What do you do if you have been in a car wreck or auto accident? I will skip the obvious things like calling the police and seek medical treatment if you need it. From a legal perspective there are few things that insurance companies require us to do:
1. Pain- first thing to do is make sure that you tell the police officer if you are in pain. While police are not medical professionals, they will write down whether or not you complain of pain. So what? It matters to insurance companies. Insurance companies will argue that since you didn’t tell the officer about your pain you must not have been hurt. Don’t give the insurance company any excuses, they will use anything against you. Often people will be in mild pain but don’t want to make a big deal out of it. Just be truthful and open with the officer and explain your situation.
2. Treatment- get treated quickly if you need it. I myself am fairly stubborn and don’t like going to go see the doctor. However, don’t try and tough it out. Just go get checked out by a doctor. It can’t hurt just to make sure you are ok. Don’t try and self-diagnose your medical condition. If you do, the insurance company will use it against you. If you don’t go get checked out, the insurance company will argue that you must not have been hurt. If you have no significant pain, then don’t go.
3. Insurance- call your own insurance company and tell them what happened. They need to be aware of the wreck. If you talk to the other driver’s insurance company, be very careful. They may try and trick you and record it. Small statements can ruin your case. For example, let’s say you were in a wreck at an intersection and you had the green light. The adjuster may ask “you never saw the other driver, you never looked to your right or left as you went through the intersection?” Even though you had a green, the law still requires you to pay attention and look a little to the sides to make sure no one is coming. The adjuster knows this, and there are many other traps. Just be truthful and don’t say too much.
4. Demands- you will need to get copies of your medical records and bills and send them to the insurance company following a car wreck. It is called a “demand package”. Personally, I wouldn’t give them a medical authorization. If you give them one, the adjuster will simply fish through years of your medical treatment looking for ammunition against. you. Instead, you get these records for them.
5. Settlement- frankly this is very tough. There have been several studies that show if you hire an attorney, on average the settlement will be 300% higher. It isn’t that attorneys necessarily know much more, it is that they can do much more. You can’t realistically file suit and force insurance companies to pay. They know that. So, they pay you less. However, if you have a smaller personal injury case, you could be better off handling it yourself. I have put together a list of things that may help you do it yourself if you want to read my 10 Tips for Handling Car Wreck Cases.