First Steps in a Personal Injury Claim

By its very nature and definition, an accident is something that happens suddenly and unexpectedly, and when it comes to having been injured, that accident is often followed by shock and confusion. But whether it’s a slip and fall in a store or a car accident that is more than a minor fender bender, knowing what to do afterwards will help you think clearly and logically enough to get information from the scene that you will be able to use to your best advantage should you decide to take legal action.

Take Care of Yourself

Before getting into the specific actions an accident victim should take, don’t ever forget that no matter what the surrounding circumstances are, it’s always health that comes first. It doesn’t matter if you think you are all right, you aren’t dizzy or in immediate pain or can walk away from the scene without help – you still need to be checked out by a professional whether you are thinking of filing a claim or not. There is nothing that is more important than taking care of physical problems that occur after an accident.

Pictures: Most people now have cell phones with cameras, which makes getting a visual record of the accident’s aftermath easy, so take lots of pictures. If it was a slip on an escalator or a wet surface, take pictures; if it was a sideswipe that sent your car onto the shoulder and into a divider or another car, take pictures. Any evidence in car accidents such as skid marks or dented doors or in interior accidents things like standing water with no warning sign can be important evidence for you. And don’t forget to also use the camera to take pictures of the other drivers’ licenses and insurance information.

As soon as possible while the memory is fresh, write down (or make and keep a voice record of) everything you can remember about what happened. There is no detail too small to note. This includes the order of events and any conversations you had with (in the case of a car accident) the other driver and any witnesses to either a traffic accident or a slip on a wet floor; remember to include their contact information. Keep a record of any visits to the emergency room and any visits to chiropractors and/or doctors. List any dates of absences from work due to the incident and keep a record of any lost wages as well as all outstanding medical bills. And make sure to tell anyone who might be included in a legal dispute that you are planning to file a claim for injury or property loss or both. Even if you never decide to make a claim, early statements of intent will keep you from facing the accusation that you waited too long to file a claim.

Know Your Time Limits

States all have their own statutes of limitations, and if your claim is against a business or an individual, it is extremely important that you know what those limitations are in regards to the type of claim you are planning to file. If you are making a personal injury claim against the government, whether it’s a government agency or a government employee, there are different but specific time limitations you should be aware of; for most government claims, you have between 30 days and one year to file a claim, but again, check the laws in your state.

Consult an Attorney

Most personal injury lawyers will give you a free consultation so take advantage of this chance to get a professional opinion. After the attorney knows all the facts, then both of you can decide if there are grounds for legal action and if you want to move forward with the proceedings. Don’t be reluctant to consult an attorney, since there is no downside to a free consultation. If after speaking to the attorney you have any doubts about what you have been told or how to proceed, you can always schedule more than one consultation, although it is advisable to find an attorney you can work with as quickly as possible.