If you are involved in an automobile accident there are a number precautions and step you will need to take. Immediately after the accident call the police. Many people let their adrenaline and over expectations of humility prevent them from taking this step. This can prove to be a huge mistake and lead to a “he said, she said” scenario. With only one witness, yourself, the chances of prevailing are significantly reduced. A police officer will provide the necessary evidence to win your case and often the auto insurance of the at-fault driver will accept liability solely based on a favorable police report.
Take pictures of the incident and surroundings. You can never have enough photographs. It is not unheard for the defense to argue that “dent was already there.” Not only will pictures assist in proving that the other driver was at fault, pictures will assist in determining the value of the claim. Revealing photos of extreme damage can assist a jury to understand the true severity of the accident. Without photographs we rely on our imaginations which can be horribly inaccurate.
Avoid speaking to any insurance company- whether it is your own insurance or the other driver’s insurance. Miscommunication creates the foundation of almost every dispute. Time and time again my firm is presented with a recorded statement or email communication which can be interpreted in many different ways. If the statement is subject to more than one interpretation than it is detrimental to you and your potential case. Let any communication take place through your attorney in order to avoid potential unnecessary conflict.
If you are hurt it is imperative to be seen by a physician immediately. If it is an inconvenience, or you believe the symptoms will dissipate still be seen as soon as possible. The longer the gap between the accident and treatment the less credibility you will have before a jury. Treatment gaps also often reduce the amount of any settlement offer from the defense. Even if you have no symptoms but were involved in a significant accident it is probably worth being seen by a physician. Pains and symptoms can manifest days or even weeks after an accident and seeing a physician before they manifest can prove to be beneficial.
While you are in treatment your attorney will be collecting evidence and medical records, negotiating liability with the insurance company, communicating with health and government insurers, and preparing for the possibility of trial. Most often clients want to know just how long their case will take. There is no exact answer to this question and a number of circumstances can change the timeline of your case. First and foremost, most cases are not able to be settled until treatment has come to conclusion. If you are in physical therapy for eight months, expect no settlement until at least one year from the accident. If you undergo surgery and are out of commission for one year then settlement may take fourteen months or longer.
If a lawsuit is filed then the case could take multiple years depending on which court system is involved. Trials in Circuit Courts tend to take much longer than those in district courts. When is a trial necessary? In three circumstances your case may go to trial; (1) the defense is not willing to accept that their driver was at fault, (2) the defense is not willing to agree to the damages you and your car have sustained, (3) the insurance company is not accepting liability nor damages. Should either of these scenarios come in play the case may go to trial, but at the very least the litigation process will begin.