What Should You Do When You Get Into an Auto Accident?

November 20, 2009

By: David Jaffe

Suppose you were driving on I-91 South when there is a backup of traffic due to construction on the road. You stop, you slow down, almost to a halt, due to the cars in front of you. Within 30 seconds or so, you are slammed from behind and your car is pushed into the car in front of you.

You become a little foggy as to what happens in the next few minutes, but you remember you are extricated from your car and are brought by stretcher and ambulance to the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital. Although you are not admitted to the hospital for observation overnight, when you go home you feel drowsy and nauseous. You vomit several times and have an unclear recollection as to all the events which occurred leading up to and for a short time after your automobile collision.

The next day you wake up and your neck and lower back are extremely stiff and painful. You have a small bruise on your forehead and a bruise on your right arm and shoulder.

The question becomes, where do you go from here?

Medically, of course, if you are covered by health insurance on Medpay on your own automobile policy, you should get the best care available since it will all be covered, minus, perhaps, some small co-pays.

If you do not have immediate coverage, while eventually your medicals will probably get paid if there's any liability coverage available from the negligent driver whose car struck yours, in the short term, you need to look for care where immediate payment is not required. This is difficult to find. Oftentimes, if you hire an attorney, he or she can find such health care providers for you.

Additionally, you need to consider the following factors:

1. Do I have post-concussive syndrome or post-traumatic stress disorder? Due to the fact that you hit your head and have what is called retrograde amnesia (lack of memory of certain parts of the incident and/or surrounding events as well), and that you were nauseous and/or vomiting, you probably need to visit a medical specialist who can deal with such injuries, to wit:

a neurologist or neuropsychologist.

2. Either your primary care physician or your orthopedic surgeon, whom you should see immediately, can refer you to one or both of these kinds of doctors.

a. A neurologist will determine if you have any significant nerve or

physiological injuries to your brain or spinal column.

b. A neuropsychologist will determine if you have suffered cognitive

deficits or problems with things such as short-term memory; processing

of information; difficulty focusing or a propensity to be distracted due to

trauma to your cranial region.

3. The typical automobile injury case takes at least a year for a doctor or attorney to fully evaluate, since that is the period of time it typically takes a person who has suffered personal injuries from an automobile collision to reach maximum improvement.

4. Therefore, when hiring an attorney, you should ask what the strategy is in regard to whether they plan to bring suit immediately, or wait and see how you are doing and then negotiate with the liability insurance adjustor before bringing suit.

5. Depending on the nature and severity of the case, either strategy presents a viable option.

6. You should also review the declaration sheet of your own automobile policy to determine if you have Medpay coverage and uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in case the negligent driver has no liability insurance or is underinsured.

7. When choosing an attorney, you should hire a firm, and an individual attorney within that firm, who has extensive experience in automobile and other types of personal injury matters. This is because they will know exactly how to proceed. Additionally, they will have the resources available to them at their firm, and they will have connections with health care professionals, engineers and other experts, as needed. My firm, Brown Paindiris & Scott, LLP, is one such firm, and I am one such lawyer.

7. Typically, a firm will advance all costs and then deduct them if and when the case is resolved.

8. Since a great majority of firms charge a contingency fee of one-third, it is important to hire your firm not based on the amount of the fee, but on their expertise and how comfortable you are with the attorney working on your case. In any automobile collision case, where a person is seriously hurt, they face an uphill medical and legal battle.

9. As a prerequisite to bringing suit, of course, the other driver must be at fault when the injured party is also driving a vehicle. However, a passenger, of course, who gets hurt is not at fault and may have recourse against the driver of his car and/or the driver of the other car, depending on who is at fault.

10. These are all considerations which a good automobile negligence or personal injury law firm will consider when handling your case.