Stages of an Auto Accident Case
Every case goes through several different stages. In order to be sure to maximize your recovery in any case and specifically in an Auto Accident case you should be sure you are receiving proper advice and you are represented by an experienced personal injury attorney.
Trying to go it alone against a giant insurance company who has spent millions of dollars and has decades of experience in how to pay as little as possible is not in your best interest.
Day of the Accident.
At the scene. Document. Document. Document. In today’s day and age a cell phone with a camera is a fantastic tool. Here is a checklist of things to be done at the scene;
- Get Photos of all cars involved,;
- Get Photos of the intersection;
- Get Photos of all people involved (don’t be shy!)
- Get Photos of driver’s licenses and insurance cards for everyone;
- Get photos of property damage, both on the cars and any debris in the road;
- Get photos of license plates
- Get photos of any other items of interest.
- Get photos of the police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and any other individuals who arrive to help.
These photos are all of potentially huge significance.
After leaving the scene the number one priority in all personal injury cases is to be sure the injured individual is getting proper medical treatment. If you have been hurt in an accident then you need to get looked at by a medical provider ASAP. There are two reasons for this. The first and most obvious is that there could be something seriously wrong with you. If you are examined by a physician they will likely catch any life threatening problems right away. The second reason is that the insurance companies love to argue that a delay in treatment from the day of the accident, no matter how long, is a sign that the person was not that badly hurt and is now just going to the doctor because they are trying to ‘milk’ the case. This argument will, if the case gets there, ultimately be made to the jury as well. For your own health be sure to get treated by a medical provider right away.
Days following the Accident.
For many people the stress and craziness of the day of the accident is overwhelming and very little attention is paid to their own physical condition. It is common for people to wake up the day after an injury accident and feel stiffness, pain and even numbness or tingling. If this happens and you haven’t yet been seen by a provider, it is essential that you go to the doctor right away. No matter how long the delay, if you are having pain or problems as a result of an auto accident, be sure to get examined by a doctor as soon as possible.
One of the most frustrating aspects of being involved in an accident (beyond the pain) is having to deal with getting one’s car repaired. This is a necessary evil of the process. However, as with all aspects of the case, proper documentation is a must. Be sure to photograph your vehicle as well as any others you have access to. Keep all documents provided to you and be sure to note who touched your car at all stages.
Coupled with the above discussion of getting medical care is the issue of lost wages. An inquiry will ultimately be made as to whether a doctor authorized any time missed from work. Often times a health care provider will be more than willing to write a note explaining why a patient must miss work, but for some reason the patient does not ask. Do not overlook this key element of establishing the lost wages connection to the auto accident.
Pain and Suffering.
A key component of your personal injury case falls under the heading of “pain and suffering”. This is a giant area and encompasses basically all harms that an injured individual has incurred that doesn’t have a price tag on it (eg. Medical bills, property damage repairs, and lost wages). The law has specific definitions of property damage categorized in CACI 3905A as follows;
Past and Future
- Mental Suffering
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- Physical Impairment
- Emotional Distress
It may be difficult to separate all these out but there is no real need to. Ultimately a jury will be asked to figure out what a fair amount is for compensation for each of these categories. What an injured individual needs to do is to Document Document Document. The two most common ways are; 1. To keep a journal either on a note pad, on your phone, by sending yourself emails, or any number of other ways; and 2. Photos. For someone who has a cast, or a walker, or a scar or any number of other injuries, photos of that person in the moment are of assistance to the jury in trying to understand how bad it is. Remember the jury only has an hour or two to hear someone explain their pain. The ability to convey months and sometimes years of suffering with spoken words alone is challenging. Proper documentation makes it much easier.
So in the days, weeks, and months following the injury it is important to properly document the pain and suffering. In many ways this is your primary task. As any experienced personal injury attorney will tell you, the proper documentation of pain and suffering damages enhances the lawyers ability to show the jury the depth of the harms incurred as a result of the accident.