Whether you’ve suffered a slip at work that left you with a sprained ankle or got in a major car crash that resulted in serious injuries, medical bills after an accident can add up quickly. But because even minor accidents can be incredibly stressful, and in many cases devastating, many people fail to take the steps they need to to be fairly compensated by their insurance companies. Below I’ll tell you about several things you should absolutely do after an accident to get the compensation you need to recover. I’ll also explain when a New Jersey personal injury attorney can help.
1. Gather Evidence at the Scene
Evidence from the scene of the accident is essential to making your case, whether it’s to your insurance company or in court. If you slipped on icy stairs, take a photo showing the unsalted, slippery steps. If your vehicle was sideswiped at an intersection, take a picture of the cars’ positions before they are moved off the roadside. In addition, photograph any injuries you have right away. Even if the accident occurred in the past, return to the site and see if there is any evidence that might be useful.
Finally, take statements from witnesses at the scene and get their contact information in case you or your lawyer needs to get a more formal statement from them. Get a copy of the police report as soon as you can as well, and take it to your lawyer or be ready to present it to your insurance company.
2. Get Medical Treatment Immediately
Waiting hours, days, or weeks after an accident to seek medical treatment for your injuries is one of the most common mistakes I see people making. Even if you are unsure whether you are injured or uncertain that your injuries are severe, going to the emergency room or visiting your family doctor right away can only benefit your case.
Here’s why: if you visit a doctor immediately, they will be able to diagnose your injuries and attribute them to the accident. If you wait too long, your insurance company or opposing legal team could argue that your injuries were caused by something other than the accident. Your doctor will also give you important documentation of your injuries that you’ll need to present to your insurance company or your lawyer. Make sure to keep your medical bills as well: they will serve as proof of how much you have spent on treatment. If you visit physical therapists, chiropractors, or other medical professionals, collect bills and documentation from them as well.
One final important tip when it comes to getting medical treatment is to make sure you have a sense of the treatment you will need in the future. Your doctor can estimate how much it will cost and document this for you. If you don’t include this in your estimated claim, you could be stuck only being compensated for the treatments you received immediately after the accident.
3. Handle Your Claim Properly
First, don’t panic. While it is stressful to have expensive medical bills on your hands, the worst thing you can do at this point is rush into accepting an insurance company’s first settlement offer because you are eager to pay your bills. Instead, slow down and assess all of your potential damages including injuries, lost time from work, pain and suffering, and other losses, and have a minimum amount you are willing to accept.
If your insurer offers you a settlement, consider whether or not it is fair. During times of stress it can be hard to think clearly enough to do this properly. Working with a New Jersey personal injury attorney who can help you determine whether the settlement is fair is often a good idea.
If the offer isn’t adequate, explain why and provide documentation and evidence for support. Again, a skilled personal injury lawyer is often the best person to help you do this right, so consider working with a lawyer, especially if the insurance company is refusing to negotiate.
4. File Your Case Quickly
Although New Jersey is a no-fault state, meaning you must first seek compensation from your insurance company and can only file a lawsuit if your injuries are considered serious under New Jersey law, in many cases injuries are severe enough that the victim must go to court. If you know your insurance will not cover the full extent of your injuries and they have severely disrupted your life, it is worth talking with a lawyer sooner rather than later.
Due to statutes of limitations, you have two years in New Jersey to bring your case. The faster you do this, the more time your lawyer will have to gather evidence and prepare a case.
5. Avoid Social Media
We’re so acclimated to using social media that many of us don’t give a second thought to posting pictures of ourselves online, but doing so can jeopardize your accident claim. Whether you say something about the accident or post a photo of yourself that indicates that your injuries are not as severe as you have claimed, this could damage your case. Even if you think your account is private, it is possible for sensitive information to get out.
Going hand in hand with staying away from social media, avoid talking to other people about your accident. In serious cases, they could be subpoenaed in court and have to testify under oath. Anything you have said, no matter how innocent, has the potential to backfire, so try to keep it to yourself until your case is over.
When an Attorney Can Help
If you have been injured in an accident, there are many ways an attorney can help you get fair compensation. If you are struggling to get an insurance company to fairly pay for your current or future treatments, an attorney may be able to get them to change their tune. Likewise, if your injuries are serious and someone else’s negligence caused your accident, contact an attorney.
At Bavagnoli & Bavagnoli, we have helped many people be fairly compensated after an accident and we may be able to help you as well. Contact us at (973) 785-9522.