The Five Most Important Things To Do If You Have Been Injured In An Automobile Accident In Virginia
1. Identify the name, address and phone number of the person who was driving the vehicle, the owner of the other vehicle and get their insurance information.
It is important to get all this information as soon as possible following the accident. As an attorney, I have seen many occasions when clients came to me after their medical treatment had finished, which could be a year or more following the accident. They often do not get an address and in some cases do not even get the name of the person that struck them, just their insurance company. As time passes, it becomes more and more difficult to identify the actual person who caused the accident. This is especially true if no police report was written. It is possible that if you do not get and keep this information and you are unsatisfied with the insurance company’s offer, that you may not be able to file suit if you have not properly identified the Defendant.
2. Get the name, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident.
Many times clients come to me concerning an accident where there is a question about who is at fault. The client will tell me that while there were many people there, but she did not get their names. If a person witnesses an accident and you don’t identify them then you will not able to contact them to get them to testify on your behalf. If you are physically able to do it, you should always try to immediately get the names, address and phone number of any witness who has seen the accident and pass that information on to your attorney immediately. You should not depend on the police to do that. Police reports in Virginia do not contain witness information and it may require a subpoena to get this information later.
3. Seek immediate medical care and be consistent in your medical treatment.
If you are injured in the accident and feel pain, you should immediately go to the emergency room. If you are told by the emergency room to follow with your physicians, you should do so in a timely fashion. Insurance companies often regard a “delay in treatment” as a reason to lessen the offer in the case or refuse to make any payment at all. Injured persons need to be cognizant of the fact that if it is not documented in writing, then it essentially did not happen for purposes of negotiations on their case and for purposes of obtaining a successful jury verdict. One of the most important things you can do to ensure you are fairly compensated is to seek the medical treatment that you need and follow the doctor’s orders in every event.
4. Do not talk to the other driver’s insurance company concerning your injuries.
In many cases you will be contacted after an accident to give a recorded statement by the other person’s insurance company. You are not obligated to give this statement. You should not give this statement because immediately following the accident, you do not know how you will be feeling a month a so later and you may not have thought through all the ramifications of the statement. Be sure of one thing, insurance companies attempt to take recorded statements from potential claimants as soon as possible to attempt to trick them into saying something that is unfavorable to their case and which can be used against them later. This does not mean you cannot talk to the other insurance company about damages to your vehicle, however, you should advise them that you are going to seek counsel with regard to the injury claim and that you were hurt but you do not wish to discuss this in any further detail. You are under no obligation to give them a recorded statement and should not do so unless advised to do so by your attorney.
5. Never settle a case before you have finished all medical treatment and are either recovered or have an indication by a doctor about what further treatment you will need.
On many occasions, insurance companies will try to make a low ball settlement offer immediately following the accident to an injured person to get them to give up their rights to pursue the matter further. Many times people will accept this offer only to find out that they are hurt more badly than they initially thought and that they have forfeited their rights for as little as $1000. I tell all of my clients is to be patient. It sometimes takes a little bit of time for the degree for which you are injured to be made clear. You must have this information to properly protect your rights and completing your treatment is essential. There is a reason why insurance companies attempt to make quick small offers to accident victims. It is not to protect your rights.
If you have any questions or need any further information about any of these areas, please feel free to contact the Law Offices of Thomas B. Morrison at 703-273-1133 or through this website.