If you've recently been in an accident, here's what you should know about the personal injury claims process, from immediately after the accident to hours, days, and weeks after. If you have more questions, our New Orleans personal injury attorneys at Huber Thomas & Marcelle are here to help you make sense of the process. Contact us today for more information.
1. Document the accident
What you do in the minutes or hours after a car accident can make a big difference when it comes to a personal injury claim.
To start, make sure you're safe. Check yourself and any passengers for any injuries. If necessary, call for immediate emergency care. However, even if you have no visible injuries, plan to visit your primary care doctor or an urgent care promptly within the day.
If you feel safe to do so, take pictures of:
- The overall scene of the accident
- The surrounding roadside or barriers
- Any dangerous road conditions or inadequate signage
- Both your car and any other involved cars, including close-up views of damage
- The license plates of involved vehicles
Also write down the name, phone number, license plate number, and insurance information of other drivers involved. If there are witnesses nearby, ask for their name and phone number as well.
Once police arrive, thoroughly explain what happened and ask them to take photos before they move vehicles out of the way of traffic. If you have a dash cam, ensure that you're able to access video of the accident. Are there businesses close by? Ask if they have surveillance cameras pointed to the area that you can use, if needed.
While a lot will be going on at once, gathering this clear evidence at the scene of the accident can help your personal injury claims process if your case does eventually go to court.
2. Reach out for professional help
A car accident is a major event, one that you should always get professional help for. Reach out to a few important resources within hours after the accident.
This is your first priority. As noted, even if you feel fine after the crash, get checked by a doctor. Don't shrug off symptoms like pain, tingling or numbness, or dizziness. Be honest with your doctor about all of your symptoms and the forces you experienced during the accident. They can test for signs of concussion or other injury.
Your doctor will also record any changes over time. Some injuries, like whiplash, can take up to 48 hours to appear. Talk to your doctor about all changes, and schedule follow-up appointments if your symptoms persist.
Your insurance company
File a claim with your auto insurance company as soon as you can. You pay for their help all year. Make the best use of any resources they offer, such as collision coverage or rental cars. Depending on the coverage you chose, they may cover all or a portion of any accident costs.
You'll likely also receive calls from the insurance company of the other driver. If their driver was at fault, the insurance company's goal is to have you settle for a small cash payment quickly. This isn't a good idea. In the hours and even days after an accident, you won't have a clear understanding of the amount of damage done, both bodily and to your property.
At this point of the personal injury claims process, it's time to talk to someone who does understand the common costs of an accident.
A personal injury attorney
While your insurance company is a valuable resource, sometimes you'll need additional legal help after an accident. Attorneys, like the team of New Orleans personal injury attorneys at Huber Thomas & Marcelle, understand the true costs of an accident.
The injuries that result after a car accident cost money. Beyond medical care, there may be rehabilitation costs, additional childcare, or lost income. A personal injury attorney reviews the facts of your case and projected costs, along with insurance coverage.
At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we provide support after a life-changing event. We can manage contact with the other driver's insurance company, help coordinate your medical care, calculate a fair settlement, and more. Your initial consultation is completely free and, in many cases, you don't pay anything unless we win your case.
3. Determine a fair settlement
We make sure to get the full story for an automobile accident case. With police and medical reports, your photos, video footage, and witness observations, we reconstruct what happened before and during the accident. We also examine other contributing factors, like dangerous road conditions or manufacturer defects.
Once you have a better idea about any ongoing symptoms or pain, our team works with economic experts to calculate a fair settlement to compensate you for any damages. Then, we typically submit a demand letter on your behalf to the other insurance company.
This demand letter is a document that lays out our arguments about:
- Who is at-fault for the accident based on our evidence
- The extent of financial damage the accident caused: medically, to property, and in lost wages
- Any additional damages you experienced, such as pain and suffering
At this point, the insurance company can agree to our demands and settle the case, negotiate for a lower settlement, or outright deny your claims.
Most insurance companies will negotiate. Our attorneys negotiate on your behalf to ensure you get a full and fair settlement. If the insurance company won't agree to a fair settlement, and you choose to pursue litigation, our team will file an official case against the insurance company or drivers at fault.
4. Prepare your case
We prepare every case as if it could go to court, even though most don't. Because of this, we're ready if you do decide to pursue litigation. At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we know that when a car crash happens, your world changes. There are unforeseen costs and damages you never expected. We're ready to be your legal advocates so you can get the fair settlement you deserve.
Our legal team will enter the discovery phase once we file your case. Discovery typically includes:
- Sending written questions to the other party for clarification or more information
- Requesting documentation to support your case
- Using state of the art technology to reconstruct the timeline of your accident
- Scheduling formal interviews (called depositions) with other parties in the accident, like witnesses, your doctor, or police officers
During the discovery phase, we may also be actively working with the other party's insurance company to reach a settlement. This is often done with mediation. With mediation, an impartial third party (the mediator) guides the conversation between the two parties. The mediator doesn't make a final decision like a judge does in a court case. Instead, they help both parties reach a fair settlement together.
5. Take your case to court
The end of the personal injury claims process is with a trial in front of a judge. The vast majority of cases never make it to this point, though. Sometimes insurance companies will even settle the night before or immediately prior to a court case to avoid presenting the case before a judge.
If your case does go to trial, we'll present the evidence and make our arguments for the judge. This can be a complicated and long process, with multiple testimonies and hours in court. Nobody wants to go to trial after a car accident, but if you don't receive the fair compensation you deserve to cover medical and other costs, doing so can save your family's financial health.
At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we're proud to say that we've recovered millions of dollars for our clients, in hundreds of cases. After a car accident, you need the best New Orleans personal injury lawyers on your side. We're dedicated to providing legal assistance that makes sense, for every person and every matter.
If you've been in a car accident and want to discuss the details of your case, we're here to help. Contact us today for more information.