Seventeen Tips in the Event You are Injured in an Automobile Accident
It is unfortunate but many people are seriously injured in automobile accidents. If you are injured in an accident, your priorities should be a full and speedy recovery and asserting your legal right to be compensated for your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering. Set forth below are seventeen tips if you are injured in an automobile accident.
1. Maintain a Diary. The diary should include details regarding the accident and your injuries. With respect to the accident, list the who, what, when, where and how. Write down the name, address and telephone number of passengers in the automobiles, what you were doing seconds before the accident, the name, address and telephone number of any witnesses, any comments by the other driver or witnesses and the name, address, telephone number and insurance information of the other driver. For your injuries, keep a daily account of the details regarding your injuries including your treatment, medical bills, symptoms, medication and diagnoses. A diary will assist in the investigation of your case.
2. Talk to No One. Do not talk to anyone concerning your accident except your attorney. Do not talk to the representatives of any insurance company or their attorneys without notifying your attorney first so that your attorney may be present. Do not give statements to anyone without the advice of counsel. However, at an accident scene, the police may want your version of the accident. Be cautious in stating your version of the accident and do not admit liability or fault.
3. Follow Up With Your Doctor. You should return to each of your doctors as often as necessary. Do not minimize your injuries when speaking to your doctors.
4. Medical Bills. Obtain and keep duplicate copies of all medical, hospital and prescription bills. Submit all medical bills to your automobile insurance company for payment. Keep records of all other expenses that you incurred in connection with your accident (i.e. hiring of extra help, etc.). Also, retain records of all payments and transactions with respect to your medical bills.
5. Car Repair. Do not have your automobile repaired until you have obtained pictures of it. Generally, you will negotiate directly with the insurance company regarding the repair of your automobile. In any event, speak to your attorney before negotiating the repair of your automobile. Do not sign any documents, receipts, releases or checks until your attorney has had the opportunity to review them. If the automobile is totaled, make sure the other driver’s insurance company has examined the automobile prior to disposing of it. You should remove or dispose of the damaged car as soon as possible since you may be obligated to pay storage charges which accrue daily.
6. Take Pictures. Photographs and/or videotapes should be taken of the accident scene, scars, cuts, bruises, damage to the automobile, etc. If you are wearing a cast or cervical collar, have someone take pictures of you. Save the negatives. Pictures will help greatly in preparing your case.
7. Save Evidence for Later Use. If your injury requires a cast, brace or other apparatus, save it. Also, save your prescription bottles, etc.
8. Keep a Record of Lost Wages. Maintain records of the number of days that you could not attend work because of the accident and the amount of money that you would have made if you had been working. If the injury prevented you from advancement in your employment or has prevented you from obtaining employment, keep the name, address and telephone number of any witnesses who can help you prove these facts.
9. Two Years to File a Lawsuit. Under New Jersey law, adults generally have two years from the time of the accident to file a lawsuit for personal injuries. If you fail to file a suit within this period, you may lose your right to sue. You should not delay in pursuing a claim since cases that are investigated within the first thirty days after the accident are more successful.
10. Prior Claims. Insurance companies maintain a national database which lists all of the individuals who have made claims for injuries. If you have made a claim in another accident, your name will be on the database and the insurance company will have the information regarding the prior claim. You should advise your attorney of any prior claims, accidents, lawsuits or settlements.
11. Lawsuit or Verbal Threshold – What is That? By electing to take the Lawsuit or Verbal Threshold option on your automobile insurance, your insurance rates are reduced. However, you are limiting your right to sue for only more serious injuries of which there are nine specific types set forth by statute. A No Threshold election protects your right to sue and recover for any of your injuries. We recommend that you do not elect the Lawsuit or Verbal Threshold. If you are injured, you should consult an attorney immediately to discuss if you will be able to pursue a claim.
12. Uninsured and Underinsured. If you are involved in an accident with any vehicle that is uninsured or underinsured, your own policy may cover your damages up to the amount of your uninsured and underinsured benefits. We recommend that you purchase sufficient coverage to protect you and your family.
13. Who Will Pay My Medical Bills? New Jersey’s No-Fault Automobile Insurance law requires that an injured person’s medical bills arising out a motor vehicle accident must be paid without regard to fault. Medical bills are paid by No-Fault Automobile Insurance under PIP benefits. There is a $250 deductible and for medical expenses from $250 up to $5,000 there is a 20% co-payment. The maximum amount of medical and hospital benefits payable under PIP coverage is $250,000. The unpaid portion of the bills consisting of the deductible and co-payment should be submitted to your medical insurance carrier.
14. Injured While on the Job. If the automobile accident occurred during the course of your employment, you will receive Worker’s Compensation benefits and medical treatment by approved physicians. You still can maintain a lawsuit against the negligent driver.
15. Notify Your Insurance Agent. Report the accident immediately to your automobile insurance agent. If you do not own an automobile, and you have a family member who has automobile insurance, report the accident to their insurance agent for No-Fault benefits.
16. Police Report. Obtain a copy of the police report. If the police report is inaccurate, make a request to provide a supplemental statement to the police report giving your version of the accident.
17. Consult with an Attorney. We urge you to consult an attorney as soon as possible after an accident. Make an appointment to see an attorney and bring with you a copy of the police report, your complete insurance policy, any photographs and any medical bills.
We welcome the opportunity to discuss any questions you may have regarding automobile accidents or other personal injury matters. Please call us at (201) 599-0588 for a complimentary telephone consultation or an appointment for a consultation at our office.
If you desire extra copies of this tip sheet or someone you know wants a tip sheet, please call us.