Statistically speaking, you'll wreck your car two or three times over the course of your life. Hopefully your wrecks will be minor with no injuries. If they aren't (and the other driver caused the wreck), you'll need to make an injury claim.
What to Do Right After the Accident
1) Call 911
Assuming your injuries don't warrant a ride to the hospital, you should call the police at the scene of the accident. When the police arrive, they'll file an accident report that will contain lots of valuable information you can use as you're making your claim, including who the police think caused the accident and if any tickets were issued.
It can take a few days for the police to prepare your report. Once it becomes available, the easiest way to access it is online. I've outlined how to get your crash report here.
If you were too injured at the time of the wreck to call the police but were taken away in an ambulance, it's typical for the police to follow EMS to the scene and file a report anyway.
2) Get the Other Driver's Information
You should write down their name, insurance provider, insurance policy number, their car's make and model and their license plate number. You'll need this information to file your claim. If you were too hurt at the time of the wreck or didn't manage to get all this information for any reason, that's okay - it will also be in the police report.
3) Take Pictures of the Crash Scene and Your Injuries
As a personal injury lawyer, I can't tell you how valuable pictures are, especially if you think the other driver is at-fault. If the other driver caused the accident, you're going to have to prove it during the claims process. Pictures are the best way to do this - they provide irrefutable evidence to support your case.
Use the camera on your phone to take pictures of the crashed vehicles, the surrounding scene, skid marks on the road, shots of your injuries, etc. The more pictures the better.
4) Seek Medical Attention Right Away
I've written extensively on the importance of quick medical attention, which you can read about here. In short, the longer you delay treatment, the less likely insurance companies will agree to cover the cost of your injuries. If you don't go directly to a doctor, it's kind of like saying "I'm not that hurt," and insurers will use it against you.
5) Call Your Own Insurance Company
In most cases, you are contractually obliged to make your own insurance company aware whenever you are involved in a traffic accident, be it a mild fender bender or more serious collision.
Three Questions to Start the Injury Claims Process
Unfortunately, injury claims aren't simple or straightforward, but with the right amount of preparation you can handle yours effectively. To start, you'll need to answer these three questions:
1) Are You Hurt?
This might seem like a silly question, but you CAN'T make an injury claim unless you were hurt in an accident. An injury claim is not the same as a property damage claim (which takes care of damage to your car).
2) Did The Other Driver Cause the Wreck?
Another important question to answer before starting the claims process. You CAN'T make an injury claim unless the other driver caused the wreck, and the wreck caused your injuries. If you caused your wreck, you'll need to use your own health insurance to cover your medical bills.
3) Does the At-Fault Driver Have Insurance?
Unfortunately, you CAN'T make a claim against a driver who isn't carrying insurance. (Yes, it's illegal to drive without insurance, but people do it anyway). If you were hit by someone without insurance (or if you were a victim of a hit-and-run accident), you can use your own uninsured motorist insurance to cover your injuries and damages.
The reason you can't make an injury claim against a non-insured driver is because when you make a claim, you're asking the person's insurance company for money - not the individual themselves. It's the reason we all carry insurance.
How to Make a Personal Injury Claim
If you answered yes to these two questions, you're ready to move on with your injury claim. If you've been hurt in a wreck that was someone else's fault, you deserve compensation for your medical bills, missed work days, pain and suffering. You shouldn't have to pay for someone else's carelessness, which is why Texas law protects accident victims.
1) Gather Your Evidence
Filing an injury claim isn't as simple as pointing fingers. You'll need to prove that the other driver caused your accident and the accident caused your injuries. The pictures we discussed earlier will be very important.
2) Call the Other Driver's Insurance Company
Have the at-fault driver's name and insurance policy number handy. When you call the claim in, be ready for a long call; they'll ask you lots of questions. During this initial call, you should receive a claim number and establish when you should hear back from the adjuster. You must stay on top of this and continue to call if you don't hear back in the time frame quoted.
3) Download My Free Book, "15 Mistakes That Will Wreck Your Texas Accident Case"
In this article, I've given an overview of how to start the injury claims process. However, there's lots I didn't cover, like why you shouldn't give a recorded statement, why you don't have to release your medical records, and what to do if the insurance adjuster won't call you back.
To help you better understand your legal options, you can request a free copy of my book, 15 Mistakes That Will Wreck Your Texas Accident Case.
4) Consult a Board-Certified Personal Injury Attorney
Many people decide that it's not worth it to handle their injury claim on their own - either they're too hurt, there's too much money at stake, they don't have the time or they feel more comfortable leaving their case in the hands of a professional.
Hiring an attorney is a great way to "give away" the stress of making a claim. A good accident attorney will take over your case, gather evidence, negotiate with the insurance company and prepare your case for trial, if necessary. They'll do whatever it takes to win you the compensation you deserve.
Hurt in Dallas-Fort Worth? Contact the Anderson Law Firm today for a free, no obligation consultation on your Fort Worth car accident injury claim. Call us toll free at 800-354-6275 or locally at 817-294-1900.
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