Do's and Don'ts: Tips to Help Your Charlottesville Car Accident Case

 Do:

1. Seek Medical Attention If You Are Injured.   

Chances are, if your accident is bad and your injuries are significant, you will be taken to the emergency room by rescue squad.  If you are not taken by rescue squad, but later feel that that you need to be seen, you can go to the emergency room.  Also, consider being seen by your family doctor.  Remember emergency rooms are for emergencies.  They are set up to stabilize and treat trauma that needs immediate attention.  If your injuries are less serious, seek treatment with your family doctor.

If you do not have health insurance, you can be seen at the emergency room; although, you will have to pay the bill for the treatment either personally, through medical expense coverage on your automobile insurance policy if available, or through the liability insurance carrier.   If your injuries are not serious and you do not have health insurance, you should consider being treated at an urgent care center, which will be significantly less expensive.

Delays in seeking medical treatment will likely be used against you by the insurance company.  If you wait to receive treatment they will argue that there was a "gap" in treatment.  Some people think that their problems will just go away and will attempt to "wait out" the pain.  Only when they do not get better, they seek treatment.  While this seems reasonable, an insurance company is likely to blame something else for your injury since you did not seek treatment right away.  However never seek medical treatment to "run up your bills" in a ploy to try to make money.  Personal injury cases are not an avenue to make money and the court system and the tort system is undermined when people try to manipulate the system.

2. Do Collect Any Information You Can About The Collision.

If you are involved in a car accident, you should try to collect information when it is possible.  If you are injured, there is no need for you to be taking pictures of the scene and vehicles immediately following the collision.  If someone else can take photographs, that is fine.  First, you should seek medical attention if needed.

If witnesses come up to you after the accident, ask them to write their name and number on a sheet of paper.  Do not assume that the police officer will take down the witnesses' information.  Often times, they simply fill out the accident report with the names of the drivers involved.  You will want to get a copy of the accident report, which is usually available a few days after the collision.

3. Do Have Your Medical Bills For Medical Treatment Sent To Your Health Insurance Company. 

If you go to the hospital following the collision, make sure to provide the hospital with your health insurance information.  You want your bills paid by your health insurance for a few reasons.  It takes time to recover money for the medical bills from the liability insurance company.  In the meantime, you do not want the medical provider or collections agencies calling you for payment on the bills.  Secondly, your health insurance has a contract with the medical provider and pays less for the medical services that you receive.  Third, in Virginia you may not have to reimburse your health insurance company if you make a recovery for the injuries, but even if you do, you will have to reimburse them at the reduced rate they get from the medical provider.

When you receive bills at home, check to make sure they have billed your health insurance. 

4. Do Call Your Insurance Company And report The Collision

If you report the collision to them, you may make the process of getting paid for the property damage or getting your car replaced quicker.  Your insurance company may also help in locating policies for the person that caused the collision.

5. Do Call An Virginia Injury Lawyer Soon After The Collision If The injuries Are Significant

There are mistakes that can be made in the early stages after the collision.  If you are not informed, you can make mistakes in discussing the case with the insurance companies or other parties.  While not terribly likely, you do not want to take any unnecessary risks if you have significant injuries.  Most attorney offer "free consultations", so make use of them.  Interview a few attorneys and get the information you need to make informed decisions.  Do not be pressured into signing with any attorney.  If the lawyer makes you uncomfortable or is too pushy, keep looking.  Insist on meeting with the attorney and not an assistant, case manager, or investigator.

6. Do Have Personal Items Removed From Your Case As Soon As Possible. 

If you are unable to get to your car, send a family member or friend to get all of your personal belongings out of your car.  Unfortunately, items do get stolen from cars in storage.  Your car also may be towed to another location or destroyed after the insurance company has paid you for the car, in the case it is a total loss.

Don't

1. Do Not Give A Recorded Statement To The Insurance Company For The Person That Caused The Collision.

You are not required to give a recorded statement to the insurance company for the other party.  They will try their best to coerce you into giving them one.  If you make a misstatement or answer a question that you did not understand, you can bet they will use the recording against you.  If you think a recorded statement is no big deal, tell the adjuster you will give a recorded statement if they will agree to let you take a recorded statement of their insured that caused the collision.

2. Do Not Assume That Your Medical Bills Are Being Paid By Your Health Insurance.

You need to be diligent to make sure when you get a bill from the medical provider that they are billing your health insurance, be it private insurance or Medicare.  Unfortunately, sometimes medical providers do not bill your insurance.  Sometimes the hospital will bill the medical insurance but the doctors' group will not.  The hospital and the doctorwho treated you often send two different bills.

3. Do Not Sign a Medical Authorization Giving the Other Person's Insurance Company Access To Your Medical Records.

The insurance company may tell you they need this to resolve your claim.  If you are proceeding without an attorney, you should get the medical records yourself and provide them to the insurance company.  Many of the medical authorizations that insurance companies will ask you to sign allow them access to all of your medical records, or at least much more than they need to resolve the claim with you.

4. Do Not Hire A Medical Provider Or An Attorney That Contacts You After An Accident.

It is unethical for an attorney or any representative of his/her firm to contact you if you have no relationship with that attorney.  If someone contacts you "out of the blue" or uses a "runner" to contact you at the hospital, I suggest you report them to the Virginia State Bar.  I am surprised that I still hear of this happening from time to time when it is clearly an unethical practice.

5. Do Not Assume That The Insurance Company Will Settle With You Rather Than Incur The Expense Of Litigation

A number of years ago this may have been true, or at least partly true.  Now many of the big advertising insurance companies in Virginia have in-house counsel.  By having their own law firms, they have lowered the cost of defending cases. It is not uncommon to see them have their lawyers fight cases over only one or two thousand dollars. 

6. Do Not Expect To Get Rich From A Virginia Injury Case.

Insurance settlements and jury verdicts are awarded to those that have real injuries.  Being in a car accident is not winning the lottery.  Over the years, I have represented severely injured people and families that lost love ones and have helped them  recover significant settlements or verdicts.  All of them would gladly return the money to have their health or their loved one back.


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