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What to Do After The Smoke Clears – The 10 Critical Steps to Protecting Yourself After an Accident (Personal Injury)

Compensation should be the last thing on your mind after you’ve been in a serious accident. We’d like to believe that you could focus solely on recovery and that the responsible parties would do what was right without prompting.  Sadly, that isn’t the case for many accident victims and they are forced to turn to legal remedies to protect their rights.

Whether you were hurt because you slipped on a poorly maintained store floor, were involved in a car accident, or suffered because someone just did not care enough to exercise basic caution, the consequences of personal injuries are very real and can be extremely expensive.  You are likely going to worry about how your family will survive while you are out of work, whether you need to change professions due to the severity of your injuries, and how your injury will change your overall quality of life in the time that follows a serious injury.  While these concerns are natural and entirely valid, you can empower yourself by knowing precisely what needs to be done in the minutes, days, and months following a serious injury.

You need to be aware of the following 10 critical steps if you are going to protect your legal rights after an accident.  While the decision to pursue a lawsuit is a deeply personal one, these steps will preserve that right for you so that you can be in the best possible position when the time comes to decide how to proceed.  Still unsure of what needs to be accomplished to protect your family’s interests?  Call a trusted California personal injury attorney like Arshakyan Law at 1-888-851-5005 or quickly message them online at ArshakyanLaw.com.

Here are the 10 critical steps to protecting yourself after a personal injury or accident:

#1. GET MEDICAL ATTENTION

The seconds following a serious accident or injury can be terrifying and confusing.  You may not be thinking clearly or you may be worried about your ability to afford medical care.  These are valid concerns, but you need to take care of yourself and protect yourself.  Injuries to soft tissue, the brain, and other body parts can be challenging to diagnose and may not be obvious in the minutes or hours following a serious accident.  Whether or not you’re in pain, having a physician review you, document your injuries, and create a treatment file is a good idea that can preserve evidence and your legal rights.  Doctors can often detect injuries you may not have noticed and can create comprehensive treatment plans.  Some injuries, like facial wounds from dog bites, heal better when treated quickly.  Delaying treatment for any reason is just a bad idea.

Seeking medical attention is critically important for other reasons as well.  In personal injury lawsuits, defense attorneys may try to limit their clients’ responsibility by arguing that injury victims did not act reasonably in pursuing care.  For example, it could be argued that a person who suffered a serious neck injury after slipping and falling on a poorly maintained shop floor could have reduced the time they missed from work, the severity of their injuries, or the pain they suffered had they sought out immediate medical care.  Not sure of who to speak with?  Attorneys at Arshakyan Law are well connected to local doctors all over Southern California and will work with your network of physicians to support you through this tough time.

#2. GATHER EVIDENCE

Gathering evidence in the minutes and hours that follow a serious accident can provide your legal team with critical information that will support your claim.  The difference between a fast settlement for full value and a long, drawn out legal battle can often be reduced to the presence of great evidence.  If you are able to gather evidence without delaying your treatment, exposing yourself to danger, or traumatizing yourself further, do so.  You are not expected to be a professional crime scene investigator, but photographs of street conditions, a list of witnesses and their contact information, and other data can make investigating and proving your case far easier. 

If you are seriously injured or do not feel able to gather evidence safely, call the police and request that a report be taken.  The police will do the heavy lifting for you and will make a preliminary determination of fault.  Their police report will describe traffic and road conditions, identify witnesses, cite relevant law, and can even directly support your personal injury claim by citing the responsible party.

#3. EXCHANGE DOCUMENTS

If you are healthy enough to do so, get the insurance information of the other driver, property owner, or person involved in your accident.  Writing down some critical information can make filing a lawsuit or insurance claims far easier.  Recording the license plate, driver’s license information, and even VIN number of the car that hit you can provide your attorney with essential information.  Make a note of who was driving the vehicle and what they looked like.  We have seen unethical drivers in the past claim that someone else was driving in an attempt to escape liability.  If you don’t feel safe speaking to the other driver, call the police and request that they get the information for you.  Drivers have a legal responsibility to provide insurance and other identifying information after an accident and you have a right to demand that information to ensure your financial rights are protected.

