If you are injured in an accident, whether another car crashes into yours or you slip and fall in a store, what should you do? The answer is sometimes far from obvious. Should you talk to the other driver or store owner first? Go to a hospital or doctor’s office to tend to your injuries? Call the police, in the case of a crash? Call an attorney?
Following an accident, your next steps will largely depend on two things. First, you should always prioritize your safety and health. Second, you should collect evidence of the accident should you decide to pursue legal action later—or better yet, hire a personal injury lawyer to do that and many other tasks for you. Depending on the type of injury and what caused it, the specific actions you should take may vary. Let’s discuss the required steps.
Ensure Your Safety
The first step to take after you’ve been injured is to ensure your safety. You need to make sure, to the best of your ability, that you don’t encounter additional harm.
If you have been in a traffic accident, take steps to move out of traffic and safely to the side of the road. Do not leave the scene of the accident unless you are severely injured and require emergency medical attention. As soon as you are able, you should call law enforcement to file a collision report.
Of course, if you are severely injured, call 911 for an ambulance or have someone can call for you.
If you are injured at work, stop what you were doing immediately and seek medical attention. In Washington, your initial care can be from a doctor of your choice. Your employer has a duty to ensure that you can receive an initial medical examination and treatment.
If you were injured in a store, hotel, or other public place, take steps to remove yourself from the hazardous situation that caused your injuries.
If you are injured by a malfunctioning or defective product, stop using the product.
If you or a loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse, the steps to take to ensure the victim’s safety will vary. If the abuse is being caused by a specific care provider, you may want to request that they are no longer assigned to attend to you. Such a request is only appropriate if it is safe to do so.
If the situation is caused by lack of care or an understaffed facility, it may be appropriate to discuss your concerns with staff supervisors or administrators. If a loved one is being psychologically abused or physically assaulted, you should consider removing them from the facility to ensure their safety.
If you think you have suffered an injury as a result of medical malpractice, you should seek an evaluation of the resulting damage from another medical professional.
Seek Medical Attention as Soon as Possible
Ensuring your safety after an injury and prioritizing your health and wellbeing can be achieved simultaneously in many instances. In general, two things are true. First, if you are in an accident that causes apparent and severe injuries, either you or people nearby should call an ambulance right away. How do you know if an injury is severe?
Signs of severe injuries may include a loss of consciousness, inability to move, or excessive bleeding. If you have any questions about the severity of your injuries, you should seek a medical evaluation immediately. Severe and even life threatening injuries may not display immediate symptoms, so it is always best to seek medical care.
Second, although, there are circumstances in which injured people should remain at the scene, if you are seriously injured you should leave the scene to seek emergency treatment. Traffic accidents are one example. Drivers should leave the scene only if they are significantly injured, requiring emergency transportation to the hospital. Otherwise, drivers should stay on the scene to talk to law enforcement and exchange contact and insurance information with other drivers or affected people (such as bicyclists or pedestrians).
Slip and fall accidents in public places are another. Communicate with management. You should inform them of your accident as well as the dangerous conditions that caused your injuries. Why? Should you later decide to pursue legal action, you must report your accident.
Note that, in both these cases, serious injury trumps any obligation to stay. If you need to call an ambulance or head to an urgent care center, your health should always be your first priority.
In other cases, such as a work-related accident, nursing home abuse, or product liability, there is no obligation to stay. You should remove yourself from danger and seek immediate medical attention.
If the circumstances and extent of your injuries deem it appropriate that you remain at the scene of the accident, see a doctor as soon as you can afterward. As mentioned, people can be unaware that they have suffered serious injuries. In fact, serious injuries such as concussions, a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), often don’t manifest immediate symptoms. A physician will perform diagnostic testing to ensure that your injuries are not serious.
After your personal safety and health are protected, it’s time to think about collecting evidence to show how the accident happened. Washington state, for example, keeps collision reports, which have data on collisions. The reports include the location of the accident, the parties involved and the officer’s view of how a collision happened and what caused it.
If you are injured, you will pay medical bills. You may miss time off work. You may suffer emotionally and physically. Collect sufficient evidence to support your claim for recovery.
We understand that compensation cannot fix the impacts of a traumatic car accident. However, compensation for your injuries can help ease the financial burden associated with significant medical expenses. Experienced personal injury lawyers regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they are entitled to. Individuals whose negligence or recklessness caused your injuries should be held accountable.
If another party was responsible, you need evidence of how the accident happened. The first step is identifying the at-fault parties.
You also need evidence of the harm the injury caused you. Your injuries themselves are one form of evidence. Your medical treatment records are another form of evidence. In addition, evidence of time missed from work to treat the injury and other impacts the injury has had on your quality of life will also show the harm the injury has caused you.
Evidence About the Accident
When you are in an accident, take pictures of the scene if possible. This is true if you’ve been in any type of traffic accident, or accident in a public place or at work. If you carry a smartphone, take advantage of its photo- and video-capturing capabilities.
