When you get seriously injured in a major auto accident, airline or railroad disaster, offshore accident, building collapse, or any other type of traumatic event, it is important to protect your legal rights. Asserting your rights can be a critical part of the recovery process; and, if you don’t do what is necessary to protect your rights, you can lose them.
Protecting your rights after a serious accident requires a clear understanding of both what to do and what not to do as you cope with your trauma. With this in mind, here is a step-by-step overview of:
- What To Do In the Immediate Aftermath of the Accident
- What To Do When You Get Home After the Accident
- What To Do While Your Case is Pending
- Mistakes To Avoid Throughout the Process
What To Do In the Immediate Aftermath of the Accident
In the immediate aftermath of a serious accident, your health should be your first priority. If you need to go to the hospital, you should go right away. But, if you are able to do so, there are some other steps you should try to take as well. For example:
1. Call 911
After a serious accident, you should not assume that someone else will call 911. Calling 911 is important for several reasons. If you need emergency medical treatment, having an ambulance arrive at the scene will help ensure that you get the treatment you need as soon as possible. But, calling 911 also creates an official report of the accident—which can help with proving your legal rights—and, in some cases, Florida law requires accident reporting. For example, you must report an accident if:
- You are involved in an auto accident involving injury, death, or property damage in excess of $500 (Florida Statutes Section 316.065).
- You are involved in a maritime accident involving injury, death, disappearance, or property damage in excess of $2,000 (Florida Statutes Section 327.30).
2. Take Photos and Videos (If Possible)
If you are physically able to do so, you should take lots of photos and videos at the scene of the accident. This applies to all types of accidents in all locations. When you hire a lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will review your photos and videos to determine what investigative steps are necessary. Your photos and videos could serve as key evidence in your claim for compensation as well.
3. Collect Witnesses’ Contact Information (If Possible)
Similarly, if you are physically able, you should collect witnesses’ contact information at the scene of the accident. A name and phone number are sufficient. While your lawyer may be able to identify witnesses through the investigative process, if you can gather witnesses’ contact information at the scene this can help streamline the process. Witnesses include other individuals who were involved in the accident as well as those who saw the accident happen.
4. Get a Copy of the Police Report (If Possible)
If the police respond to the accident, you should try to get a copy of the police report if you can. But, this won’t always be possible. For example, if you are injured in a building collapse or other catastrophic event, you will need to rely on your lawyer to obtain an official investigative report later. If you can get a copy of the police report, the report can further assist your lawyer with assessing the situation and providing a preliminary evaluation of your legal rights.
5. Prioritize Your Medical Needs
As we mentioned above, in the aftermath of a serious accident, you should always prioritize your medical needs. This is important for your health and your legal rights. Get treatment—in the emergency room (ER) if necessary—and make smart decisions with your long-term best interests in mind.
What To Do When You Get Home After the Accident
Once you get home from the accident, you will want to spend some time collecting your thoughts and getting yourself organized. To protect your legal rights, you will want to take some additional steps as well. For example, after you get home, it will be important to:
1. Speak with an Attorney
The sooner you speak with an attorney, the sooner your attorney can get to work protecting your legal rights. You can also rely on your attorney to take many key steps on your behalf. If you are serious about recovering just compensation, you will need an experienced attorney who is prepared to fight for the justice you deserve.
2. Report the Accident As Necessary
You will want to make sure you report the accident as necessary. Your attorney can help you with this as well. For example, if you have not yet reported the accident to law enforcement, you may still have a legal obligation to do so. If you were injured in a car or truck accident, you will need to report the accident to your insurance company. If you were injured in a construction accident or other work-related accident, you may need to report the accident to your employer to preserve your right to workers’ compensation benefits.
3. Take Detailed Notes
Taking detailed notes after the accident is important for making sure you remember your version of the events. It will also help make sure you share as much information as possible with your attorney.
4. Create a File
As you move forward, you will receive various records related to your claim. This includes insurance records, medical records, and employment records—among others. You should keep all of these, and it is a good idea to create a file so that you can keep them all together in a safe place.