You still should request insurance and other documents if you are involved in an accident that doesn’t involve a car.  If a dog bites you, you are entitled to record the owner’s contact information and should get a copy of the dog’s vaccination record.  If you are involved in a different type of accident, do the best you can to record the contact information of anyone involved. 

Did you know that more people could potentially be involved than you expect?  If you were injured on a commercial property, it is entirely possible that the business owner, landlord, and even other customers bear some responsibility for your injury.  Speak to one of our attorneys to get a sense of who may be liable for your injuries and how best to proceed.

#4. DOCUMENT YOUR INJURIES, EXPENSES & LOSS OF INCOME

A bad accident can turn your world around.  Lost income, occupational therapy, chiropractic care, and specialist treatment are just a few of the expenses you can expect to bear the brunt of as you get back to your old self.  While your physicians will create a treatment plan and patient file that can provide the insurance companies and juries with the medical information they need to value part of your claim, it is your responsibility to document all of your expenses to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries. 

For example, a victim of a particularly brutal dog attack may be able to recover money to fund ongoing therapy to recover from psychological trauma, damages for cosmetic surgery, funds for pain and suffering, lost income, and other financial compensation.  Without receipts and other documentation, that victim could be out thousands of dollars.  Maintaining a binder of invoices, receipts, time cards, and other data can provide your attorneys with the information they need to best advise you on how to proceed, settle, or win your case.

#5. ACT QUICKLY TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS

Deciding to file a lawsuit can be an emotionally taxing decision.  It is completely understandable that you may not want to jump right into the legal process, talk with strangers about your injuries, and relive the trauma day in and day out.  Insurance companies know that the stresses associated with resolving a personal injury claim are substantial and often cause people to accept settlements for pennies on the dollar.  Whether you want to investigate your legal rights or file a claim today, you should act diligently to protect your right to file a lawsuit. 

Most people know that states have special laws that require you to file a lawsuit within a certain amount of time after an injury took place.  Whether that’s two, three, or even six years depends on the type of claim you may have.  What most people do not know is that claims filed against a municipality, like a town or city, or the state can be blocked if a notice of claim is not filed in a matter of months.  Our attorneys can give you a sense of how long you have to file a claim and what needs to be done to preserve case critical evidence.  It is a good idea to notify certain key parties that you are investigating your legal rights to ensure that they preserve evidence, like surveillance tapes, identify witnesses, and notify their insurance providers.

#6. PRESERVE YOUR MEMORY

Your injury is something you will never forget.  The way you felt after being injured and the emotions that followed will impact you for the rest of your life.  What can change is your recollection of the facts that led to your accident.  Defense attorneys will use any inconsistencies in the statements you make to insurance companies, police, and other investigators to diminish your suffering and reduce your claim’s value.  Taking a few moments to write down your precise memories of the event is a critical step that is too often overlooked.  What did you see, hear, feel, or smell?  Your senses may have revealed danger, but they also can serve to support critical elements of a legal claim.

If you are unsure of what to include in your written statement, ask for help!  Speak to one of our attorneys for a free planning session.  A licensed personal injury attorney will help you identify relevant facts that can support your claim.  For example, a slip and fall victim who remembers seeing dirt and mold in a poorly lit section of the floor near where they fell may not think that detail is relevant.  To an attorney, it may show that the problem existed for a long period of time and may heighten the responsibility of the property owner.

#7. SPEAKING TO INSURANCE COMPANIES

In some situations, calling an insurance company at the scene of an accident makes sense.  Many insurance policies require you to notify them as quickly as possible after you are injured.  If you are able to do so, notifying your health insurance provider and auto insurance provider can put them on notice that you’ve suffered an injury and require follow up care.  If you cannot immediately notify the insurance company, do so whenever it is safe to do so. 