Take pictures of the scene from every angle. In addition to documenting the damage to the vehicles involved, you should take other pictures that may demonstrate how the accident happened. For instance, you should document:
- Skid marks or struck barriers (in a traffic accident),
- Spilled or disorderly goods on the floor (in a store),
- Poorly maintained sidewalks that caused you to trip (for a residential rental or store), or
- Defective equipment (for injuries caused by defective products or work-related accidents).
Take pictures of anything that might indicate the conditions in which an accident happened, from all angles. If you don’t have a camera, take notes about what happened as soon as you can.
Talk to eyewitnesses of the accident, if there are any. Gather the names and contact information of the witnesses, and, if possible, ask the witness to make a statement of how the accident occurred.
If the accident was a collision between vehicles and law enforcement responds to the scene, they will file a collision report. This is an excellent source of evidence, as it contains information about the time of day, the weather, what occurred, and who the drivers were. If law enforcement for some reason doesn’t file a collision report, the drivers are required by law to file a report within four days of the crash.
Drivers are entitled to request a copy of the collision report from Washington State Patrol.
If the injuries are caused by a vehicle accident, you should note the names and contact information of the other drivers or affected people. In addition to their contact information, you should gather the other party’s insurance information.
For other types of accidents, if you talked to persons in authority about the accident or the injuries, take notes or request records of the conversation. Nursing homes, for example, may have records of your conversation with administrators or staff if you brought up a concern about potential abuse.
Evidence of Your Injuries
Another crucial part of obtaining compensation for your injuries, should you decide to do so, is compiling evidence about the nature and extent of your injuries. Some of this evidence may also be used to establish how an accident happened, as injuries can be revealing of what occurred.
Get records from your doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic about your symptoms and diagnosis. Keep records from all other healthcare providers, such as radiologists (X-rays and MRIs), pharmacies, and physical therapists. Keep records or notes about the advice on treatment and how long the treatment is expected to last.
Keep all records and all bills. You want a record of how much medical care resulting from the accident is has cost you. Medical expenses comprise all medical care, including buying devices such as a cane or inhaler.
A smartphone is also a very useful tool here, too. It’s important to take pictures of your injuries at the same time you see the doctor. You need evidence of your injuries before they begin to heal, even partially. Take pictures of your injuries and any affected parts of your body, from all angles.
If you don’t have a smartphone or camera, take notes on what your injuries are. In your notes include information on how the injury has impacted your quality of life, such as limiting your mobility or ability to care for yourself.
If there are eyewitnesses to your injuries other than medical personnel, talk to them about what they saw. Obtain their contact information.
If your injuries have caused you to miss time from work, or made it unlikely that you can work at a former occupation, save any documentation. For instance, collect pay stubs, doctor’s records of injuries and treatment, or notification from your employer regarding your time taken off or work restrictions imposed.
Obtain Damage Compensation
First ensure your health and safety are protected. Second, take steps to obtain evidence about how the accident happened and its impacts on your life. Lastly, you must consider how you will proceed to seek financial compensation for those injuries from responsible parties.
To obtain damage compensation, another party must be at fault. They must have been negligent, or, in other words, failed to exercise the duty of care that a reasonably prudent person would have. Negligent parties can be liable, or responsible financially, for injuries.
Here are some examples of negligence. A driver who is legally intoxicated and thus fails to stop in time as a child crosses the street can be deemed negligent. As drivers have a duty to drive safely and prudently, and obey traffic laws. A store owner who doesn’t keep premises safe for customers, or warn them away from temporarily unsafe conditions, may be negligent. A company that manufactures defective or even dangerous products can be negligent. A nursing home that cannot adequately provide for the safety or health of its patients can be negligent. A doctor whose actions cause harm and deviate from generally accepted treatment standards can be negligent.
In addition, the accident must have caused the injuries you sustained, not some other event.
In general, if these two conditions are met, injured parties may seek compensation for the following:
- Medical bills, both current and future
- Wages lost from work, both current and future
- Pain and suffering, both current and future
Two primary methods can obtain compensation. The first is filing an insurance claim with the negligent party’s insurer. Injured parties file a third-party claim. In Washington state, for example, the at-fault party in a vehicle accident is responsible for the resulting injuries. The second method is to bring a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. You will want to consult a personal injury lawyer before you begin the claims process.
Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney
It can be a good idea to talk to a personal injury attorney about the methods of obtaining compensation available to you. While an insurance claim may sound straightforward, insurance companies often pay less than a case is worth. A lawyer may negotiate a fair settlement that will adequately cover your expenses.
In addition, you may not know which insurer covers many types of accidents. Most attorneys offer a free initial consultation and case evaluation.
If you need more information, contact an attorney who specializes in personal injury today.
2200 6th Avenue, Suite 768
Seattle, WA 98121