The worst situation that can arise after you have been hurt in an accident is getting a feeling that you have lost control of your life.
Because of your personal injury, you may be unable to work, get around and do things you have enjoyed in the past. You may also be facing a growing stack of medical bills and other expenses that you don’t know how to pay. An insurance company may be trying to get you to sign forms you don’t understand. Knowing what to do after an accident is key.
Take these steps to gain back control after an injury:
Step 1: Realize that you’re not alone.
If you are feeling stress, depression or anxiety after being hurt in a car crash, slip and fall, work incident or other type of accident, realize that you are not alone. Many people experience the same struggles after being injured.
In fact, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, roughly 1 in 10 people who survive a serious accident develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or “PTSD-like reactions.”
Take your situation seriously. Get therapy or connect with others through in-person or online support groups such as those available through the Trauma Survivor’s Network.
Step 2: Get needed medical attention and treatment.
Hopefully, you went to the emergency room or saw your family doctor immediately after your accident. If you have not, do so as soon as possible.
The possibility is that you may be suffering from a serious medical condition caused by your accident, and you don’t realize it. You need to make sure you are thoroughly examined by a doctor and get the treatment you need right away.
For instance, since an accident occurred, you may have experienced serious headaches or difficulties with concentration, vision or hearing. These could all be signs and symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Citing 2010 data, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreports that TBI is associated with about 2.5 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths each year in the U.S.
Two of the leading causes of TBI are types of accidents:
- Falls (40.5 percent of all cases)
- Motor vehicle accidents (14.3 percent).
Make sure that you follow up on all visits, tests, prescriptions and other treatments that your doctor recommends, including rehabilitation therapy.
Step 3: Start a post-accident file.
You don’t want to lose track of the many bills, receipts, invoices, letters and other documents that have been generated by your accident. Use a large file folder or a “banker’s box” to keep all these materials in one place.
Documents you should make sure to keep in this “post-accident file” include:
- A copy of any reports that were made of your accident (police accident report, store accident report, work accident report, etc …)
- Medical bills and invoices
- Car rental or repair receipts
- Pay stubs or work records (showing time missed)
- Insurance policies and correspondence with insurers.
If you pursue legal action after your accident, all of these materials will play a crucial role in your case.
Step 4: Keep a accident journal.
Take a moment to jot down what you recall about your accident and the injuries you suffered. Try to remember as many details as you can, including how the accident happened, where you were hurt and who may have witnessed it.
You should also keep a journal that documents how your injury has impacted your life. What did you do before the accident? What can you do now? Has your injury gotten progressively better or worse? How has it impacted your family members and your relationship with them?
It’s actually common today for people to use video journals to document the aftermath of an accident.
Step 5: Don’t sign a release or accept a settlement before speaking with a lawyer.
If you were hurt in a car accident or suffered an injury on the property of another person or company such as a slip and fall or dog bite, you may have been contacted numerous times by the other driver’s or property owner’s insurance company.
First, you really should not speak with the insurer until you have legal representation. In no circumstance should you give a recorded statement!
Second, if the other party’s insurer presents a release form and settlement offer to you, do not sign it until an attorney has reviewed it first.
The sad reality is that many insurance companies see accident victims in difficult situations and use it to their advantage. Sensing that the victim may be facing financial difficulties, the insurer may make a settlement offer that will allow a case to be quickly resolved but won’t fully and fairly compensate the victim.
Don’t let this happen to you.
Step 6: Contact a lawyer.
Do your research. Look online and find a lawyer or law firm that you believe will be the best fit to represent you. As you make the decision, consider the skill, experience and resources that the lawyer can bring to your case.
Schedule a consultation. You can bring materials you have collected in your case to this meeting, which can help the lawyer get a better understanding of your situation. Ask questions. Learn more about your legal rights and options during this meeting. Above all, learn more about how the lawyer and firm serves its clients.
Choosing a lawyer will be a major step in taking control of your future. When you choose the right attorney, it will allow you to focus on your recovery while your lawyer focuses on seeking full and fair compensation for all physical, emotional and financial harm an accident has caused you.