Notifying your insurance carrier has other advantages.  Insurance companies can fund medical treatment so you pay nothing out of pocket.  They can also direct you to other insurance policies that may pick up where the negligent party’s insurance left off.  For example, if an unsupervised dog bites you, it is entirely possible that a renter’s insurance or homeowner’s insurance policy will cover some or all of the damages.  Identifying applicable insurance policies and pursuing full compensation is a practice area for a licensed attorney.

Consider talking to your attorney first, when possible.

#8. CONSIDER A SETTLEMENT

While you may never be able to be totally made whole by money, financial compensation does assume a major role in personal injury actions.  It can make up for lost income, a lifetime of pain, complicated medical procedures, and the other things that follow a serious accident.  Too often insurance companies will try to settle your claim quickly and for a fraction of its true worth.  When deciding whether to settle, ask yourself some of these questions:

  • A.   Am I likely to have undiagnosed complications later in life due to this accident?
  • B.    Will I earn less money due to this accident?
  • C.    How will this accident impact my family?
  • D.   What do I need financially to ensure that this accident does not create any more stress or worry for my family or I?

Many clients have their claims settle long before entering a courtroom.  Being represented by a dedicated, motivated attorney shows insurance companies that you understand what your claim is worth and are unwilling to be taken advantage of.  It may make them more willing to pay a fair settlement or settle a case in mediation.  Either of these outcomes can help you move on with your life and focus on what is actually important.

#9. INTERVIEW ATTORNEYS

While you may never be able to be totally made whole by money, financial compensation does assume a major role in personal injury actions.  It can make up for lost income, a lifetime of pain, complicated medical procedures, and the other things that follow a serious accident.  Too often insurance companies will try to settle your claim quickly and for a fraction of its true worth.  When deciding whether to settle, ask yourself some of these questions:

A.   Am I likely to have undiagnosed complications later in life due to this accident?

B.    Will I earn less money due to this accident?

C.    How will this accident impact my family?

D.   What do I need financially to ensure that this accident does not create any more stress or worry for my family or I?

Many clients have their claims settle long before entering a courtroom.  Being represented by a dedicated, motivated attorney shows insurance companies that you understand what your claim is worth and are unwilling to be taken advantage of.  It may make them more willing to pay a fair settlement or settle a case in mediation.  Either of these outcomes can help you move on with your life and focus on what is actually important.

  • A.    How long have you practiced personal injury law?
  • B.    How much have you helped clients like me recover?
  • C.   What is my case worth?
  • D.   How long do you think the legal process might take?
  • E.    What makes your firm different from the countless other competing firms?

Find a firm that is not only confident in their ability to apply their years of combined personal injury legal experience, but also find a firm with a good track record and the skills necessary. This will translate to the best possible client experience for you.  Schedule a free consultation today to gain a better understanding of your case and the exact steps to officially begin the process.

#10. HIRE AN ATTORNEY

You might think you don’t have the money to hire a law firm but as you read above, that is no longer an issue. Many of the most talented firms won’t charge you anything at all unless they win your case.

At Arshakyan Law their team of specialized trial attorneys know what it takes to convince insurance companies, negligent parties, and juries to do what is right.  Their motto “If we don’t win, you don’t pay” allows you (or anyone) to afford the representation you deserve.

Tina Arshakyan and her team provide the support and personal attention you deserve in your time of need.  In addition to using the contact page on their website (here), you can call them at 1-888-851-5005 to talk to someone directly. 

You can also visit their office during normal business hours at 6345 Balboa Blvd (Building III, Suite 163), Encino, CA 91316 for a free consultation. If you are not local to that area don’t worry. They are licensed to serve all of California and are currently meeting with clients all over Southern California to support their legal needs, whether it’s Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Orange County or San Diego County.

The support you need is out there. Don’t be afraid to reach out for a helping hand.

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