Here’s what you need to know to strengthen your insurance claim after being injured in a car accident. Get the compensation you deserve.
From congested city streets to lonesome country roads, more than 2 million people are injured each year in vehicle accidents on U.S. roadways.¹
Nobody likes to think about being in a car crash, but for most of us, it’s bound to happen sooner or later. The average American driver can expect to be three or four accident during their lifetime.²
If you’ve been injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you’ll need to file a personal injury claim to be compensated for your damages from the crash.
Damages for injury claims can include:
- Medical bills
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and Suffering
The at-fault driver’s insurance company will require proof their client caused the accident, proof that the accident caused your injuries, and proof of the value of your damages.
The insurance company’s goal is to pay you as little as possible. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself against the insurance company’s tricks and strengthen your injury claim.
What to Do At the Accident Scene
Tip 1: Check for Injuries and Call 911
If you are physically able, check any passengers in your car and the occupants of the other vehicle for injuries. Then call 911, even if the cars aren’t badly damaged.
Don’t let the other driver talk you out of calling 911. Don’t agree to any arrangements with the other driver, even if they beg you not to call police or to leave the insurance company out of it.
Tell the 911 dispatcher:
- Your location, including nearby landmarks
- If you or anyone else is injured, was thrown from the car, or is trapped in the wreckage
- About any dangers at the scene, like leaking fuel or overturned cars
Tip 2: Watch What You Say
While waiting for help to arrive, make a reasonable effort to comfort the injured. Avoid making any statements that can be used against you later, such as, “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t see you.”
Never admit to fault, even if you think you made a mistake. Keeping quiet is not dishonest. The truth is, you don’t have enough information about all the factors, including what the other driver did or didn’t do, that contributed to the accident.
In many states, you are entitled to injury compensation from the other driver’s insurance company even if you are partially to blame for the crash.
Tip 3: Seek Immediate Medical Treatment
Some injuries are painfully obvious, like bleeding cuts and broken bones. Other injuries can be difficult to see and potentially life-threatening, like traumatic brain injuries and internal bleeding.
This isn’t the time to be brave. Never refuse medical treatment at the scene.
Don’t make excuses or joke about your symptoms. Tell emergency responders about every symptom, even if you think it’s mild like a headache or blurry vision. If paramedics want to transport you to the hospital, go with them.
If you weren’t taken directly to the hospital from the scene, you must seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident, preferably the same day. If your personal medical provider isn’t available, go the nearest emergency department or urgent care center.
Refusing or delaying medical treatment can seriously undermine your injury claim. The insurance company will jump at the chance to deny your claim, arguing that your injuries weren’t caused by the accident.
Tip 4: Gather Evidence to Support Your Claim
Most states require drivers to exchange ID and insurance information after a crash. Write down the driver’s full name and address. Ask for an email address, and home, work, and cell phone numbers.
Ask for the names and contact information for occupants of the other vehicle. Although in most places they aren’t required to cooperate with you, they can’t stop you from making notes for yourself. Write down the appearance and age of occupants, apparent injuries, and your impression of their behavior.
We’ve made it easy for you with a free Car Accident Information Form. Keep copies of the form and a pen in your car, along with your insurance and registration cards. You’ll always be ready to gather the evidence you’ll need for a successful insurance claim.
Photos and videos taken at the scene can be compelling evidence. You can never have too many pictures. If you don’t have a camera handy, use your cell phone. Take as many pictures and videos as you safely can.
Photograph the damage to the cars, skid marks, broken car parts, damaged guardrails, trees, and other damaged stationary objects. If possible, have someone take pictures of your injuries.
Video footage can sometimes capture evidence of intoxication. Use your cell phone to record statements made by the other driver like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you” or “It’s my fault.”
Photographs and videos make it hard for others involved in the crash to change their stories later.
People who saw the crash aren’t required to stick around, but you’re free to talk to any potential witness to find out if they saw anything that might help your claim.
If you find a cooperative witness, ask them to write down what they saw. Have them sign and date their statement and include their contact information.
