What to do if Injured in a Car Accident
Every car accident is a stressful experience. Car accidents that cause personal injury can be traumatic and even life changing. Regardless of accident severity, there are steps all victims should take following an accident.

Remain Calm

It’s easier to say than do, but staying calm after an accident is very important. Keeping a level head will help you make good decisions. The minutes and hours after your collision is a nerve-racking time. Your body will most likely be in flight-or-fight mode. It is a physiological reaction to a harmful experience or threat. Your endorphins and adrenaline levels will be elevated. As a result, you will feel excited and possibly jittery, anxious, or aggressive. Your body may also be blocking pain, so even if you feel fine immediately after an accident, it does not mean that you are.

Safety First

After an accident, your immediate concern should be safety. If possible, move your vehicle out of traffic lanes. It is better to move to the side of the road, rather than into the median. This way you will have more room to inspect the vehicles and talk to the other drivers without fear of getting hit by passing cars.

It is crucial that emergency responders are contacted if there has been an injury, or if you even suspect an injury. Again, victims may think they are okay, but often are not. It is best to err on the side of caution and get immediate medical attention. What’s more, medical attention after an accident also serves as evidence to support your claim or case.

Collect Information at the Scene

At the scene of the accident do not make comments that admit guilt. This includes apologizing. Anything you say that implies that you were at fault for the accident can jeopardize your claim.

Also, be sure to collect as much information at the scene as possible. This includes the other drivers’ names, addresses, driver’s license number, and insurance information. If you can, take photographs. You should document your surroundings, damage to your car, or anything else that may strengthen your case. Do not limit it to one or two shots. Take several pictures from every angle, and be sure to take close-ups and long distance shots.

It is also important to take detailed notes about the accident while it is still fresh in your mind. Be sure to get a police report too. Maintaining a clear head while gathering all of the information listed above at the scene will help to strengthen your claim.

Track Information Relating to Your Case

At each stage of your recovery from the accident, you should take care to keep good records and detailed notes. This is especially important relating to your injuries and medical treatment. Copies of receipts and medical reports will help with reimbursement from insurance companies. This will also provide good documentation during legal proceedings. You should:

  • Save all medical receipts, including medications or medical assisted devices like crutches
  • Track travel expenses related to medical care
  • File away correspondence with medical professionals, including emails and phone calls
  • Keep a daily journal of your injuries and medical care, and be as specific as possible about how you feel
  • Track the the names, addresses, dates and details of any or all medical visits
  • Record lost wages and financial strain, including days missed from work

When to Seek Medical Attention

You should seek medical care if you feel any of the following immediately after an accident, or in the days following one:

  • Pain
  • Discomfort
  • Numbness
  • Dizziness

Remember: if you wait too long after the accident to receive medical care, you may compromise your health. It will also be more difficult to prove that your injuries were related to the accident.

Auto Accident Injuries with Delayed Symptoms

Some car accident injuries do not show right away – especially soft tissue damage or concussions. It’s a good idea to stay vigilant for these signs.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Many drivers and passengers endure soft tissue injuries during a car accident. A soft tissue injury is damage to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are connected to bones.

Even at low-speeds, car accidents generate a great deal of force. Drivers and passengers are jolted around, and in that instant of impact, the soft tissues are put under an incredible amount of pressure. One of the most common soft-tissue injuries is “whiplash.” This is when the neck muscles are strained due to the head suddenly and forcefully being thrown forward and then back.

Soft tissue injuries typically involve discomfort, swelling, and reduced mobility. These symptoms may not be evident right away. They can take days, even weeks, to show-up. Additionally, soft tissue injuries are not visible on an X-ray. This can make them challenging to diagnose and document for legal purposes. This is yet another reason why getting proper medical treatment right away is so important.

Concussions

Your brain is protected by your skull. When you are jolted or strike your head during a car accident, your brain may strike the inside of your skull. This is what causes a concussion.
Concussions can be deadly serious, and the symptoms can take time to manifest. Sometimes symptoms are obvious but can be subtle as well. Be sure to seek medical help right away if you have any of these concussion symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Clouded thinking
  • Poor memory
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping too much or too little

Do Not Sign a Release Form

The other driver’s insurance company may pressure you to sign a release form. They may even offer you money to sign. Don’t do it.

That release form waives your legal right to pursue compensation. Wait until a medical professional has evaluated you before even considering signing anything. You should also wait long enough to be sure that all injuries from the car accident have had time to show symptoms. Your doctor can determine how long this should be. If you do sign a release form and an injury shows up after, the insurance company will not pay for your medical treatment.

Contacting a Personal Injury Attorney

If you have sustained an injury from an auto accident, you should consider hiring a personal injury lawyer. These attorneys are experienced in dealing with auto accident injury cases. They can help you protect your rights and get the greatest value for your claim. Insurance agencies are in the business of protecting their interest. They have vast experience and resources to find ways to not pay your claim. The best chance you have against these corporate giants is to have an experienced attorney fight for you.

To learn more about Pittman, Dutton & Hellums’ expertise in personal injury law, and motor vehicle accidents, please contact us today!

Lee Pittman

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Lee Pittman is one of the founding partners of Pittman, Dutton & Hellums, P.C. Learn more about his background and featured practice areas here.

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