much worse situation.
The immediate aftermath of a collision leaves most people incredibly distressed and confused, especially if it seriously hurt them and they do not always know what to do next. This article covers what you should know about navigating a car accident injury, including staying safe, getting appropriate medical care, protecting your legal rights, and making it easier to pursue compensation for your damages.
Steps to Take Immediately After an Accident Injury
Following a scary and sudden car accident, there is a real danger of suffering further injuries because your location is unsafe. It is against Missouri law to leave the scene of an accident without trading insurance information with the other driver, but make sure you are out of the path of ongoing traffic while handling these matters.
Other necessary actions you can take immediately after being in a collision to protect your best interests include:
Get medical treatment immediately
The most important thing after a car accident is ensuring everyone injured receives appropriate medical care. Wait for emergency services to arrive, and do not try to move an individual who is unconscious, unable to move their limbs, or suffering from neck, back, or head pain. You should seek assistance for yourself even if you do not think you are seriously hurt.
The rush of adrenaline from being in an accident can mask your pain and other symptoms for hours after the crash. Some severe injuries, like brain trauma or internal bleeding, may not manifest immediately but require immediate medical attention. Instead of relying on how you feel, get checked out by a doctor within 24 hours. If you are not seen by emergency personnel at the scene, visit the emergency room or follow up with your primary care doctor as soon as possible.
Getting timely medical care is crucial for safeguarding your health and protecting your legal rights. If you want to pursue compensation for the damages you suffered due to another driver’s negligence, your medical records are the most important documentation of the extent of your injuries. If you did not seek medical care promptly, it could later be argued that you were not seriously hurt or that the complications you suffered were at least partly your fault.
Talk to the police
Along with emergency medical services, police officers should be called to the scene of any accident that causes injuries. Law enforcement will interview everyone involved, record important information about the circumstances that contributed to the crash, and write a report that will become one of the critical pieces of evidence if you pursue compensation later on.
While you should talk to the responding officers, keep your remarks short and just stick to the basic facts of what happened. Never say anything that could be misconstrued as an admission that you were at fault for causing the crash, such as apologizing.
Preserve evidence, if you can
It is not always possible to do so if you have been seriously hurt, but if you can, take out your phone and capture photos or videos of the accident scene that can potentially work as evidence. Showing your injuries, the damage on your vehicle, skid marks, road debris, mile markers or street signs that can indicate your location, and other relevant images can all be helpful resources to establish the causes of the crash.
You should also write a summary of what you remember about what happened, which can be beneficial to jog your memory about essential details you may later forget. If anyone at the scene saw the accident, such as other drivers or pedestrians, try to collect the names and contact information because witness testimony could eventually help strengthen your case for compensation.
Steps to Take in the Days and Weeks After an Accident
After getting injured in a car accident, victims will often have to navigate a painful recovery period, decreased quality of life, and significant uncertainty about how to take care of bills. There are some basic guidelines you should follow in the days and weeks following the accident to help you maximize the value of your claim and recover fair compensation.
Report the accident to your insurer
Even if you are pursuing compensation from the at-fault driver, it is common for your insurer to also play a role in covering some of your damages. Most policies require you to notify them of an accident as soon as possible, even if it was not your fault, and failure to do so can jeopardize your coverage.
The information to include when filing a claim is the incident’s date, time, location, a general description of what happened, and any injuries you suffered. There is no need to go into a lot of detail, so keep it simple and factual.
Do not talk to the liable party’s insurer
After filing a car accident claim under the at-fault driver’s liability insurance, the adjusters from that company are likely to get in touch with you, often several times. They will generally try to take a recorded statement with your version of the events of the accident and conduct interviews about your resulting damages.
You have no legal obligation to talk to these representatives directly and that doing so can hurt your chances of having a solid case. For them, the only goal of these conversations is getting information that can be used to reduce their financial responsibility for the claimant’s losses from the accident. They may even take your words out of context to argue you were at fault for the accident. This is why you should always tell insurers to contact your attorney, who can handle all these communications on your behalf.
Follow all medical guidance
During your recovery from an accident injury, the best thing you can do for your health and your legal case is to adhere to all your doctor’s recommendations. That generally means taking your medications, keeping up with all your physical therapy appointments, and not overexerting yourself by returning to an active lifestyle too quickly.
