At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we specialize in personal injury cases in St. Petersburg and throughout Pinellas County. We understand how confusing it can be after an accident. When you are in pain, your vehicle might be damaged, and you are getting bombarded by calls from insurance companies, you need someone to help you take control of the situation. In this article, we discuss what should happen after a personal injury accident. We hope that it will answer some of your questions in your time of need. This is the advice that we would like all of our clients to follow and it is being presented here free of charge!
Always Call the Police or Report the Incident to Someone in Authority
While reporting the accident might seem like common sense to most people, you would be surprised how frequently people do not follow this advice. They leave stores without telling the manager or getting an incident report or, in the case of an auto accident, they simply exchange insurance information. Sometimes this isn’t a big deal. But, in most cases, the non-report comes back to bite my clients. You would be shocked at how many times someone apologizes for an accident to your face and then changes their story. If you don’t have an independent witness to contradict their story, you likely have just lost your case. The advice from this lesson is never to trust the other person. I’ve even seen little old ladies lie to try to get out of a jam, so looks can be deceiving.
Get to a Doctor/Hospital/Urgent Care Immediately
Medical treatment is one of the most misunderstood elements of any personal injury claim. Because people know they were in an accident and know they were injured, they mistakenly believe that is all they need to recover compensation. But in order to maximize compensation of the case, you must get immediate treatment and then continue to treat. Not only is immediate and constant treatment better for your physical recovery, but the insurance companies factor this into the value of the case. If you wait to see a doctor or have gaps in treatment, the computer programs used to value your case will deduct value. Thus, two people in the same accident with the same injuries may recover completely different amounts simply based on how much and when they received treatment.
Another misconception floating around is the 14 day rule. This applies to car accident cases. Based on a bunch of television commercials by a big name law firm, people were told they had to get medical treatment within 14 days. What people did not understand from these ads is that the 14 days only applies to your PIP or no fault auto insurance benefits. There is no such thing as a 14 day rule for recovering money from the other driver’s insurance company. So, if you waited days, a week, or even up to 14 days to get treatment, you might be able to receive your PIP benefits to pay your bills, but you have just sabotaged your ability to recover what you deserve from the at-fault party. Therefore, the lesson to be learned is to err on the side of caution and get to a hospital, an urgent care, or to a doctor immediately. As a general rule, you should never wait more than a day or two to be checked out.
Use Common Sense When Speaking to the Insurance Companies
Until you hire a personal injury attorney, you will be bombarded by calls from insurance adjusters. Many of my clients get confused about whom to talk to and how much they should disclose about their injuries. The truth is that you should never be getting into any detail with any insurance adjuster about your injuries. Some people get very chatty and can’t resist talking about prior accidents or issues that only come back to bite them. My advice is that you need to always ask your lawyer before speaking to an insurance company. And, you should never be giving any recorded statements.
As far as which insurance company you should talk to, your own insurance company is the only one that you are required to speak to. Under your insurance contract, you have an obligation to report any incident and then cooperate with their investigation. Again, you do not need to get into detail about injuries. In an auto accident, you never have to speak to the insurance company for the at-fault driver. Sometimes it may get confusing if you and the other driver both have the same company, but in that situation, you will have to cooperate as best as you can. Once you hire a lawyer, he or she will then become the contact for the insurance company.
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney as Soon as Possible After the Accident
Another error that we wish we could prevent people from making is by trying to handle the personal injury case on their own. We have never seen anyone handle, negotiate, or settle a claim as well as an experienced personal injury lawyer. At least weekly, we are hired by people who have tried to handle a claim on their own and ultimately get low balled by an insurance company. It is a virtual guarantee that you are leaving money on the table if you handle a claim on your own.
Additionally, the lawyer will be able to guide you so that you don’t have problems with the claim. For example, many people have no idea what doctor to go to that specializes in personal injury cases. The lawyer will be able to help you find someone quickly. So, the lesson to be learned is to always hire a lawyer as soon as possible and rely on their direction.
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney Near You
Lastly, you should hire someone that lives and works near you. Many people mistakenly respond to advertisements and get routed to lawyers that do not regularly practice in their area. If a lawyer does not know the location of the accident or the medical providers in your area, you are doing yourself a disservice. Therefore, hire someone located near you.
Contact St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas
If you have any questions regarding a personal injury accident in St. Petersburg or anywhere in Pinellas County, please contact us for a free consultation.