5. Make Sure You Know Your Next Steps
From when you need to go back to the doctor to what additional information you need to provide to your attorney, you should make sure you know your next steps. While you can—and should—rely on your doctor and attorney to help you, you will need to play an active role in your recovery as well.
What To Do While Your Case Is Pending
Once you hire an attorney to represent you, your attorney will handle the bulk of the work in your personal injury case. But, as we just mentioned, you will also need to play a supporting role. With this in mind, while your case is pending, you should:
1. Keep Records in Your File
Get in the habit of putting records in your file as you receive them. Even if you receive a letter or statement that doesn’t seem particularly important, it is a good idea to keep it for now. When pursuing a personal injury claim, the more information you have, the better.
2. Document Your Injuries’ Daily Effects
Along with maintaining a file of your records, you should also document your injuries’ daily effects. This includes effects such as:
- Daily pain levels and locations
- Doctor’s visits and other appointments
- Hours or days missed from work
- Additional expenses you incur (i.e., cleaners or caretakers)
- Activities you are unable to perform (i.e., exercising or mowing the lawn)
- Events you miss (i.e., your children’s activities or social events)
One easy way to do this is to keep a log in a notebook or your phone. Each day, take a few minutes to write down the ways your injuries have negatively impacted your life.
3. Follow Through With Your Medical Care
One of the most important things you can do is follow through with your medical care. If you ignore your injuries, this can have significant repercussions for your personal injury claim. Attend your appointments, and follow your doctor’s and therapist’s advice. If you have concerns about their advice, seek a second opinion promptly.
4. Communicate with Your Attorney
Communications with your attorney should be a two-way street. If your attorney asks you for information, provide it as promptly as possible. If you have a question about your claim, ask it and expect to receive an answer promptly as well.
5. Make Informed Decisions (and Seek Help When Necessary)
Ultimately, protecting your legal rights after a serious injury is all about making informed decisions. Be smart, use your best judgment, and seek help when necessary. Do not be afraid to contact your doctor or attorney for advice, and rely on their advice to make the right decisions as you move forward.
Mistakes To Avoid Throughout the Process
In addition to taking the steps outlined above, there are also some mistakes you will want to avoid throughout the process. For example, if you have a personal injury claim:
- Do Not Wait To Seek Help – When you have a personal injury claim, there is no reason to wait. In fact, waiting any longer than necessary could prove detrimental to protecting your legal rights. Seek medical treatment right away, and discuss your situation with an attorney as soon as possible.
- Do Not Post About the Accident on Social Media – While suffering serious injuries is a major life event, you need to resist the temptation to post about your accident on social media. Anything you post can be used against you; and, even if you think your post is harmless, the insurance companies may find a way to use it in their defense.
- Do Not Make Any Assumptions – As we said above, you need to make informed decisions while your personal injury case is pending. This means that you need to avoid making any assumptions that could affect your legal rights. If you aren’t sure about something, seek advice from your attorney before doing anything that could jeopardize your claim for just compensation.
- Do Not Ignore Your Doctor’s or Attorney’s Advice – Your doctor and attorney are professionals who help accident victims for a living. If they give you advice, you should follow it (or seek a second opinion, if necessary). When you are recovering from a serious accident, ignoring your doctor’s or attorney’s advice can compromise your health and your legal rights.
- Do Not Give In – Finally, pursuing a successful claim after a traumatic accident takes time. The insurance companies won’t make it easy, and it will be stressful at times. But, you should not give in. With an experienced attorney on your side, you can collect just compensation. Once you collect just compensation, then you can begin the process of moving on with your life.
Contact Us Now for a Free and Confidential Consultation
If you or someone you love has suffered serious injuries in an accident, we encourage you to contact us promptly for a free consultation. Our attorneys have successfully represented victims of some of the biggest disasters in Florida. To learn about your legal rights in confidence, call 305-445-0011 or tell us how we can reach you online now.