Whatever the type of accident or injury, you can be sure of one thing: chaos. Accidents by definition cause major disruption in our lives. While lawyers can help put the pieces back into place, the chaos that happens immediately after an accident can cause even smart people to say or do things they later come to regret. Therefore, the best thing a person can do is to hope for the best and plan for the worst. Here are three things every smart person needs to know when there has been an accident:
1. Recognize that everything that happens in the immediate aftermath of an accident has legal implications. Most people know the right things to do after an accident: render assistance, cooperate with law enforcement, contact insurance companies, etc.
But few people consider that each of these actions have immediate and permanent legal consequences. As they say in police television programs, “everything you say can and will be used against you.” For this reason, beware of blurting out things that may be optimistic but in retrospect are not true like “I’m fine” or “I’m sorry.” For example, the word “fine” has a regular meaning in everyday conversations. But, being “fine” can also be a denial of any injury at all, something that a person in shock may not really know. Better to carefully consider how you really feel only if asked by a medical personnel. Otherwise, the less said, the better.
2. There is no reason to be overly protective of “your” insurance company. We find that injury victims are usually protective of their own insurance companies. In fact, it is often their own insurance companies with whom they will ultimately have an adversarial legal relationship. Note that in cases of uninsured, underinsured or medical payments claims, you will be submitting a claim against your own carrier. Under these circumstances, the normal duties of cooperation change dramatically. Yet injury victims who don’t know this are prone to make misstatements which their own carriers will use against them later on. Don’t be afraid to submit a claim to your carrier, it’s what you paid for.
3. Not all injuries are immediately obvious. It seems that one of the reasons that people make mistakes at the early stage of an accident is that they can’t imagine they sustained serious injury. Many of the cases that our office receives however turn out to be much more serious than originally presumed. Some injuries which may take time to manifest themselves are: occult fractures, ruptured disks, tendon injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome and nerve damage. In many cases, the general soreness or shock of the accident masks the pain of these injuries. In some cases, clients can be working toward a settlement even months after their accident when the first symptoms occur. Of course, once they settle their cases, they can never recover for damages, injuries or surgeries that they experience later.
Let’s face it: it’s tough to be objective about your own accident and injuries. Even if you think you have a pretty good grasp on matters, it never hurts to consult a competent personal injury professional like those of us at the Jeff Brooke Team.