I have been in a car accident. What Should I do? What Shouldn’t I do? Texas lawyer
If you are in a car accident, an insurance company will become involved in settling claims from the car accident. In Texas, the insurance companies have a strong lobby and the law often benefits them more than the drivers. Unless the accident was minor and the responsible driver offered to pay out of pocket, you will most likely deal with at least one insurance company. Accidents almost always involve some physical damage to your car and often injuries to you or other passengers. One of your first steps after the wreck is to contact a Dallas or Fort Worth lawyer.
Attorney for negligent claims in Dallas and Fort Worth
At the time of the accident, if either car is immobilized or somebody is injured (or thinks they might be injured or is acting like they are injured) call 911 immediately. They can send paramedics, the police and fire department, if necessary. The police will usually take statements from everybody and later draft a crash report. If you can, you should take pictures of the damage to all vehicles involved, the scene and any of the drivers and passengers. Do not take pictures at the risk of injuring yourself or others. Do not walk in or near traffic to take pictures. If you are already injured, do not move. Movement can aggravate a neck or back injury. Do not move anybody else. If you call 911, follow the operator’s instructions. Exchange insurance information with the other driver.
Go to the hospital
If you experience any dizziness, soreness, bleeding, or other sign of injury, you need to go to the hospital. This is important for your health as well as creating medical records to prove your injury and show its severity. If at any point in the future you or a passenger begins to show signs of injury, you or your passenger need to go to the hospital immediately.
Do not make any statements to the other driver or his/her passengers. Do not let them bully you into believing you are at fault or scare you from asking for their insurance information. If they will not exchange it with you (or cannot due to injuries) the officer can assist you in obtaining that information.
If you seek medical help, it is important that you follow all the advice given by the medical professionals. When they tell you to follow up with your general practitioner, you must. If they refer you to a specialist, go to the specialist. Delaying treatment will make proving your injury considerably more difficult.
Attorney for insurance claims in Fort Worth and Dallas
If you have been injured in an accident, it is an excellent idea to hire an attorney to negotiate with the insurance company. The insurance company will turn your claims over to a claims adjuster. Many claims adjusters are not always on the up and up and often will not deal fairly and honestly with you. They know it is a lot harder to pull the wool over the eyes of a car accident attorney.
Do not file claims with your own insurer. They may say they will work with the other insurer to get coverage – and they may – but they may also just pay the claim against your own policy and later raise your rates. File claims against the other driver’s policy If injured, you should let your attorney handle filing the claims. If you only have physical damage to your car you are probably ok handling it with the insurance company because most will pay for the repairs since the damage to your car is usually obvious and difficult to dispute.
One key to remember is that you are free to have your car repaired by anybody you chose, even if it is more expensive than the repair shops or body shops they prefer. I often recommend people take their cars to a dealership for that manufacturer. They will follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to repair the car and if there is body work they do not do they will have a referral for somebody they trust to work on your car.
If you decide to file a claim and work with the adjuster yourself, there are some important things to remember. First, do not agree to provide a recorded statement. Insurers use these statements to twist your words and lock you in to an inaccurate version of the facts. This is usually where people lose a lot of their claims. Even when the medical records offer undisputable evidence of injury.
Follow medical advice
Second, follow through all medical instructions and do not delay treatment. The adjuster may try to tell you they will take care of you so you will delay treatment under the belief they will work with your doctors and pay the bills. They won’t. No insurance company helps people get treatment. Delaying treatment will only provide evidence that the pain or injury was less severe than you say because you didn’t get treatment right away. Many treating physicians and specialists from medical doctors to chiropractors and physical therapists, understand the awkward relationship between you, the accident and the insurance companies. They will usually work with you to make sure you get treatment without having to pay out of pocket.
If you have health insurance, your treating professional may be able to file your treatment under your health insurance and once the car insurance pays the claim they will transfer the claim from your health insurer to the car insurer. Don’t assume the insurance adjuster will take care of you. They will not.
Third, do not agree to only see their doctors. You may have to submit to an evaluation by the insurer’s doctors but you are free to obtain treatment from any qualified medical professional.
Forth, you do have to be truthful with everybody. Do not lie to the police or paramedics at the scene, your doctor or anybody else who treats you. Do not lie to your lawyer, the insurance company, or their lawyer. Once you start lying it’s easy to discover your version of the facts are false. That will halt any serious settlement negotiations, destroy your credibility with judges and/or juries and if your injuries are mostly soft tissue injuries that cannot be proven by medical tests you can forget about the insurer taking that seriously.
Fifth, do not believe the adjuster is offering you a legitimate deal. Insurance companies usually calculate settlement amounts based on software or a simple calculation. The calculation is a “pain multiplier” times the actual costs of treatment plus lost income. The pain multiplier is a loose figure but as you can image, the greater the injury the greater the multiplier. It is subjective, which means the adjuster can lower the number as he or she sees fit. Within the costs of treatment can include future treatment and even long term disfigurement. Since those are future unknowns (or at least unconfirmable numbers) they are also subject to the adjuster’s whims.
Unless you have experience or access to how adjusters calculate the multiplier, it is hard for somebody outside the insurance world to accurately calculate the value of your claim. You may believe your injuries are worth much more or much less than the calculation.
Additionally, especially if you do not have an attorney, the adjuster will low ball you with a low settlement offer. They hope you do not understand the value of your claim and want to be done with the whole situation.
Hire a lawyer in Dallas and Fort Worth
It is wise to consider hiring attorneys to assist you with your car accident injury claims. Even if your claim is only worth a few thousand dollars, you may still benefit from legal counsel. In those cases, it probably does not make sense to hire an attorney to handle your case on contingency; but an attorney can consult with you and provide helpful guidance. If you need a Texas lawyer to assist you with your car accident claims, please email or call my office.
Adam Kielich is a Fort Worth and Dallas employment lawyer, divorce lawyer and principal attorney at The Kielich Law Firm in Bedford, Texas. The Kielich Law Firm represents clients in employment law and family law matters across the Dallas and Fort Worth area. Attorney Adam Kielich helps clients with employment discrimination, wrongful termination, overtime pay, FMLA, contested and uncontested divorce, modifications, QDROs and more.