You’ve Been in an Automobile Accident -
Now What??
Read on to learn how to handle the situation step by step, or click here to contact us for immediate assistance.

AT THE SCENE

1. Your first consideration after youíve been in a motor vehicle accident is insuring your safety and the safety of your passengers. While it can be helpful to document the positions of the vehicles after the crash, if your vehicle is in a position where it is endangering the occupants or others and can be safely moved from the roadway, drive the vehicle to a position of safety. If necessary, an accident reconstruction expert can later identify the point of impact and any other necessary calculations from the markings in the roadway, damage to the vehicles involved, and witness statements. At the Heyman Law Firm, we have retained a number of highly experienced accident reconstruction experts for use in settlement negotiations and at trial.

2. While at the scene, you should cooperate with law enforcement personnel who have responded to the scene. Florida law requires that you provide the police officer with a statement of your version of the accident as soon as is practicable. This statement is covered by the ‘accident report privilege’ and cannot be introduced as evidence in any subsequent legal proceeding.

3. If you have been injured, seek the assistance of the rescue personnel who have responded. This is especially crucial if you believe you have sustained a head injury, regardless of how minor you believe it to be. The paramedics have received extensive training in determining whether further diagnostic testing, such as X-rays or CT scans, should be performed. Even if you do not feel injured, the paramedics will probably want you to sign a release that you refused medical treatment at the scene. This document protects them, not you. Remember, you are under no obligation to sign anything, especially any document which might later be used to claim that you were not injured in the motor vehicle accident, when in fact you merely did not feel it necessary at the time to be transported to the hospital by ambulance.

4. If possible, document whatever you can while at the accident scene, such as damage to vehicles and roadway conditions. Cellular phones /cameras are good for this purpose. This information may prove critical in supporting your version of the automobile accident. You cannot rely upon the police investigators to take photographs of the scene unless the injuries are critical or criminal charges are possible.

5. Other than police officers, do not make any statements to anyone regarding the accident or any injuries you may have sustained.

AT THE HOSPITAL

1. You will be required to present proof of insurance. This should include your PIP insurance under your automobile insurance policy and any additional health insurance coverage you may have.

2. Give the treating physicians as full a medical history as possible regarding any prior injuries to the same part of the body that is being treated. Failure to report any obvious prior injuries and/or treatment may impair the doctor’s ability to give proper treatment and may be used against you later by the opposing insurance company (as though you were hiding a prior injury in order to increase the responsibility of their insured driver for your damages).

3. Do not minimize or fail to report all of your symptoms to the treating physicians. Hopefully many of your symptoms may resolve in time, but if you fail to disclose an injury and it worsens thereafter, the insurance company and their lawyers will argue that those symptoms were caused by something other than the motor vehicle accident. With proper and timely documentation of your treatment, we can effectively rebut any such tactics, whether in settlement negotiations or at trial.

IF YOU DO NOT GO TO THE HOSPITAL

1. It is not unusual for persons involved in automobile accidents to not experience symptoms which cause them to immediately seek medical treatment. This is especially true of injuries to ligaments and other ‘soft tissue’ injuries which may take 24 to 48 hours to cause pain. These injuries can ultimately become chronic and permanent, but once again, if treatment is delayed too long, the lawyers for the insurance company will argue that the injury was either not related to the motor vehicle accident or must not have been too significant or else treatment would have been sought earlier.

2. If you do experience pain in the days following an accident, you should seek an evaluation for your symptoms as soon as possible. The reasons are obvious. You need to have the cause and extent of injuries determined so that your pain can be minimized and prevent further injury from occurring. As stated previously, early diagnosis and treatment will remove a possible defense argument for the insurance adjuster and/ or attorneys.

YOUR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY: WHAT TO EXPECT

1. After the shock of the motor vehicle accident has subsided and you have sought treatment for your injuries, contact an attorney who specializes in motor vehicle or other accident related injuries to help you deal with the multiple legal issues presented by insurance companies, law enforcement and your health care providers. At the Heyman Law Firm, we immediately obtain all pertinent documents and information regarding your claim. This includes insurance information from all of the involved parties ( all drivers, car owners, governmental agencies, health insurance), police reports, medical records, and bills incurred to date.

2. Your initial treatment will be paid from the PIP coverage contained in your own insurance policy. This is the ‘No- Fault’ portion of your coverage which does not have to be paid back out of the proceeds which may later be received from the at-fault driver. We’ll monitor the bills which are paid by your PIP coverage and, when that coverage is exhausted, may provide your physicians with a ‘Letter of Protection’ which will permit you to continue to receive treatment with the understanding that your bills will ultimately be paid from the proceeds received from the other driver’s company.

3. Each insurance company providing coverage to any of the vehicles involved in the automobile accident will conduct their own investigation to determine who is the at-fault driver, and the extent of the injuries which resulted. You have a contractual obligation to cooperate with your own insurance provider since they are paying your medical bills. However, you are under NO obligation whatsoever to give a statement or otherwise assist the other insurance companies in their investigation. Their adjusters may call you and appear very personable and friendly, but rest assured they are instructed to obtain whatever information they can to either negate the liability of their driver or minimize your damages.

If you contact us after your accident, we immediately send out letters of representation to each insurance company which both requests the policy information of their driver and instructs them to have no contact whatsoever with our client. There is a proper time to give a statement and provide detailed information information about your claim to the insurance company. A casual telephone conversation with an experienced and disarming claims adjuster is not that time. Any statement made by our clients are provided at our offices, and are made either in person or recorded by telephone with an attorney present at all times.

4. During the course of your treatment, we’ll request regular updates from your doctors and therapists and obtain all treatment records and billings as they are incurred. This may also include results from diagnostic testing such as CT Scans, MRIs and nerve conduction studies and reports from specialists such as neurologists and orthopedic surgeons. At some point ( usually approximately six months from the date of the automobile accident) your primary treating physician will make the determination that you have reached ‘Maximum Medical Improvement’ or ‘MMI’. At that time, we’ll request that your physician provide a final report which detains your injuries, treatment, results and the prognosis for further improvement and the need for treatment. The doctor will also render an opinion regarding whether you have sustained a permanent injury and any limitations it may place upon your employment and any other aspect of your daily life. Given this information, the Heyman Law Firm is then able to prepare a comprehensive settlement demand on your behalf to be thereafter presented to the claims adjuster for the at-fault driver or entity.

THE NEGOTIATION PROCESS: SETTLEMENT OR LAWSUIT?

1. The settlement demand will include a narrative of the facts of the motor vehicle accident, a summary of your medical treatment and bills to date, the need for future treatment, any wage loss calculation and a description of just how the accident has affected your life and that of your spouse.

2. Our usual practice is to require that the claims adjuster review our demand and respond within 30 days of receipt. This period may be extended in those cases where the medical records are particularly voluminous or complicated. It is our belief at the Heyman Law Firm that, if we can obtain a satisfactory settlement by extending the time to respond for a reasonable period of time, the client is better served than by immediately filing suit and prolonging the process for up to two or three years.

3. On the other hand, the claims adjuster may quickly respond with a settlement offer that is unreasonable and thereafter refuse to negotiate within the settlement range we have determined to be reasonable in light of all the circumstances of your case. Unfortunately, many of the larger insurance companies have decided to either deny most claims or offer a small fraction of what a reasonable settlement figure should be. Under those circumstances, while the decision ultimately belongs to the client, at the Heyman Law Firm we are fully prepared to file suit and to proceed to trial if necessary to pursue the full value of your case.

Let us guide you through the process step by step, with your best interests in mind. Contact the Heyman Law Firm now.