Here are some simple things to do and not do when you are in a car accident to help you get well and increase your chances of getting a fair settlement.
1. Call the police
Make sure they come out to the accident scene and file a police report.
2. Get information at the scene of the accident
Be sure to take pictures of the damage to your car and the other car, if possible. Use your cell phone or keep a disposable camera in your car. Take pictures of the license plates of the other vehicle. Get insurance and other contact information from the other driver. Get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses.
3. Go to the doctor as soon as possible
If you are really hurt, go to the emergency room of your local hospital. You can be transported either by an ambulance or call a friend. If you are not really hurt, make sure you see a doctor (M.D.) as soon as you can: at least within a day or two of the accident. You can see other practitioners later (chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists) but having an M.D. in the beginning is very helpful. They can refer you to other medical providers.
4. Give an accounting of your injuries to your doctor
At the doctor's office or emergency room, make sure to give a head-to-toe accounting of your injuries. Do not leave anything out. You would be amazed by how many times a seemingly minor injury in the beginning ends up being the major cause of pain later. If it's not documented right away, the at-fault party will likely claim it is unrelated later. Also, take pictures of any bruising or contusions as they appear.
5. Notify your insurance company
Contact your insurance and the at-fault party's insurance to notify them of the collision. You are obligated to give a statement to your insurance, but you are not obligated to give one to the at-fault party's insurance.
6. Time off work
If you are unable to work, make sure your doctor writes a note to your employer, or at the very least notes it in his/her records.
7. Write down how the accident happened
As soon as possible, write down your version of the accident including all details. You'd be amazed how many of those details you will forget over time. Having a good written description in the beginning is very helpful. However, also know that anything you put on social media (Facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc...) may be discoverable in your case later. When in doubt, don't post anything and always keep your profiles set to private.
8. Billing medical visits
If you have PIP (Personal Injury Protection) or Med-Pay on your vehicle, bill any medical visits to them. *If you don't have PIP, you can get it on your car. It is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself medically, especially if you don’t have medical insurance. If you don't have PIP, bill all visits to your health insurance. If you don't have any insurance, either pay your provider directly or ask if they will treat you on a lien (to be paid back when you settle your claim).
9. Do not settle your case right away
Do not settle your case quickly. Sometimes medical problems will start to get better but can worsen or reappear later (after you stop PT or massage, etc...). If you've settled your case with the at-fault party (insurance company), you can NEVER recover additional money. However, you only have a certain amount of time in any state (Statute of Limitations) in which to file a case against the at-fault party. Be sure to contact a lawyer and find out how long you have before you have to file suit.
10. Contact a lawyer
Finally, contact a lawyer in your state with any questions regarding your claim or if you want to discuss representation. Having already checked off the items on this list will put you in a good position when you are looking to hire someone.
**Any information shared is based on my knowledge on Washington State law. Other state's laws may differ. Reading this legal guide does not create an attorney-client relationship: only a fee agreement between the parties creates an attorney-client relationship. Nothing contained in this legal guide should be construed as legal advice. Seek out an attorney in your state for formal legal advice.**