If you’ve been in an accident, you’re likely feeling overwhelmed, especially if it injured you or someone else. It’s difficult to know exactly what to do in those critical moments afterward. The following expert advice from a personal injury lawyer can help.
“If you have been involved in an accident, you believe is not your fault, there are several important steps you should take,” says Michael McLean, a lawyer at Wall, McLean & Gallagher LLC, a law firm with offices in Helena and Anaconda. They’ve helped hundreds of people through personal injury cases and have tried cases in state and federal court and have argued cases before the Montana Supreme Court.
Here are six tips McLean recommends following immediately after a car accident.
1. Report the accident right away
“Reporting is required when there has been an injury or death of any person, a vehicle has struck the body of a person, or there is apparent damage of $1,000,” McLean says. “The smart play is to call law enforcement and report immediately.” If unable to call law enforcement, motorists can file a written report with Montana Motor Vehicle division within 10 days of the accident.
2. Get the information of any witnesses
McLean recommends obtaining the name, address, and phone number of anyone who saw the accident. And, if possible, take photographs of the vehicles, their location before being moved, and any damage caused by the accident.
3. Avoid discussing whose fault it was
You’ll want to exchange information with the other driver—and, perhaps, be tempted to talk further—but beyond that, avoid discussing fault, assessing blame, or accepting responsibility for the accident that has just occurred.
4. Be seen by a doctor, just in case
“Also avoid making statements like ‘I’m not injured’ or ‘I don’t need to seek medical attention,’” McLean Says. “Often the adrenaline after an accident masks injury and people do not realize for hours or sometimes days that they have been hurt.” Just to be safe, go to a doctor and get checked out, especially if you’ve hit your head or possibly lost consciousness.
5. Keep a journal documenting everything
Use a journal to document where you were hurt, what hurts, what medicines you were prescribed (including dosages and frequency), and how often you must follow up with doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors. Document whether you were forced to missed work or use sick time. Pay attention to what extent the injury has affected your sleep and daily life. Are you noticing new physical limitations? Document that, too.
6. File a claim with your insurance company and the responsible driver’s company
This is a part of the process where it’s important to consult an attorney who will help you through the complicated insurance laws. “Personal injury claims involve complex insurance law,” McLean says. “Statistics show that people who are represented by attorneys fair better than those who go it alone.”
With offices in Helena and Anaconda, the trial lawyers at Wall, McLean & Gallagher LLC have over 60 years of combined legal experience and are passionate about representing hometown Montanans. They specialize in personal injury, car accidents, employment cases, wage claims, real estate disputes, dissolution, estates, and estate planning. For more information, visit them online or call (406) 442-1054.