A Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer's Advice: Six Things to Do When Hurt in a Car Wreck | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

As a Virginia Beach, VA-based personal injury lawyer who has handled car wreck injury cases for more than 20 years, I know what a person needs to do when injured in a car or truck collision anywhere in Hampton Roads, Virginia. These are the things I discuss every day when potential clients call our office to see if we can help them after they or a loved has suffered an injury in a traffic accident that was not their fault:

1. Notify the police

If you have been in a wreck and there is significant property damage to either of the vehicles, you should make sure that the police come to the scene and write and file an accident report. Often, you may not realize you are hurt because of the shock of being in an accident. Even though it may seem like an inconvenience, it is always better to have the police come and get down all the necessary information. When you call me to help with your injury case, two of the first questions I will ask are “Did the police come to the scene?” and “Who got the ticket?”

2. Get immediate medical attention if you have been hurt

People often decline paramedics’ and EMTs’ advice to get in an ambulance to go to the emergency room and choose instead to drive themselves to the hospital or have a family member take them later. That is understandable, but you should always make sure to tell a police officer if you think you are hurt even if you decline to take an ambulance from the accident scene to see a doctor immediately. You also need to tell the emergency room personnel everything that you think is wrong with you from the accident so they can document this. Unfortunately, unless you are in need of a surgery or are actively bleeding, emergency room doctors and nurses are often less than interested in listening to what happened to you. The main thing is to give medical personnel a full and complete picture of any injuries so you can make sure there isn’t something that is an emergency or requires immediate surgical intervention.

3. Get whatever follow-up treatment is required without delay 

Typically, you will be in more pain on the second and third days after a wreck than you were on the first day. Don’t try to tough it out and see what happens though. If you waiting too long, you could jeopardize your health and give ammunition to the automobile accident insurance company defending the case to argue that you are not entitled to fair compensation. Insurers like State Farm, Nationwide and Progressive can make filing and recovering on accident claims difficult if you take as little as a week after your emergency room visit before going to see another health care provider. The companies’ standard argument is that such a “gap” in treatment shows you must not have been hurt badly because you didn’t require or seek follow-up care as soon as possible.

4. Report any wreck to your own automobile insurance company immediately

Your insurance policy makes you contractually obligated to report every accident to your insurer in a timely manner. This is both a legal duty and something you should want to do anyway. Your insurance company may have ways to assist you. For example, if the at-fault driver’s policy holder is dragging its feet in taking care of fixing or replacing your car, you can probably have the repairs or payment made under your own insurance and then get reimbursed later. Also, there are certain coverages that may come into play from your own insurance policy to provide money to you and your family sooner rather than later as you wait for the resolution of your accident lawsuit. The two main ones are underinsured/uninsured motorist, or UIM, coverage and medical payment, or “medpay,” coverage. A personal injury lawyer can help you figure out whether those apply following your crash.

5. Call a Virginia personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to learn what your rights are

Those of us who specialize in Virginia car accident cases can give you necessary legal information and answer your questions so that your situation comes out as well as it can for you — typically with no obligation. With rare exceptions, a Virginia personal injury attorney should not charge you anything for an initial consultation or for any of their time unless and until they get a result for you. Also, most personal injury attorneys, depending upon the circumstances, will come to you in the hospital or at home to make it easier for you to talk to them, particularly in a serious injury matter. My own law firm never requires clients to pay any money up front to have me or one of my colleagues represent them if we agree to take to take their case.

6. Do not give the at-fault driver’s insurance company a statement without having your lawyer present

When you hear from the insurance company for the at-fault driver, you can politely tell representative that your personal injury attorney has asked you not to talk to the company or give a recorded statement. You can simply give the phone number and name of your Virginia injury attorney and let your lawyer handle that part of the case. This will prevent the at-fault driver’s insurance company from tricking you into saying something its lawyers can try to use against you. The insurer is not looking out for your best interests, as the Virginia personal injury lawyer you retained would. Don’t be fooled by an insurance company representative or claims agent telling you that you are better off without an attorney. If you have any kind of serious injury, you are far better off with a Virginia injury attorney who specializes in your kind of cases. You will be able to focus on getting well while leaving all the insurance and legal paperwork and hassle up to your attorney. Also, statistics show that the payouts are higher for represented clients than for people without a good attorney looking out for their best interests.