Being involved in a sudden accident can be unnerving and even traumatizing. One moment, you are going about your day as any other and the next moment, you may be injured and requiring medical treatment. In the first minutes after any type of accident, it is natural to be unsure of what to do. Do you report the accident to authorities? Do you need to go to the emergency room? What should you say to others involved?
While it is normal to have these valid questions, doing the wrong things – or failing to do important things – after an accident can affect your legal rights in any subsequent legal claim. For this reason, it is important to keep a clear mind and remember the following tip about what to do after a personal injury.
Get emergency medical attention if necessary.
Some accidents can cause sprains, strains, neck injuries, and similar conditions that need medical attention but perhaps not immediately. In some other situations, however, accident victims may have sustained severe injuries that need to be stabilized and treated as soon as possible.
If you have been seriously injured, you should never hesitate to call 911 to send emergency medical personnel to the scene of the accident. If EMTs believe that you need to be taken in an ambulance immediately, always listen to them. If certain injuries are not stabilized, they can become significantly worse and major complications can develop. This is especially true if you are suspected to have a spinal cord injury or internal injuries or hemorrhaging.
While going straight to the hospital will eliminate your ability to take the following steps, know that there are still ways to gather evidence and prevail in a legal claim. Your physical health is the highest priority following an injury and many people who are transported away from the scene of an accident can successfully recover financially. That being said, if you are able to remain at the scene of an accident, you should take the following steps to help your personal injury claim.
In this day and age, almost all of us carry cameras right in our pockets. You should take out your smartphone and begin taking pictures of the scene of the accident and more. Changing circumstances following an accident can make it more difficult to prove what caused the accident to occur.
For example, if you are in a hotel and fall down the stairs because there was a broken railing, the owner of the hotel should be held liable for negligently failing to repair the railing. However, in many cases, the owner will repair the railing as soon as possible to avoid any additional accidents on that staircase.
While you know the railing was broken, if the owner repairs it, it will be difficult to get any actual proof that it was broken at the time of your fall. If you have a picture of the broken railing, however, it will serve as evidence that a hazardous condition had once existed and led to your accident.
The same is true for certain injuries. If you suffered a deep and painful laceration in your accident, it may likely be healed by the time your legal claim is filed. Seeing a picture of the severity of the cut can be significantly more persuasive than simply hearing a verbal description. Therefore, you should take pictures before the cut heals.
The following are only some examples of pictures you may want to take after an accident:
- Any injuries you suffered
- Hazardous property conditions
- Damage to vehicles
- Any tire or skid marks
- Road conditions
- Traffic signs that were not visible
Report the accident.
How your report the events of your accident at the time can play a role in a future legal case. You want to make sure the proper authorities know what happened as soon as possible. This can include:
- Your boss after a workplace accident
- The nursing home administration after a nursing home injury
- A business owner after a slip and fall
- The police after a traffic accident
By filing a report, you can get your version of events memorialized in writing. It also helps establish a timeline of when the accident occurred and the conditions at the time of the accident.
In addition, by calling the police after a traffic accident, officers can evaluate whether another driver violated the law. If the driver is cited or arrested, it can only help your personal injury case.
Take down names and contact information.
It is imperative to gather the names and contact information of anyone else who was involved in an accident. This makes it easier to locate them when it comes time to file an insurance claim or a lawsuit.
Additionally, talk to anyone who may have witnessed the accident, as they can play an important role in a subsequent case. Their account of what happened can corroborate your statements and challenge any wrongful statements from parties trying to avoid liability. However, too many people fail to identify witnesses to their accidents. The witnesses go on their way and are nearly impossible to find afterward. Therefore, getting their contact information is critical at the scene of the accident.
See a medical professional.
Even if you did not require emergency medical attention, you should always undergo an exam for any type of injury. Your injury may be more serious than you think or may need timely treatment to avoid complications. You should go to the emergency department or make an appointment with your physician as soon as you can.
In addition to preserving your health and facilitating physical recovery, getting a timely diagnosis of your injuries is extremely important for a personal injury claim in the following ways:
- Your medical records can be used as evidence of the nature and severity of your injuries
- Your doctor’s recommendations can support the necessity of certain treatments
- A quick diagnosis can help prove that your injuries were caused by the accident in question and did not happen due to a subsequent event
We all know that memories fade over time. In the time between your accident and a legal case, some details of the event may become hazy or you may forget certain observations you made. It is helpful to write down your recollection of the accident as soon as possible so you can use your notes to refresh your memory if needed at a later time.
Furthermore, some damages are relatively easy to prove in a personal injury case – such as medical costs and lost wages – because you can present concrete documents to support them. However, intangible losses such as pain and suffering rely on your description regarding how your injury affected you. If you take notes of how your injuries make you feel on a day-to-day basis while you recover, as well as the limitations you experience as a result of your injuries. Such notes can help support the level of pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life you suffered due to your accident.
Call an experienced Waterford – New London CT or RI personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Accident victims are often distracted, disoriented, and in pain following the incident. It is understandable that you may not automatically know how to proceed to best protect your health and your legal rights. Hopefully, the above tips can serve as a reminder of steps to take after an accident to improve your chances of success in a personal injury claim.
The final step you should take is always to contact a highly experienced personal injury law firm that works in your area. A personal injury attorney will evaluate your case and advise you of your legal options and rights following your accident. Even if you are making an insurance claim, having the representation of a qualified lawyer can improve your negotiations and can help you determine whether a settlement offer is adequate. A lawyer can also advise when a legal claim is necessary to obtain the full amount you deserve.
At Polito & Harrington, we help injured victims throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island, including Waterford and across New London County. Our personal injury attorneys have extensive experience handling a wide variety of injury cases and Humbert Polito is a Board Certified civil trial lawyer.