Anybody who has been in a car crash knows that the mishap is traumatic both mentally and physically. What ensues is absolute mayhem as the police try to understand the cause of the crash and the insurance companies and lawyers get busy playing the blame game.
In the midst of this chaos, the needs of the injured are often neglected by the insurance companies. So, the very first thing that you need to do after an accident is seek immediate medical and legal help.
First: Be calm!
It is imperative to remain calm after the accident and hold on to your wits, especially when you are being questioned by the police or representatives of insurance companies, including your own provider.
Do not divulge any information that can be held against you and don’t assume responsibility for the accident in front of the police, passengers, witnesses or the other driver. At the same time, collect as many details about the crash as you can, such as:
- In depth notes about the treatment you received
- Names of doctors, physicians, therapist, pharmacist
- Photographs of injuries
- Photographs of vehicle damage
Ask for a copy of the police report and check it for accuracy and omissions, if any. Finally, do not sign any papers or statements prepared by the other driver or his insurance company, unless you consult an attorney. If a lawsuit is filed, this is generally what you can expect. Of course every case is different.
Step 1: Your attorney will most likely ask you to refrain from discussing your case with anybody and it would be best to heed his/her advice in the matter.
Step 2: The initial court papers known as “pleadings” will be filed in the case. This is a complaint that identifies the plaintiff and the defendant and clarifies the basis for initiating the legal proceedings. This petition will also include your demand for judgment which outlines the monetary damages you seek. In response to this complaint, the court issues summons which asks the defendant to respond to the complaint.
Step 3: In the discovery, information held by both parties is disclosed along with relevant documents and facts. In the written discovery, both sides are allowed to seek answers and admissions from each other. Eventually, documents are produced and sometimes depositions are taken.
Step 4: The matter goes to trial if the case cannot be settled. The trial starts with the selection of the jury and is followed by the opening statements made by attorneys from both sides, presentation of facts, witness examination and cross-examination and closing arguments. The jury deliberates on the evidence presented and rules either in favor of the defendant or the plaintiff.
All in all, the process can take several months and every state has a statute of limitations on the time within which you can initiate legal proceedings or you will be barred from making a claim. So, it is crucial to get in touch with an experienced attorney as soon as you can after the accident.