Motor Vehicle Collision: The initial steps
For most people, it is almost impossible to go through your entire life without being involved in a motor vehicle collision.
Often, these crashes cause injuries and require significant medical treatment. When someone is injured in a car crash for the first time, they often have many questions regarding what they should do and who they should talk to. It always makes sense to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible when you are involved in a car collision. However, keep these initial 3 steps in mind:
1. Immediately seek medical treatment
If you are injured in an auto collision, you should seek medical treatment, plain and simple. While it is natural to wonder who will be responsible for paying your medical bills, this should not be your concern with whether you get medical treatment. If you are hurt, you need treatment. If the pain is significant enough or if it involves your head, neck, lower back, or you suspect a broken bone or torn ligament, you should go to the hospital by ambulance. If you don’t start feeling pain until the next day and it is not too severe, you should contact your primary doctor. You should avoid waiting to get treatment because, the more significant the gap in treatment, the less likely an insurance company, and possibly a jury, will be inclined to pay your medical bills.
2. Contacting your insurance company
If you have car insurance, you should make a claim. If there is a dispute regarding liability initially, your car insurance will pay for the damage to your vehicle and seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance. If the collision was a hit-and-run or if the at-fault driver was uninsured, contacting your insurance company is even more important. Many people ask whether they should contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The answer is you can, albeit with a significant caution. DO NOT give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company. It never benefits your case to do so, but it could benefit the insurance company if you say something inconsistent under oath down the line. Typically, your contact with the other driver’s insurance should be primarily focused on getting your vehicle repaired.
3. Getting your medical bills paid
If you have health insurance, use it to pay your medical bills. People ask why they should have to use their own insurance if someone else is at fault. This is for 2 reasons. First, the at-fault driver’s insurance company rarely pays the bills as they come along. It makes a settlement offer inclusive of everything (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) once you are done with treatment. Thus, having your bills paid early avoids putting you into collections. Secondly, health insurance usually gets a preferred provider discount. While you will need to reimburse your health insurance for the amounts they paid out of any settlement, you actually are entitled to recover 100% of your medical bills from the at-fault driver’s insurance. For example, say your medical bills total $10,000, but your insurance only paid $6,000. You get the benefit of the difference awarded and actually paid. Furthermore, if you have an attorney working on the case, your health insurance carrier usually must reduce the amount they are asking for by one-third (1/3). So that $6,000 becomes $4,000. If you do not have health insurance or your carrier will not pay, look to the medical payments coverage of your own policy.
Getting in a car crash is never a fun or easy ordeal. There are many initial things you can do to make sure you get the appropriate treatment you need and ensure you are avoiding any pitfalls that could harm your case. Obtaining a free consultation from an experienced personal injury attorney is always a wise decision to make sure you are moving in the right direction.