Accidents cause physical, emotional, and financial pain. When an accident occurs outside of the workplace, accident victims are usually entitled to compensation from a person whose carelessness caused the injury. To maximize the opportunity to receive full compensation, personal injury lawyers recommend that injury victims follow some simple steps.

1. Get Medical Attention for Your Injuries

Many people want to “walk it off” after they are injured. Once prevalent in professional sports, that attitude elevates “toughness” above good health. Professional sports teams no longer encourage athletes to “walk-off” their injuries because they have learned that athletes become less productive when their injuries are not evaluated and treated immediately. The same is true for non-athletes.

Immediate treatment of accident injuries has multiple benefits. In some cases, delay can be fatal. It’s easy to dismiss a head injury as “I just got my bell rung.” In some cases, however, head injuries cause the brain to bleed or swell. By the time the injury causes serious symptoms, usually in the form of a severe headache, it may be too late for doctors to prevent the patient’s death.

Immediate treatment of accident injuries improves health outcomes. Nagging injuries that only produce mild pain can become long-term or permanent injuries if they aren’t treated. In many cases, prompt treatment can rehabilitate injured muscles or tendons within a few months. Delaying treatment often makes it more difficult for the injury victim to enjoy a full recovery.

As a practical matter, immediate treatment also enhances the ability to prove that an injury was accident-related. When an accident victim waits a month before visiting a doctor and later makes a claim against the person who caused the accident, the insurance company may argue that the injury was caused by something that happened during the weeks that followed the accident. 

Documenting the injury by visiting a doctor as soon as the injury becomes painful is the best way to preserve the opportunity to seek compensation. As soon as pain develops, even if it first occurs a few days after the accident, an injury victim should see a doctor. When the doctor notes the report of pain in a medical record made shortly after the accident, the victim will have evidence that the injury was caused by the accident.

2. Follow Your Doctor’s Advice

Healing takes time. It can also take commitment. Patients who follow a doctor’s advice have better health outcomes than patients who place a higher priority on other parts of their life.

Busy people may decide they can’t take time off from work or social activities to keep their medical appointments. Seeing specialists, undergoing diagnostic tests, and attending physical therapy sessions takes time away from other obligations. Unfortunately, the failure to prioritize a doctor’s instructions usually delays or impairs healing.

Physical therapy sessions can be particularly grueling. They may require a commitment of time for two or three days a week over a period of months. In addition, physical therapy is often painful. Controlled exercise of injured muscles helps them regain strength and elasticity. Those long-term gains are often accompanied by short-term soreness. Injury victims who convince themselves that physical therapy is only making their condition worse are condemning themselves to a slower process of healing.

Just as it is essential to obtain prompt medical care, following medical advice creates important proof that injuries are real. When injury victims stop attending physical therapy or blow-off appointments with a doctor, insurance adjusters assume that the injury must have healed. If the victim later decides to resume treatment, the adjuster will assume that the treatment is related to a new injury. Failing to follow a doctor’s advice is the most common way in which injury victims impair the settlement value of their personal injury cases.

3. Document the Circumstances of the Accident

Take care of your health first. If a paramedic wants you to take an ambulance to an emergency room, don’t argue. Worry about paying the bill later

If you don’t need emergency care, take some basic steps to document the circumstances of the accident. If you were in a car crash, call the police immediately. Get the name and driver’s license number of the other driver.

If you have a smartphone, take pictures of the accident scene. Pictures showing the vehicles in contact with each other, before they are moved, can provide vital evidence. Take pictures of damaged areas on both vehicles. If you see skid marks, gouges in the pavement, broken glass from headlights, or anything else that resulted from the accident, take a picture of it.

The investigating officer will probably take witness statements. If you see witnesses who might leave before the officer arrives, ask them if they will give you their names and numbers. An investigator can contact them later if you learn their identities.

4. Notify Your Insurance Company

If you were injured in a car accident, notify your car insurance company. If you were at fault, your insurance company has the right to know that a claim might becoming. You might forfeit your right to insurance coverage if you fail to report the accident.

Even if you were not at fault, you may want to make a claim against your own insurance company if the driver who caused the accident was uninsured or underinsured. Giving prompt notice of the accident to your insurer is usually a condition of making a later claim for insurance benefits.

While you have a duty to talk to representatives of your own insurance company, you are under no obligation to talk to an adjuster employed by the other driver’s insurance company. You should never agree to answer questions until you are represented by a lawyer.

5. Contact a Lawyer

Prompt legal advice can make the difference between obtaining full compensation or obtaining no compensation. A Florida personal injury lawyer will want to take immediate steps to preserve your rights. It may be necessary to give prompt notice to the state or municipal government if a government employee caused the accident. It may be appropriate to send an investigator to the accident scene to take measurements or photographs.

A lawyer can also advise you whether to speak to an insurance adjuster. It is easy to make a mistake or to say something that will be misconstrued. Your lawyer can tell you whether it makes sense to give a statement. Your lawyer can also give you valuable advice that will maximize your opportunity to obtain full compensation for your injuries.