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What do I do if I want to file an auto accident personal injury claim – Where do I start?

Posted by attorney R. Bomberger

The aftermath of a serious accident can be stressful and overwhelming. This legal guide provides injured victims with information on what to do after an accident and how to begin a personal injury claim.

What to Do at the Scene of the Accident

Immediately after a collision, check on yourself, and the other occupants of your car for injuries. See if anyone is unconscious or trapped in the vehicle. If everyone is able to, carefully get to a safe place. It is not uncommon for accident victims to become pedestrian or bystander fatalities when they are struck by other vehicles while standing around an accident scene. Get out of moving traffic and to a safe area as soon as possible. If you must remain in your vehicle, keep your seat belt on and turn on emergency lights.

If anyone is injured, call 911 and request an ambulance, and for law enforcement to come and take a report. While you are waiting, you can obtain names, phone numbers, addresses, driver's license and insurance information of all drivers and passengers, and take photographs of the accident scene with a camera or cell phone. Write down the time of the accident, direction of the vehicles traveling, street names and accident location, make and model of all vehicles, and any other information you feel is relevant. If witnesses stopped at the scene, write down their contact information as well.

Seek Medical Attention for Your Injuries

If you are injured, or if for any reason you do not feel right, it is important to seek out medical care as soon as possible after an accident. Do not refuse ambulance transport or medical treatment, or delay in seeking medical treatment. Getting medical treatment is important not just for your own health and well-being, but for documenting your injuries for your future claim. Once you see a physician or visit an emergency room, a record will be made of your condition, your future medical needs, and your doctor will advise you whether you need diagnostic tests such as X-rays, CT-scans, etc. Do not delay or put off getting any recommended tests or treatment.

Report the Accident to Your Insurance Carrier

Under the terms of your insurance policy, you are probably required to report a crash to your insurance carrier within a certain amount of time following a collision. However, you should not agree to have a statement recorded over the phone or in person about your injuries. You should also not accept a settlement offer shortly after an accident; you may not understand the extent and severity of your injuries, and your prognosis could worsen. Your attorney can advise you how to handle your communications with your insurer.

Stay Organized – Keep Your Receipts and Records

After an accident, it is so important to keep meticulous records and documentation of your medical care and treatment, communications with your insurance adjustor, and your attorney. You should also keep a detailed journal of your injuries, and how they affect you. Keep records of trips to your chiropractor, physical therapist, or any other specialists. Keep receipts of copayments, medications, and any other expenses related to your accident. Check your mail regularly for communications from your doctor and insurance company. Keep all of your documents together and organized, and forward copies to your personal injury attorney. If a family member has suffered a serious injury and is unable to keep records, your assistance is helpful.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Soon

It is never too soon to contact a personal injury lawyer after an accident. If you hire an attorney soon after a crash, your lawyer can you help gather evidence and protect your interests. In the end, this could mean you receive more compensation for your injuries, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. As soon as your immediate medical care needs have been met, contact an experienced lawyer skilled in representing victims of the type of accident you were involved in. If a family member has suffered a serious injury and is unable to make a phone call, contact a lawyer for them. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations and offer representation on a contingency "no win, no fee" basis. However, every attorney is different, so be sure to ask your attorney how his or her fee arrangement works.

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