Starting the Claim Process
Tip 5: Notify Your Insurance Company
Tell your insurance company about the accident, even if it wasn’t your fault. There are several important reasons to contact your insurance carrier as soon as possible:
- You are contractually obligated. Almost every auto policy has a clause that says you agree to notify the insurance company when you’re in an accident and agree to cooperate with the insurance company’s investigation of the accident.
- Your insurance company has a duty to defend you against a lawsuit. You never know when someone from the other car will hire an attorney and decide to sue you for the crash.
- Depending on the coverage you bought, you may be able to get immediate help with medical bills and car repairs.
- Prompt notification helps prevent fraudulent claims. It’s not uncommon for “extra” people to claim they were passengers who were injured in the crash, or for the other driver to make false injury claims.
Tip 6: Notify the At-fault Driver’s Insurance Company
Contact the other driver’s insurance company, but don’t rush it. Every state has a time limit for filing claims, but you don’t have to call from your hospital bed.
If you’re severely injured, or just not up to dealing with the insurance company, talk to a personal injury attorney about handling your claim from the start.
Once you hire an attorney, the insurance company is not allowed to call you directly. Your attorney will handle all communications with the insurance company on your behalf.
Tip 7: Know What to Do If You’re Asked to Give a Statement
Be careful of giving a recorded statement. The insurance company claims adjuster will ask you lots of questions, and may not tell you they’re recording the conversation.
The adjuster will likely ask the same question several different ways to see if they can get you to say something they can use against you.
Never give a statement, tell your story, or answer questions from the adjuster if you’re medicated, tired, upset, or confused. You are not obligated to give the other driver’s insurance company a recorded statement.
You have the right to speak with an attorney if you have any concerns about giving a recorded statement.
Tip 8: Organize Your Paperwork
Keep track of everything related to the accident. It’s very important to organize your paperwork for a successful claim.
Start by creating a record of your side of the story. Although you may be shaken up after the accident, try to write down everything that happened while it’s fresh in your mind. If writing is difficult, try dictating into your phone.
You’ll need to request a copy of the police report, and copies of your medical records from any hospitals or medical offices where you receive treatment.
Keep copies of all medical bills and receipts, including out-of-pocket expenses for medications, parking, gas mileage, and any other treatment-related expenses.
Keep copies of any correspondence between you and the insurance company. You’ll also need to keep neat and detailed notes, including notes about any phone messages or conversations with the insurance company or their attorneys.
Dealing With the Insurance Company
Tip 9: Beware of the Statute of Limitations
Every state has deadlines for taking legal action in a personal injury claim. The deadline is called the Statute of Limitations and it starts to “run” on the accident date.
If you don’t settle your claim with the insurance company or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver before the statute runs out, you’ll lose the right to pursue any compensation for your injuries.
The insurance company has no obligation to help you settle your claim before the deadline. They know if you haven’t sued their insured before the statute expires, they win.
It’s up to you to know your statute of limitations deadline and take timely action to protect your claim.
Tip 10: Write a Professional Demand Letter
Tell the insurance company what you want in writing. A complete, professional looking demand letter with attached documentation to back up your claim for damages is an important part of any successful insurance claim.
Take advantage of this sample Personal Injury Demand Letter with an explanation of everything your letter will need to cover.
Tip 11: Stay Calm During Negotiations
Don’t lose your cool. Negotiate your settlement like a pro, with patience and persistence.
While it’s personal to you, it’s only business to the insurance company adjuster, who has extensive training in handling insurance claim negotiations. If you lose your temper or sound desperate, they’ve got you right where they want you.
Tip 12: Know When to Hire an Attorney
No matter how sympathetic the adjuster may sound, they are not your friend. When it comes down to paying your claim, the insurance company is only interested in settling your claim for as little as possible.
Insurance companies are famous for offering lower settlement amounts to claimants without representation. They know you probably don’t have the energy or the legal know-how to fight them after they’ve made their “final” offer.
Don’t settle for less than the full value of your claim. It costs nothing to talk to a skilled personal injury attorney about the best way to get the compensation you deserve.
Video: 12 Steps After an Accident
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