Following medical advice will give you the best chance of making a faster recovery, and it is also essential to strengthen your compensation claim. Your medical records will be closely scrutinized throughout the legal process, especially by defense attorneys hired by the at-fault party’s liability insurer to minimize your damages. Poor adherence can be used as ammunition to dispute the benefits you deserve, such as by saying your injuries were exaggerated.
Keep a journal during your recovery
When you file a claim for compensation for getting injured in a car accident, the at-fault party’s insurer will base your settlement offer on medical costs, lost wages, and other measurable out-of-pocket expenses. However, they also assign a monetary value to intangible losses like pain and suffering.
The emotional and psychological challenges victims face after getting injured are often significant, and Missouri courts recognize that these damages should be compensated. One of the best ways to support your claim for recovering non-economic costs is to keep track of the difficulties you experience throughout your recovery, starting from the beginning, by writing a journal.
Document significant moments like surgical procedures or hospital stays, track your pain levels throughout the day or describe disruptions to your life due to having severe injuries and expensive medical bills.
Maintain excellent records
One of the most important things you can do to maximize the value of your claim is to keep thorough records of all your hospital bills, car repair bills, statements from your employer detailing your lost wages, and any other documentation of your losses.
If you have to hire someone to clean your home, do yard work, or provide childcare during your recovery, save a copy of these receipts. The evidence used to pursue a car accident injury claim can take many different forms, but there is no such thing as too much evidence to prove the extent of your damages.
Hire an attorney
After getting badly hurt in a car accident, you will need a skilled and experienced lawyer to help you navigate the claims process. When you are dealing with growing medical bills, it can be tempting to accept the first settlement offer made by the liable driver’s insurer, even if it is not nearly enough.
Car accident lawyers can provide strategic support and look out for your best interests at every step, whether that is investigating the accident, calculating the costs of your damages, or negotiating a fair settlement.
Types of Compensation Available For Accident Injury Victims
Suffering serious injuries in a car accident will turn life upside down, leading to an overwhelming financial burden and the potential for long-term health challenges. While there is no amount of money that can fully compensate for this kind of ordeal, recovering a fair settlement can make the biggest difference in helping victims get life back on track. Depending on the details of your accident and the severity of your injuries, the compensation you can pursue includes:
A car accident claim can cover all of the measurable financial costs associated with getting hurt, which are often extensive. Serious accidents will leave victims with heavy medical debt, especially if they need emergency surgery or have had an extended hospital stay.
Victims can file for reimbursement of all current and future expenses for treating their injuries, including ambulance services, physical therapy, medical devices, prescription medication, and home health aides. St. Louis residents who sustain debilitating injuries are likely to have short or long-term income losses due to taking time off from work, which should also be included as part of your claim.
Getting injured in an accident will also come with many quality-of-life costs that cannot be quantified but still deserve compensation. A car accident claim can seek restitution for these emotional and psychological damages, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, the inconvenience of having temporary or permanent mobility restrictions, post-traumatic stress disorder, and loss of enjoyment for not being able to live your regular lifestyle.
How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help You
Recovering fair compensation for your injuries from a major car accident is a challenging process with lots of paperwork, but you do not have to go through it alone.
On average, victims with skilled legal representation can receive much larger settlements than claimants that deal directly with insurance companies. This is because experienced car accident lawyers are well-versed in the strategies insurers use to minimize payouts, and they can help you level the playing field.
Here are some of the ways having an attorney by your side can help you have a stronger case:
- Investigate the accident: Your lawyer’s team will piece together the events of the accident by witness statements, the police report, and the testimony of forensic car accident experts. They can also uncover important information that could otherwise be missed, like footage of the accident from nearby security cameras.
- Substantiate your damages: An experienced lawyer can analyze and document all the victim’s economic and non-economic damages, including future costs that will continue for months or years after getting injured.
- Negotiate a fair settlement: One of the fundamental realities of trying to recover compensation after a car accident is that insurers always try to pay much less than you deserve. Having a lawyer negotiate on your behalf puts you in a much stronger position to receive a reasonable settlement offer.
Most personal injury lawyers represent clients with a contingency agreement, which means they only get paid after recovering compensation for the victim’s damages, which makes getting legal help extremely accessible.