What to do after a car accident
It is an unfortunate fact that every year, there are more than two million car accidents. Over the course of a driver's lifetime, it is likely that he or she will be involved in at least one accident. The auto industry has worked hard to make cars safer and better able to protect drivers and passengers after an auto accident, which has significantly reduced the number of fatalities resulting from car crashes each year. However, people are still seriously injured or killed every day as a result of car accidents.
What should happen at the accident site
After a car accident, there are issues to deal with at the scene, including calling the police, getting you and your car to a safe location, collecting information from the other driver, identifying any potential witnesses, and documenting the scene with photographs, if possible. One of the things that you should not do is lose your temper. An accident can bring about strong emotions, but getting mad and engaging the other driver will accomplish nothing. In addition, you should never admit liability. The events of a car crash are chaotic. You may not understand what actually happened, but it is a certainty that telling the other person the accident was your fault will be used against you through the entire post accident process. Staying calm and keeping quiet about fault are the best things to do after an accident.
Dealing with the insurance company
The next issue is the insurance. There are many uninsured drivers on the road in Texas. Under Texas law, a driver with insurance is not required to carry additional uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. However, Texas insurance companies are required to offer this additional coverage. Determining that the other driver has insurance is the first important step in getting compensation for injuries and property damage. There are minimum auto insurance requirements for drivers, including at least: $30,000 coverage for bodily injury to a person, $60,000 for bodily injury per accident if two or more people are injured in the accident, and $25,000 to cover property damage. Of course, many drivers have higher coverage amounts.
When a claim is filed with the insurance company for the other driver, there will be a delay while the insurance company determines whether it does, in fact, provide coverage for the driver in question and whether there is any justification to deny a claim. After an insurance company determines liability, the negotiations begin. An experienced auto accident attorney can provide the skill and expertise to maximize the recovery, especially if it is clear to the insurance claims adjuster that going to court is a possibility.
Injuries after a car accident
Although getting the process started to recover compensation for your injuries and property damage is important, your first priority after a car accident should be to get medical attention. Your injuries at the time of the accident may be severe enough to require an ambulance, but if you are able to leave the accident scene under your own power, it is crucial to get to a doctor as soon as possible. Many injuries develop slowly or are masked by the adrenaline that often accompanies a car accident. Some of the more common injuries include:
- Head and Brain Injuries: Drivers and passengers in auto accidents often suffer from a closed head injury, which encompasses concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). In many instances, there is no surface trauma, like cuts or bruises, but the impact of the car crash could have caused the brain to have moved around the skull violently, leading to serious internal injury.
- Neck Injuries: The impact of a car crash is transferred to the occupants of the vehicle, leading to neck injuries, including whiplash, cervical radiculopathy (otherwise known as a pinched nerve), and disc injury. These injuries can lead to short-term pain, or severe long-term disability.
- Back and Spinal Cord Injuries: Car accidents involve a tremendous amount of force, which can cause fractures, sprains, strains, thoracic spine injury, disc injuries, lumbar spine injuries, and lumbar radiculopathy. These injuries can develop slowly after an accident.
- Disfigurement: There are many causes of facial and other severe injuries caused by flying glass or impact with the steering wheel, airbag, dashboard, and other objects in the car. Catastrophic dental injuries also can occur from a car accident. There are less serious injuries such as cuts, scrapes, and bruises that can result from the same type of contact.
- Psychological Injuries: The trauma and stress of a serious car accident can lead to long-term psychological conditions, include severe emotional distress and even post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Even if you do not believe that you were seriously injured in a car accident, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Many injuries can be made much worse if the proper care is not taken from the outset. In addition, it is important to have a doctor prepare an initial medical diagnosis right away for purposes of filing a claim against the other driver. Insurance companies require documentation to show that there was concern about potentially severe personal injuries from shortly after the accident.
There may be reasons that you do not want to seek medical attention. You may feel that it is a waste of time, or that the accident was not serious enough to have caused any real damage. Although the severity of the injuries often is linked to the magnitude of the crash, a low-speed impact can lead to traumatic injuries while a driver can walk away from collision that totaled his car without any harm.
Ongoing care and treatment
After the initial medical attention, a person who has been injured in a car crash should follow the physician's advice about treatment and therapy and continue to consult with the doctor for additional medical examinations as needed. Although you may not believe that this is necessary, an insurance claims adjuster will use any perceived gaps in medical treatment as a reason to reduce the offer of compensation for injuries. In addition, failing to follow a doctor's advice is another reason for decreased compensation. If an adjuster can make the argument that the victim made the injury worse or otherwise contributed to the injury, he will use that to decrease the award. If the case does go to trial, defense attorneys will make similar arguments. Medical records should tell the whole story, from the time of the injury through ongoing treatment, detailing the patient's diligent commitment to adhering to doctor's instructions and doing everything possible to recover fully in the shortest length of time.
If you have been in an auto accident, it is important to do everything necessary to preserve the trail of evidence. Even if you do not have to go to trial, the assigned claims adjuster will make settlement offers based upon the perceived strength of the case.
For many people, a car accident is going to be one of the most stressful moments of their lives. Remaining calm, getting appropriate medical treatment, and contacting a qualified auto accident attorney are the most important things that you can do. The dedicated and hard-working attorneys at DeHoyos & Connolly, PLLC are here to provide any assistance you may need to get the results that you deserve. Please call us to discuss your accident and schedule a free initial consultation.