I’ve Been Injured in a Car Wreck, What Do I Do Next?
If you have been injured in a car wreck, there are a couple of things you should do immediately. First, you will want to seek medical treatment for any injuries suffered in the wreck. Putting off seeking medical treatment could be dangerous. There is the potential to suffer longer-term effects from injuries if you do not secure medical attention immediately. Think about spinal injuries or fractures suffered in sporting events: why do the medical professionals take steps to immobilize the injured part of the body? A fractured vertebrae or other body part can be aggravated by movement. While most trauma from a car wreck may not have the potential for catastrophic consequences, it’s best to let the medical prelesional make that decision.
Also, any delay in securing medical evaluation will be used against you by the responsible insurance company. Car insurance companies often invoke the “delay” or “gap” in medical treatment as a reason for denial of the claim for compensation for the harms and losses caused by the at fault driver. The inference is that the injury must have been caused by some intervening event (or been pre-existing) and that you cannot be trusted because you are seeking compensation for the injury. Proper follow-up medical care is essential to not only good health, but also being able to prove the injuries and losses caused by the driver who needlessly endangered you and your family.
Should I Use My Insurance?
For those that have been injured in car wrecks, one of the most common questions is: “Should I use my health insurance when seeking treatment? If the other driver is responsible, why should I pay?” In short, yes, you do need to use your health insurance. Submit medical bills for payment to your health insurance. The at-fault insurance company will not ever accept immediate responsibility. The doctors deserve to be paid while you are hashing out the car insurance claim. The hospital will file the bill against your credit and turn you over to collections. In the meantime, the responsible auto insurance company is dragging their feet and will not pay the claim until you sign a release of the claim letting the driver and his insurance off the hook. Also, most do not understand that their health insurance often has a contractual or discounted rate. You should benefit from the use health insurance by getting the discounted rate. The hospital’s patient accounts may tell you they have to file with the at-fault auto insurance. This is not true. The hospital does not have to give you the discounted or health insurance contractual rate if they do not file with your health insurance. Insist that the medical providers file with your health insurance. There is no guarantee when or how much money you will be able to collect from the at fault driver. Your health insurance carrier has a right to request reimbursement from the auto accident proceeds (known as subrogation) but in the meantime, the hospital has been paid and you receive the benefit of a lower medical bill.
Remember to Preserve Evidence
Be sure to also preserve any evidence from the scene of the car wreck. Evidence includes documentation, but also photographs from the wreck, damage to vehicles, and any injuries. Photographs are important down the road in providing visual proof of who may have been at fault and what the results of that person’s actions were.
Seek Legal Advice
Finally, we recommend is to promptly seek legal advice. It is then the lawyer’s job to investigate the facts of the case to determine whether or not there is a legally justifiable claim. This means that the lawyer will assess and advise whether you were not the one at fault for the wreck and advise how to best legally document injuries and that the other drive who caused your injuries. The facts of the case including the documentation and photographic evidence, medical records, physician opinions, and lay witness observations are all important to show that the other driver caused the wreck that sent you to the hospital.
What happens next?
After you have been released by the doctor, the lawyer will gather additional information, such as documentation of lost wages and interview the doctors involved in your treatment regarding the nature of your injury and long-term consequences. He will then put together a settlement demand package and present a settlement demand to the insurance company. The negotiation process follows where the lawyers will work to reach a fair result with the insurance company. If a fair result is reached, the case will be settled. Your medical bills will be paid and you will execute a release in favor of the insurance company and their insured driver. This officially ends the case. If an agreement is not reached, you have the option to file suit and have your claim decided by a jury. More on lawsuits and the litigation process in an upcoming blog.