After you’ve been injured in a car accident (or other accident), the first thing you should do is make sure that everyone who needs medical treatment gets it. But once the dust settles, there are four things you should keep in order to make sure that when the time comes, the insurance company pays you what your case is worth.
1. Keep Your Cool
After an accident, it’s important to keep your cool. You need to focus on one thing only, and that’s getting well. But that’s going to be harder to do than you think.
Depending on the type of accident, you’ll probably be dealing with getting your car repaired or replaced. This means you’ll also probably be dealing with getting a rental car. You also might be dealing with several different insurance companies and several types of coverage, like the other driver’s liability policy, your own medpay (or PIP) policy, your uninsured or underinsured policy, and your health insurance (or Medicaid or Medicare). You’ll also have to deal with a barrage of medical bills from people you’d never even heard of until the accident.
In addition to all of that, once your health insurance company finds out that you were hurt in an accident and that the other driver’s insurance company might owe you some money, guess who’s going to want to put their hand in the cookie jar. (If you guessed your health insurance company, you’re right!)
This is where a good personal injury lawyer can help. A good personal injury lawyer will help you sort through all of these policies, and also decide whether your health insurance company has the right to get some of your money (sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t; it depends on the type of policy). As we always tell our clients, if you walk into our office and retain us to handle your case, and then you walk out of our office and worry about things, then you’ve wasted your time and effort in hiring a lawyer, because when you hire us, you’ve hired us to worry about your case for you.
So, if you’ve been injured in any type of accident, focus on getting well, and keep your cool!
2. Keep the Evidence
After a car accident, it is very important that you keep the EVIDENCE. This might seem obvious, but there are some things that you might not think about as evidence. For example, if you don’t need immediate medical attention and you can safely do so, you should take pictures of the accident scene. That is evidence that a personal injury lawyer can use when making a demand to an insurance company, or even at trial, if necessary.
Other pieces of evidence you should keep are the names of any witnesses to the accident. Also, when you start getting medical bills, keep copies of all the bills. This is important because even a simple ER visit can cause a lot of different medical providers to send you a bill: the hospital, the treating physician, and the radiologist, to name just a few. If you’ve kept up with all of your bills, it’ll be a lot easier down the road to figure out who all has billed you and how much they’ve billed. Also, it’s very important that you keep any work excuse you get from any hospital or doctor, because sometimes these don’t end up in the patient records.
Finally, don’t overcomplicate this step. Just get a folder or envelope or box or whatever and start putting stuff in it. A good personal injury attorney will be able to sort through it and make sense of it all.
3. Keep Quiet
As personal injury lawyers, one of the last things we want to hear when talking to a client is, “I got a call from the insurance company and I told them . . .” The only thing you should tell the insurance company–if you even take their call to begin with–is that you’ve got a lawyer.
Why? Because the insurance company is not there to help you. They are calling you to get a recorded statement. Now, why do you think they are recording the statement? Is it so they can go back and listen to the sound of your voice? Of course not! They’re recording your statement because they want you to say something that sounds foolish so they can play it to the jury.
That’s why it’s so important for you to keep quiet after an accident. In fact, not only should you not talk to the insurance company, you really shouldn’t talk to anyone other than the people you absolutely have to talk to, like the officer who works the accident, your doctor, and those types of people. But the absolute last person you should talk to is anyone with the insurance company.
4. Keep a Journal
On January 3, 1990, I ate lunch at the Arby’s in the food court at the Pines Mall in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I’ll come back to that later.
First, let me tell you why it’s so important to keep a journal in a personal injury case. If you’ve just been injured, you might think you’ll never forget what you’re going through. And you might be right. But if I take your case to trial, and you have to testify two years from now, will you remember how many days you walked with a limp, or what day your bruise finally went away, or exactly how many days it was before you could walk without pain? Probably not.
And that’s why it’s important to keep a journal. All of the little details that you might forget by the time trial comes around will help us tell your story to the jury. Just keep in mind that anything you write in your journal might be seen by the other side’s lawyer at some point. With that in mind, simply write down what all you’re going through (physically and emotionally), any activities you’ve missed (like work, your kids’ ballgames, or family events), and when you go to the doctor. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated; a simple notebook will do.
Now, what does that have to do with my lunch at Arby’s? For Christmas in 1989, my grandparents bought me a journal (my grandmother, who was sick with cancer, actually passed away before I got it). I religiously wrote down my activities every single day–for about a week. So, if you were to ask me what I had for lunch a week ago, I wouldn’t have a clue. But if you were to ask me what I had for lunch on January 3, 1990, I could tell you, and it’s all because I kept a journal.
If you have been injured in an auto accident in Arkansas, you should have your case evaluated by a personal injury attorney who is experienced at handling personal injury claims in Arkansas. Our attorneys represent clients from all over Arkansas.