Posted on January 22nd, 2014 by Zane Cagle
If you have been in an automobile accident, you may be curious about how to go about filing an “injury claim”. First of all, if you think the accident was not your fault but the fault of another, you may have a tort which simply means a “wrong,” civil wrong or wrongful act, whether intentional or accidental, from which injury occurs to another”. There are two basic components of a tort claim–liability and damages. The burden of proof of liability and damages lies upon the plaintiff, or person who was wronged.
A Bit of “Free” Advice:
The huge determiner in whether or not you have a bodily injury claim is the extent of your injuries. If you just soreness and stiffness that goes away in a day or so and then you do not have any more pain, then you may not need to file a bodily injury claim. However, if you have any injuries as a result of the accident, then the following steps should be taken and you ABSOLUTELY should contact a personal injury attorney right away. If you turn out not to be injured, then you can always drop your claim. However, it is much harder to reconstruct evidence and information months after your accident and lack of medical care than it is to do it correctly at the beginning. Consulting a personal injury attorney at every step leaves many more options available to you depending on how your medical status evolves.
Often what happens…..
Some individuals may take several days for symptoms to appear, especially if you are laying in a hospital bed with various body parts in casts and on pain medication. Never, never, never sign anything while on pain medication NOR give any statements. Far too often, a person will call me and tell me they are having a lot of pain but they already settled with their insurance company. Once you settle an injury claim or sign off on a medical release of responsibility, you are forever barred to file a claim regarding said accident. Be sure you evaluate your pain and symptoms and have those treated by a medical professional thoroughly before settling an injury claim. That does not mean that you have to wait until you are done treating and you are no longer going to a doctor, but that the injuries have been identified and a treatment plan is in place for your full recovery.
Steps to Filing a Injury Claim According to DMV.org (with comments)
Gather Information Following an Accident:
- This involves getting the contact information of the other drivers including witnesses and passengers as well as insurance information
- The time, date and location of the accident and take photographs of the scene and the vehicles involved if possible
- A copy of the police report. You may have to get this at a later date, but at least get the officer’s name who is handling the accident
Seek Medical Attention:
- One trip to the Emergency Room does not generally make a strong case for bodily injury claim unless it is followed by a lengthy hospital stay ie: intensive care, surgery etc.
- Be sure to follow up with the appropriate doctor regarding any pain or injuries treated following the accident. Sometimes testing and evaluation need to be conducted in order to develop a medical treatment plan that will aide in your recovery
- Be sure to follow up with any specialist the ER doctors recommend
- The insurance company will want to see these medical reports, but it is a good idea to get these for your own documentation. You must sign a release for an insurance company to have these records and going through an attorney is usually smart when medical records are involved.
Contacting the At-Fault Party’s Insurance Company:
- Many do-it-yourself articles tell you to initiate contact with the other driver’s insurance company at this point. I would caution you again this depending on the nature of your injures. If you injuries are significant, it is always best to have your attorney initiate and monitor these negotiations as well having your attorney release the following information to the defendant’s insurance company
- Doctor or doctors who are treating you/contact information
- What you are treating for? Are you still being treated?
- Specialists you have been to or need to see
- Whether or not you are still experiencing pain from the injury you sustained
- Have you ever received treatment for this problem prior to the accident? if so, when
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney:
It is not required to have a personal injury attorney in order to open your own bodily injury claim, but it’s a great idea to have a lawyer who specializes in bodily injury cases on your side once it’s time to negotiate and discuss a settlement. Often times, the research, evidence and facts are done more completely by an attorney simply because they are familiar with the bodily injury claim process and adjusters and insurance companies.
Wait for Settlement Decision:
Waiting for the settlement decision can be a process. If you do it yourself, then you really are “waiting” for the insurance company’s decision. However, if you have a personal injury attorney, everything is in place if you feel the settlement “decision” is not fair. While people handle these bodily injury claims themselves sometimes, it is always advantageous to have an expert on board to negotiate for you and file a petition for suit if necessary. A personal injury attorney who is familiar with injuries is the best at giving you advice on whether the settlement offer is fair.
If you have suffered an injury (bodily injury) due to an accident that was not your fault, you will need to file an injury claim with the at-fault party’s auto insurance. Exceptions to that rule include:
- If you live in a no-fault state, such as Missouri where the state requires personal injury protection as part of its liability requirements. In this situation, you may file with the other party’s auto insurance and your own insurance company.
- You are a passenger. You may file with your insurance company, either or both of the drivers’ insurance
Point being, every situation is a little bit different depending on what state you are in and what your role is in the accident. Contacting a personal injury attorney who is experienced in motor vehicle accidents can give you the most information and the most sources for getting the compensation that you need. I advise each person who calls me to follow these steps. After the initial information gathering, then my client is able to hand off the dealings to me.
Why is a bodily injury claim not a Do-It-Yourself Project?
There are many Do-It-Yourself projects out there. I frequently search online on how to do various projects at my home rather than paying an experienced maintenance person. But, I do not try to do electrical work. If you just have property damage to your car, then that is easily a do-it-yourself project because it is far less complex and the stakes are not as high. Likewise, I can paint or attempt some wallpaper at my house, but I do not try to wire or plumb. I hire a professional for those tasks because the stakes of potential flooding or electrocution are higher than I want to risk. Also, due to statute of limitations you only get one run at a bodily injury claim. If I try to plumb my bathroom and the result is a flood, then I can hire a professional plumber but often they have to come in and repair the damage from my mistake. Unfortunately, in a bodily injury claim, your do-it-yourself efforts may not be repairable. When we are talking about your financial future–why risk it? Have it done correctly the first time.
Statute of Limitations: Remember, your injury claim has what is called a “statue of limitations”, meaning a time period after the accident in which you have to file an injury claim or be barred forever from doing so. In Missouri, the statue of limitations is five years. I usually explain this like a stop clock. Once the accident happens, the countdown begins. So, if your accident happens on December 20, 2014, then you have until December 20, 2019 to file your injury claim. In general, it is not advised to wait until the last second in an injury claim.
Our attorneys understand the details of bodily injury claims after car accidents. If you are involved in a truck accident, then many of the rules and procedures change dramatically. Each accident and person is unique and we offer a free consultation to help you evaluate if you have a bodily injury claim–no obligation required. We just want to be sure that you are getting the compensation that you need and deserve following an accident involving an injury. Toll free (314) 276-1681 or locally (314) 276-1681
Sources: Tort. Law.com
How to File a Bodily Injury Claim, DMV. ORG.