A car accident can significantly alter your life. Depending on the severity of any injuries that you experience in a collision, you may be unable to return to work, finish your education or otherwise maintain a reasonable quality of life. Let’s take a look at what you can expect after a crash and what you can do to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions.
What To Do Immediately After a Crash
In the moments immediately following a collision, your only obligation is to look after your own safety. If any children were in the car when the wreck occurred, their safety is the only thing that you need to worry about until the police arrive. The other driver, a bystander or another person can call for help while you check on your child or tend to your own injuries.
Even if you are physically able to speak to others at the scene, it is generally in your best interest to refrain from doing so until an officer arrives. At that point, you can make an initial statement outlining the facts of the case as you know them. It’s critical that you don’t guess, admit fault or say anything else that might undermine your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in a future personal injury case.
It’s important to understand that your body will likely go into shock after a crash. This is why it is critical to seek medical treatment as soon as you are cleared by authorities to leave the scene of the crash. If you’re unable to seek treatment on your own, an ambulance will be called to take you to the hospital.
What To Do In the First Few Days After the Car Accident
There is a good chance that your insurance company will contact you within 72 hours of your car accident asking you to make a formal statement. In most cases, you are required to comply with such a request. Ideally, you will say as little as possible without omitting any important information about how the crash occurred.
The more detailed your statement is, the easier it can be for an insurance company to deny your claim. Furthermore, those representing the other driver who was involved in the wreck may also use the details in your statement against you at some point during the legal process. In some cases, the insurance provider for the other driver will ask for additional information. However, you are not required to do anything more than repeat what you told your own coverage provider.
If you are physically capable of doing so, it may be a good idea to start talking to personal injury lawyers at this time. In most cases, they will consult with you for free, which means that you can talk with as many attorneys as it takes to find someone who you feel comfortable with. If you are not physically capable of searching for an attorney, a spouse, adult child or friend may be able to seek legal counsel on your behalf.
Legal counsel may be able to ensure that you don’t say anything that could imply that you were at all liable for the event that caused your injuries. A lawyer may also be able to review any evidence that you collected at the scene to ensure that it supports your version of events. While you can always change your statement at a later date, it’s generally best to avoid doing so if possible.
It may also be in your best interest to keep a health diary as you start on the road to recovery. In this diary, you should list any aches, pains or discomfort that you experience while performing activities such as walking, sitting or sleeping. It may also be a good idea to note any mental health issues that arise after the accident. The information contained in your diary may help you prove that there is a link between your symptoms and the accident.
What to Expect Several Weeks After a Car Accident
After about three weeks, your doctor should have a better understanding as to the extent of your injuries. By now, symptoms of common injuries such as whiplash, strained muscles or internal bleeding should be apparent. Symptoms of these conditions often include a stiff neck, back pain or stomach discomfort.
If you experienced any broken bones in a collision, they should fully heal within about eight weeks. Muscle strains, tears and spasms may also resolve themselves within eight weeks. However, your exact recovery timeline will depend on the severity of the injury, your medical history and how well you adhere to a prescribed treatment plan.
You should still keep track of any health problems that you’re experiencing in your injury log. This is especially true if you were diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In many cases, they can cause subtle changes in mood and behavior that are difficult to link to a specific incident unless you are keeping track of your symptoms.
By now, you will have likely received a settlement offer from the insurance company that is responsible for paying out your claim. It’s also possible that you have received an offer directly from the person who caused the accident. If you haven’t begun the process of speaking with personal injury lawyers, now is the time to start doing so.
This is because an attorney will likely have a better understanding as to whether an offer is worth accepting. As a general rule, you have two years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to take an offer that you don’t believe meets your needs without discussing it with an attorney first.
Some Injuries May Linger for the Rest of Your Life
It isn’t uncommon for car accident victims to struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for many years after their accidents. Therefore, don’t be surprised if it takes some time to get comfortable riding in a vehicle, driving a vehicle or driving near the scene of your accident.
Ideally, you will talk to a therapist, join a support group or take other steps to help you process the emotions that you might feel after a serious wreck. Your doctor may also be able to recommend various ways to relieve stress without becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol.
There is also a chance that you won’t fully recover from a head injury. While headaches, sensitivity to light and other physical symptoms may eventually subside, you may experience diminished cognitive function. This may prevent you from driving a car, working in certain fields or otherwise living the life that you had prior to the crash.
How Long Will It Take to Resolve a Personal Injury Case?
There are many factors that will determine how long it takes to resolve your case. For instance, if you are unable to work, you will likely be entitled to collect future lost earnings. If you are unable to dress yourself, do chores around the house or drive a car, you might be entitled to money to pay someone to do those tasks for you.
It can also be difficult to calculate the total cost of any future medical care that you might need to manage chronic pain, frequent seizures or long-term mental health problems. Unfortunately, there is no single way to calculate with a high degree of certainty how much you should be able to earn throughout the rest of your career.
Furthermore, counsel for the driver who caused the crash may dispute the need to hire someone to help with tasks around the house. In most cases, once a settlement has been reached, you aren’t entitled to compensation for additional damages. Ultimately, you should expect to spend several months or years trying to negotiate a fair compensation package.
If your case goes to trial, it may take even longer to come to a reasonable conclusion. Even if a jury does rule in your favor, there is a chance that the defendant will appeal that decision.
It’s important to note that you have the ability to accept any offer that is made to settle the case even if your lawyer disagrees with your decision to do so. Therefore, you exercise a significant level of control as it relates to how long it takes to negotiate a settlement.
What Happens After the Conclusion of Your Case?
As a general rule, you’ll receive proceeds from a negotiated settlement within two months after accepting it. If your case was resolved at trial, you’ll likely see your money several weeks after a defendant exhausts all of his or her appeals. In the event that you receive a structured settlement, the date of the first payment will likely be determined while the deal is being negotiated.
If you have been hurt in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages and lost future earnings. You may also be entitled to a financial award to help you recover from emotional distress, loss of consortium or similar hardships caused by another person’s negligent actions. An attorney may be able to represent your interests during settlement talks, at trial or during the appeals process.