Written by attorney Martin Wade Hodges

Basic Automobile Accident and Personal Injury Do's and Don'ts List

  • CONSULT WITH AN EXPERIENCED PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY. If you are injured in an automobile collision or suffer physical or emotional harm as the result of another person's negligence, consult with an experienced attorney specializing in personal injury law. There are many lawyers, but not all lawyers are qualified to handle complex personal injury matters. When looking for the right attorney for your case, do not hesitate to ask whether the attorney specializes in personal injury and how many years experience they have specifically practicing personal injury law.

  • MAKE SURE YOU CHOOSE A LAWYER WHO IS RIGHT FOR YOU. Choosing the right lawyer can be critical to the success of your personal injury case. Choose an experienced personal injury lawyer, and just as importantly, choose a lawyer who is a good fit for you. When consulting with a prospective lawyer, ask any questions you have and make sure you receive satisfactory answers. A successful attorney-client relationship is built on trust and cooperation. You must be able to trust your lawyer's advice and be confident they will protect your legal interests and successfully move your case forward to conclusion. Because personal injury cases often take months or even years to resolve, the attorney-client relationship is often a long term relationship. Just like any relationship, not all lawyers and clients are a good fit. Ask enough questions during your initial consultation to both gauge the attorney's experience handling your type of case, and whether your personalities are a good match to form a successful professional relationship.

  • KEEP YOUR LAWYER INFORMED. Always let your lawyer know about any relevant changes in your life, such as a change of address, telephone number, email address, change of employment and other significant life changes. Always let your lawyer know if you will be out of town for extended periods on business or vacation. Always keep your lawyer informed as to how you can be reached you at all times.

  • DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS. Do not talk to anyone about the facts of your accident, except your lawyer, persons from your lawyers office, or your lawyer's private investigator. Don't be afraid to ask for information regarding the identification of any person contacting you regarding your accident or personal injury. Do not give a statement, recorded or otherwise, to any insurance company (yours included) until you notify your attorney so that he or she may be present. If you are contacted by any insurance company, you should refer that call to your lawyer without hesitation.

  • TRAFFIC OFFENSES. Never plead gulity to any traffic offense if you are arrested or cited in connection with your accident. Call your lawyer immediately for legal advice on how to proceed. In the event of a court hearing, be sure to notify your lawyer so that they will be able to represent you in connection with that hearing.

  • CAR REPAIR AND PHOTOGRAPHS. Do not have your automobile repaired without first taking photographs of the damage to your vehicle. As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words, and can be extremely valuable evidence. Please take as many photos as possible of the automobile from all sides and all angles. Take good pictures of broken glass, windshield, dents, the points of impact, steering wheel, interior seat tracks, front and rear bumpers, etc. You can never have too many pictures. Once you have taken an ample number of photographs, have your insurance carrier repair your automobile as promptly as possible.

  • PHOTOGRAPHS OF INJURY. If you have bruising or other visible injury, please take as many photographs of your injuries as possible, and document the time and date the photographs are taken. As you progress in your recovery, take additional photographs to document the status of your recovery over time. While we realize the potential sensitivity of physical injury photographs, they may be essential to successfully convey the extent of your injury to the trier of fact.

  • MEDICAL APPOINTMENTS. Always see a doctor as soon as possible after an automobile collision or other type of incident causing you personal injury. Successfully proving your case, requires medical evidence of your injury. You should always go to the emergency room or your regular doctor directly after the collision. Often times insurance companies will make the argument that since you waited to see a doctor, you couldn't have been injured too badly. While we know this isn't usually true, make it your priorty to seek medical treatment in a timely manner. You should return to each of your doctors as frequently as necessary and follow all doctor's orders. You should always give your doctor a complete history of your current physical complaints. Please be aware that everything you tell your doctor will go into your medical file. Therefore, do not speculate and be accurate with your medical history and current physical complaints. You should not minimize your ailments to your doctor, as your doctor needs to know all relevant information in order to properly treat you. Always keep your lawyer informed of all medical care you receive.

  • JOB AND INSURANCE APPLICATIONS, MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS. Be sure to reveal your accident or injuries on insurance and job applications. Also, inform any doctor who examines you for employment or other reasons about your physical complaints. Discuss this issue with your lawyer before proceeding with any employment related medical examinations.

  • PAY ALL MEDICAL BILLS PROMPTLY. If you have Personal Injury Protections (PIP) insurance, have your automobile insurance carrier pay as many medical bills under the medical provision of your insurance policy as possible. Your lawyer will assist you in opening a PIP claim with your auto insurance carrier. If you do not have medical coverage (PIP) under your auto insurance policy, use your private health insurance to pay as much on your medical bills as possible. Medical providers are generally more cooperative when their bills are paid. You cannot expect your medical providers to wait for payment until your case has settled to receive payment. Pay all balances as soon as possible, and keep copies of all bills you pay and all correspondence with your private health insurance company. Always provide a copies of all payments and correspondence with your healthcare insurance provider to your lawyer. Some lawyers prefer that you have no direct contact with any insurance company involved with your case, and will handle all insurance aspects for you. This is an area to discuss when first interviewing your attorney. If you have no insurance and cannot pay your medical bills in full, it is important to let your attorney know. Often times the attorney can work out a payment schedule and keep unpaid balances out of collection until your case settles. Although this may be successful, keep in mind that attorneys cannot work miracles when it comes to getting your medical providers to wait for payment.

  • KEEP RECORDS OF YOUR DAILY. Please keep a written record of any difficulties you experience in your daily life because of the injuries you suffered in your accident. Keep a list of activities you are unable to do and why you cannot do them. For example, sitting or standing in one position for too long, shoveling snow, house work, gardening, bowling, skiing, playing with your children, hiking or climbing stairs. Keeping a written record will help you recall all of the pain you suffered and any difficulty you experienced more clearly. Please note that in the event a lawsuit is filed, your attorney will likely have to provide a copy of this log to the other side.

  • WITNESSES TO YOUR HEALTH. Be alert to friends, acquaintances, neighbors, family, fellow employers and supervisors who can testify as to the state of your health, work ability, physical activity level and limitations, and social activities both before your injury and after. Do not hide your pain or complaints from these people. It is important that you caution your friends and relatives not to discuss your complaints with persons representing the other side without first talking to your lawyer.

  • EARNINGS AND WAGE LOSS. Please keep accurate records of all days lost from work because of your injuries. Your lawyer will likely ask your employer to provide written verification of your time lost from work, wage loss, and any other benefits you may have lost as a result of your injuries. Your lawyer may request your employer to provide written documentation of any lost work capacity you experienced after the collision in comparison to your performance before the collision.

  • UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS. Always inform your lawyer before making application for an unemployment claim. You must swear that you are employable and not disabled from work when you file such claims. If you make an unemployment claim based on those representations, you cannot later testify that you were unable to work as a result of your automobile collision at the time you make application.

  • WITNESSES. Always provide your lawyer with the correct name, address and telephone number of any and all witnesses you may know or learn of.

  • MEDICAL TREATMENT - UNRELATED TO YOUR ACCIDENT. If you seek medical treatment for a condition that is not related to your personal injury, tell that medical provider about your accident and your present condition resulting from your accident. If you are seeking treatment for a medical condition not related to your personal injury case, always let your lawyer know immediately. It is important your lawyer knows about all medical conditions or other factors that may affect your personal injury claim so that they can help you accordingly.

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