Your actions in the first hours and days after your accident are critical to help you receive maximum compensation for your injuries.
- Hire a reputable personal injury attorney immediately. Obviously, the most important thing to do after any kind of accident is to get prompt and proper medical attention. As soon as possible after that, you or a family member should consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in personal injury law to protect your interests when dealing with insurance companies and their representatives. A significant amount of evidence can be lost that could help your case unless you promptly contact one of our knowledgeable and experienced lawyers. Contact us immediately so that you can have an advocate who will act swiftly on your behalf and protect your rights from the start.
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses to your accident. It’s vital to collect the names, addresses and phone numbers of any eyewitnesses to your accident immediately. Witnesses are most effective when they are still emotionally invested and your accident is fresh in their minds. O’Dwyer & Bernstien, LLP, works with investigators and accident reconstruction specialists who will strengthen your case by following up on the information collected at the accident scene.
- File a police report and retrieve a copy. If you have been injured, call a police officer to the scene and make an accident report. Failure to do so can allow an insurance company to claim that your accident never happened.
- Don’t wait to file your insurance claim. Be aware, some claims must be made very quickly. No-fault claims must be filed within 30 days of the accident. Claims against municipalities (New York City, for example) must be filed within 90 days. Your O’Dwyer & Bernstien, LLP, attorney will see that all necessary notices are timely served.
- Don’t admit fault for your accident at the scene. Sometimes our first impulse is to blame ourselves for an accident. However, questions of legal responsibility are complex. Let a knowledgeable O’Dwyer & Bernstien, LLP, personal injury attorney fully inform you on the laws of responsibility as they relate to your accident.
- Don’t guess about the nature of your injuries. Medical records are admissible as evidence in your case. When speaking to doctors, EMT workers or other health care practitioners, tell them when you feel physical pain and report all symptoms stemming from your accident, but avoid speculating about the extent or severity of your injuries. Soft tissue and disk injuries can take hours or even days to begin to hurt. If you have any pain at all, and a police officer offers to call an ambulance to take you to a hospital, strongly consider letting the officer do so.
- Don’t accept any settlement offered by an insurance company without speaking to your lawyer first. Insurance companies may try to offer you money for your injuries right away. The full extent of your injuries — and the true value of your claim — may not be determined for weeks or months. Once you settle for your injuries, the settlement is final. No matter what anyone tells you, you cannot collect any additional money for your injuries once you’ve agreed to a settlement. Never sign a release without consulting with an experienced attorney first.
- Don’t hire a “family attorney” for a personal injury case. The family attorney is a valued adviser, but he or she may not have enough experience with accident claims to fully and properly protect your interests. It is best to retain the services of a law firm like O’Dwyer & Bernstien, LLP — a firm with extensive experience and the specialized knowledge necessary to handle personal injury cases.