What to do After an Automobile Accident
SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION
- If you are unsure whether you have been injured, go to the hospital for a check up. Many times shock and adrenaline will mask symptoms of serious injuries.
- Don't be surprised if you feel worse the next day. Many injuries take hours or days to manifest. This is particularly true of soft tissue neck and back injuries, rotator cuff (shoulder) injuries, and temporomandibular joint (jaw) injuries.
- See your family doctor as soon as possible after the accident. Report all symptoms to him or her. Continue with regular visits until you have recovered completely.
- Follow your doctor's advice. Work at your recovery. If referred to other professionals, see them promptly. Failure to do so may result in your compensation being reduced.
- Get names addresses and phone numbers of all drivers, witnesses and police officers involved. If you are hospitalized, get a friend or lawyer to help. Obtain a copy of the police motor vehicle accident report. Do not surrender this information to anyone without keeping copies.
- Take pictures or have a friend or professional take pictures of:
- Your vehicle and all other vehicles involved before they are repaired. Do not rely on insurance adjusters to do this for you. If access to the vehicles proves difficult get a lawyer to help.
- Your body before the bruises, bumps, cuts and abrasions have healed.
- The accident scene, preferably when conditions are similar to those at the time of the accident.
- Make careful record of the date and who took every photograph. Save the negatives. You may need them.
- Keep originals (if possible) or copies of all records, receipts, documents, pay stubs, accident reports, statements, doctor's prescriptions, and any piece of paper you receive, send, fill out or sign.
- Keep track of all relevant information including:
- Names, addresses and telephone numbers of all doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors and other people you see in connection with the accident and your injuries;
- All appointments with medical personnel, and anyone else you see in connection with the accident and your injuries. Record appointment date, purpose and mileage;
- All expenses incurred as a result of the accident, including non-prescription drugs, babysitting, taxis, replacing lost or destroyed items. Get receipts where available;
- A calendar or diary to record your injuries, symptoms, and recovery.
- If you have a lawyer, they will try to resolve your claim quickly. But sometimes it takes months or even years for your symptoms to subside so fair compensation can be determined. It is almost impossible to prove the full extent of your losses unless you keep good records.
HIT AND RUN
- If you are involved in a hit and run accident you must make all reasonable efforts to locate the hit and run driver immediately or you will lose your right to compensation in many jurisdictions especially British Columbia. This is true even if you are hospitalized.
- Telling an adjuster or police officer is not enough. You or someone on your behalf should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation.
UNINSURED AND DELINQUENT MOTORISTS
- Uninsured and underinsured drivers cause too many accidents and injure too many innocent people. Stolen cars, out of Province drivers, impaired drivers, all these situations come with their own special problems.
- In most cases, there is some insurance coverage available, whether through the registered owner's insurance, Underinsured Motorist Protection (UMP), No Fault benefits or even a homeowner's policy.
- Each of these situations is unique and complex. If you have the misfortune to be injured by an uninsured or delinquent motorist, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you are able.
- If you are arrested, ticketed or charged with any offence in connection with an accident take immediate steps to protect your rights.
- If you are convicted of an offence or fail to dispute a ticket, you may lose your right to compensation and some convictions can even cost you your insurance coverage. In serious cases, the outcome could be a financial catastrophe.
- Contact a lawyer immediately. Do not give any statement to police or answer any questions until you have received legal advice.
- Insurance adjusters work for the person who caused the accident -- not the injured person. Their job is to prevent you from speaking to a lawyer and to settle the claim as quickly and cheaply as possible.
- Adjusters will often try to deduct items from your claim (like Employment Insurance benefits you receive while disabled) even when they are not allowed to by law.
- Adjusters will try to obtain information from you which can be used to deny or reduce the value of your claim. Many people say something unfortunate or sign away their rights during their first visit with an adjuster.
- Anything you say to an adjuster and any information they obtain can be used against you in a Court of law.
- When a professional adjuster working for one of the largest insurance companies in Canada goes up against an injured accident victim -- it is usually no contest.
- Many accident victims cannot afford to pay an attorney. Lawyers will often take personal injury cases on contingency. They do not get paid until you do.
- An attorney can assist best if they are involved from the beginning. With most contingency agreements it doesn't cost any more to have a lawyer involved right from the start.
- If you contact an attorney early enough, let them report the accident for you and talk to the adjuster. What you tell a lawyer is confidential. It cannot be used against you.
- There are strict time limits for bringing injury claims. Some expire within days or weeks of an incident. If you miss a limitation, you may never be able to recover compensation. A lawyer will know this and protect your rights.
- You may be blamed for the accident. Lawyers can help to gather the evidence to prove your innocence if they are involved early before the evidence disappears.
- If you are seriously injured, have a family member or friend contact a lawyer. Experienced personal injury attorneys will come to your home or hospital bed.
- Make timely application for Employment Insurance, Disability Benefits, No Fault Benefits, Part VII Benefits Canada Pension and any other benefits to which you may be legally entitled.
- If in doubt, ask your lawyer for help. Some benefits, like ICBC no fault benefits, are deducted from your insurance compensation even if you never claim them! Others, like Employment Insurance, are usually not deducted from your compensation.
- Keep all appointments with doctors, therapists, lawyers and others involved with your case. If you are going to miss an appointment, phone early and cancel.
- Do not talk to other lawyers, adjusters, private investigators or witnesses unless advised to do so by an experienced personal injury lawyer. Your words could come back to haunt you.
If you have a question or wish to find out how we can work with you to recover your losses and achieve fair compensation for your injuries, fill out our free Personal Injury Evaluator. Or contact us by e-mail. We are here to help. Our 24-hour telephone number is 250-383-9104.