Document the scene of the accident and get all witnesses contact information.
Take pictures of the scene and your injury if possible. You usually only get one chance to take down witnesses contact info. Don't blow it! It could mean the difference in you winning or losing because most people, even when at fault, will try to tweak the facts to turn the fault back on you! Take pictures of the damage to both cars, their original locations, any damage to the roadway, any debris that has fallen to ground and take both close up and far away shots. Take pictures of all the witnesses and their license plates if they are unwilling to give you their information. Take pictures of all injuries as they progress or get better. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. Always err on the side of taking too many pictures rather than not enough.
Contact Authorities and Request that they Write a Police Report
Call the authorities to make a report. If they won't come make a report, go to the police station and make a counter report. You can memorialize your version of the facts when they are the clearest in your mind. Many police agencies won't make a police report unless a party is taken to the hospital.
Document the Property Damage to your Car
If you are in an auto collision, take your car to a mechanic you trust. Always have them inspect and take pictures of possible frame damage. Many times it is impossible to tell the true forces that were exerted on your body unless the bumpers are removed and the supports and pylons are analyzed by an expert. Keep all the damaged parts and don't allow the mechanics to re-use any damaged parts, especially support structures. You must insist on this or the mechanics will just follow their standard procedure and the evidence will be lost forever.
Avoid Insurance Tricks to Devalue Your Case
Never, ever, ever, agree to allow your statement to be recorded. Never speak to an insurance adjuster without an attorney to protect you. They are not your friend! They have one job and one job only: to pay the lowest amount possible to resolve your claim. They know all the tricks after having resolved thousands of claims. Unless you are a professional in the industry, resolving your case yourself is like taking on LeBron James in a one-on-one basketball game. It's just plain foolish!
Don't Miss your Doctor's Appointments and Don't Have Gaps In Treatment
If you do this you are giving ammunition to the opposing insurance adjuster to shoot holes through your case. If you are prescribed medication, take is as prescribed. Those folks who "suck it up" also suffer and damage their case. If you do not take prescribed medication, this is clear evidence that your injury was not as severe as you claim or it is evidence that you weren't injured at all. The insurance company will then accuse you of fraud due to you faking your injury.
Understand Your Insurance Coverages!
Know your insurance coverages! If you don't understand them, consult with a personal injury attorney who can explain them to you. Many times you have no-fault medical coverage that can be controlled by you or your attorney. Be careful that an ambulance or other emergency service doesn't make an early claim and take ALL your medical payment coverage. Send a letter to your insurance company immediately that they send all medical payments to you or your attorney for dispersal.
In California there is a little-known law that allows an injured party to use a family member's Uninsured/Underinsured Policy limits when their own is too low to cover all the damages. For instance if you only have 15,000 in coverage and you case is worth $100,000, and your brother who you live with has a policy that covers up to $100,000, after you exhaust your $15,000 limits you can make a claim with your brother's insurance company for $85,000 more! Insurance law is arcane and tricky, get advice!
See the RIGHT Doctor!: The KEY to settling your case for maximum Value.
Get immediate treatment. The essential steps for getting the right treatment include:
A. Emergency treatment or your family doctor depending on the severity of your case.
B. Chiropractic Treatment/Physical Therapy: Only a skilled chiropractor will take the time to diagnose your injuries and refer you to the right specialist.
C. Diagnostic Treatment: If you don't get an MRI it is very difficult to get a settlement over $10,000 unless the injury is obvious such as a broken bone. These tools include: x-ray, MRI, CT Scan, etc.
D. Medical Expert: Any serious injury must be diagnosed and treated by a specialist whether it be a physiatrist, a neuro-psychologist to diagnose the effects of MTBI (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury) or an orthopedic surgeon to operate on diseases of the spine.
The best chiropractors are those who believe in combining both sciences in order to reach a diagnosis.
Choose an Attorney Who Has Vast Experience In Personal Injury
"Don't bring a knife to a gun fight!" As the saying goes. Insurance companies are thrilled when injured claimants try to settle cases on their own. These days, I regularly see folks who receive offers of $50-$500 for their pain and suffering because they don't have attorney. After they have retained me, I have been able to settle their cases for $10,000-$20,000 for moderate injury cases. Because I only charge an attorney fee if 25%, I'm able to gladly put more money in my clients pockets. In each case where my clients have unsuccessfully tried to settle their case themselves, I have always been able to net them much more even after I have deducted my attorney fee. Always consult with a skilled attorney!!! If you had appendicitis would you buy a "Do It Yourself At Home Surgery Kit"? Of course not!
Keep a Diary to Document the Day-to-Day Happenings of Your Injury
By keeping a diary, you will be able to paint a picture of how this injury has changed your life. Because memories fade, you need to keep track of how the pain prevented you from living your life. Note each and every activity you were unable to do because of your injury. Whether work, sports, recreation, relaxation or even the simple pleasures of sitting in a chair and reading. The law allows for the compensation of damages and losses of all kinds, but they must be documented so they can be proven. Only then can a value be assigned to each "loss". Many people make the mistake of asking for compensation for their "pain and suffering" only. The "losses" and "damages" category is limited only by you as an individual. Each person is different and so are your unique losses. Keep track of them all and be detailed in your journal. Albert Einstein said, " The dullest pen is sharper than the sharpest mind."
Don't Blow the Statute of Limitations!
If someone ran into your car while working for a government entirety you only have 6 months to make a demand and six months after denial (and they always do) to file a lawsuit. In the standard personal injury case you have two years to file a lawsuit unless you are a minor when injured, then you have until your 20th birthday. Always conduct an attorney on this issue because your time limitations are very complicated when dealing with medical malpractice cases.
Additional resources provided by the author
Go to www.jdbohnlaw.com for further resources on how insurance companies evaluate personal injury claims in my presentation "Value Drivers in Personal Injury Accidents."
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