An unexpected injury can be frightening and disorienting, whether from an automobile accident, slip-and-fall, or a “freak” accident. It is helpful to know your rights, and consider in advance the important steps you should take in these situations.
#1. Seek Emergency Medical Care
This may seem obvious, but take a minute to be sure you’re alright! If you are able to do so, check on any passengers in your vehicle, or on others who may have been injured in a motor vehicle accident. Once you have taken precautions for your safety, move your vehicle out of the lane of travel, if possible. Then, call 911.
If you refuse treatment at the scene, go directly to your doctor or the local emergency clinic to be checked out, even if you think your injuries are minor. Often times it is well after the adrenaline wears off that we start to experience pain.
#2. Inform Authorities and Get Copies of Reports
Wait for the police to arrive on the scene, and, respectfully ask that the other driver do the same. If you have been injured in an accident on the premises of a business, notify the manager or supervisor immediately, or, inform the homeowner if you have been injured on residential property. Always remain calm during the course of any conversations with the police, authorities, business representatives, or other parties involved. Remember to ask for copies of any accident reports that are generated.
#3. Exchange Insurance Information and Take Photos
Try to get the names and contact information for any witnesses to the accident. If you have been in a motor vehicle accident, you should exchange insurance information with the other driver. If you were injured on residential or commercial premises, ask for contact information for the appropriate insurance company. Take photos of any visible injuries and damage to your vehicle or property.
#4. Don’t Ignore Follow-up Medical Treatment, and Keep Good Records
Don’t skip follow-up appointments, and be sure to obey the recommendations of any medical professionals who are treating you. Not keeping your medical appointments or failing to follow your doctors’ advice may hinder the healing process, and can also have an impact on any compensation to which you may be entitled. Insurance companies often try to reduce compensation for failing to do these things, calling it “failure to mitigate damages”. Your medical records will provide documentation in the event that the insurance company asks for it. Save copies of doctors’ notes, time off from work, and receipts from any expenses incurred.
#5. Seek Legal Counsel
It’s important to understand your rights after an accident. It usually takes time to assess the full nature of your claim, including your injuries, property damage, loss of wages, out-of-pocket expenses associated with the claim, etc. Do NOT sign any documents, releases or checks from the insurance company without first consulting with an attorney.
Beware of insurance companies who are quick to offer you cash after you have been injured. Often, accepting a cash payout from an insurance company shortly after the incident means signing a written promise that you will not bring a claim or a lawsuit against the insurance company or the party they insure. If you discover additional injuries or property damage after you have made this promise, you may inadvertently waive future recovery to which you may be entitled.
Many, but not all, motor vehicle collisions have a two-year statute of limitations. This means that you have the right to bring a lawsuit claiming damages arising out of the collision up to two years after the date on which it happened. On the other hand, in some situations, if you fail to notify certain parties within as little as 60 to 90 days that you intend to bring a claim, you may forfeit certain legal rights. The time limits prescribed by Connecticut law vary depending on the type of accident and if the responsible party is an individual, business, municipality, or other entity; where the accident occurred, and other factors.
It is wise to consult with a competent attorney who can advise you as to the statute of limitations that applies to your particular situation. It’s important to understand your rights after an accident. Many people mistakenly assume that if they file a lawsuit, they will be required to go through the stress and anxiety of a court trial. However, the majority of lawsuits that are filed settle before reaching the point of a trial. Following the important steps above will help make the road to physical, emotional and financial recovery much smoother.
Editor’s Note: Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law is the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut, serving the community for over 70 years with a wide range of legal services. John A. Collins III is the Managing Partner of the firm and a Director/Shareholder who concentrates in the areas of Personal Injury Law and Civil Litigation. For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860)442-4416.
Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT 06320