The Steps You Take After Your Injury Play a Part in Your Financial Recovery
We all get hurt from time to time. We sprain our ankles. We fall and break bones. We pull muscles playing sports. We throw our backs out lifting our children (or grandchildren). Injuries just happen and we live through them as best we can.
You do not deserve to live through some injuries, however. Getting hurt because of someone else’s poor decision or dangerous actions inflicts pain and imposes costs that you should never have to bear.
The law generally permits anyone injured by someone else’s wrongful conduct to take legal action for financial compensation against the wrongdoer. However, taking full advantage of that important legal right can depend, in part, what you do after getting injured.
Below we discuss some steps you can take to preserve and enhance your ability to recover maximum money damages after someone else’s conduct causes you harm. For advice about a particular injury you have suffered through no fault of your own, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today.
Seek Prompt Medical Care
The single most important thing you can do to protect your health, wellbeing, and legal rights after any injury caused by someone else is to seek prompt medical care. Go to the emergency room if you need to, and if not, then go see your regular doctor or visit an urgent care clinic within 24 hours.
Do not tough it out. Do not wait to see if an injury gets worse. Go see a doctor immediately.
Why is getting medical care so important? First, because this is your health we are talking about. Injuries that seem “minor” could, in fact, put your life at risk if you do not treat them quickly. Brain trauma and internal organ damage, for example, may not necessarily show symptoms right away, but could kill you if you wait too long to seek treatment. Similarly, in the moments after an accident or incident that leaves you hurt, you may experience a surge of adrenaline that masks the extent of your pain. In other words, do not trust what you feel. Let a doctor look you over.
Here’s another reason to seek prompt medical attention: your legal right to compensation for your injury may depend on it. Going to the doctor immediately shows that you took an injury seriously and that you did what you needed to do to limit the harm you suffered. It also generates records of the care you received. Should you later take legal action seeking money damages from the person who caused you harm, those records will likely constitute the primary evidence of the type of injuries you suffered. Without them, your lawyer might not even have enough proof of your injury to build a case.
Do What Your Doctor Tells You
So, you went to a doctor right after getting injured. Good. Now, the next step is to follow your doctor’s advice.
Here is a common-sense truth we sometimes have to remind our clients about: you cannot expect to recover the money you deserve as compensation for your injuries if you do not take care of yourself. Insurance companies and defense lawyers will seize on any failure to go to follow-up appointments, or to take medicines, or to avoid activity that could make your injury worse, and point to them as reasons to deny or dispute payments you might otherwise receive.
They may even have a point. Someone who makes their own injury worse by ignoring their doctor’s advice may bear the blame for any additional cost, pain, and difficulty they endured as a result. You cannot make yourself sicker or more-injured and then ask someone else to bear the expense of your own lack of self-care.
So, to protect your legal rights to recover compensation from the person or entity whose decisions or actions left you hurt, do everything your doctor tells you to do until you have healed to the maximum extent possible.
Report Your Injury to Anyone Who Needs to Know About It
Sometimes, to make sure you preserve your right to receive compensation for an injury, you may need to notify someone about it. Injuries happen in too many ways to catalog here, so we cannot predict every circumstance that might require you to tell someone about an injury, much less everyone you might have to tell.
However, typical scenarios in which notifying someone of an injury—or, in some cases, having your personal injury lawyer do it for you—has important implications for your rights can include:
- Notifying the police after a motor vehicle accident. Always report any motor vehicle accident in which you or someone else gets injured to the police. The easiest way to do this is to call 911 from the scene of the accident, which summons first responders and ensures a police officer will write a report. Absent doing that, you likely have a legal obligation to report an accident to the local police with jurisdiction over the accident. Make sure you do so.
- Notifying your employer after a workplace accident. Most workers have the benefit of some form of workers’ compensation insurance to protect them against the medical and disability-related costs of a work-related injury or illness. To take advantage of those benefits, an injured worker should always report an injury or illness to the worker’s employer as soon as possible. Failure to report a work injury or disease could result in a partial or total denial of payments for medical expenses and lost wages.
- Notifying your own insurance company. You likely carry insurance that protects you against the costs associated with various unpleasant events, such as auto, homeowners, and health coverage. The policies issued to you by the insurance companies typically contain a requirement that you notify them of any covered event that injured you, such as a car accident or a house fire. Be sure to give the issuer of any of your own insurance policies that you think may cover you a heads-up, to preserve your coverage. (Note: we do not recommend contacting someone else’s insurance carrier - more on that below.)
Gather and Preserve Evidence Whenever Possible
Lawyers for injured people need evidence to prove someone else’s liability to their client for money damages. Evidence comes in all sorts of forms. Insurance documents, medical records, photographs, video, web pages, texts, witness statements, social media posts, and even wrecked cars can all constitute evidence in a motor vehicle accident case, for example.
As the person injured because of someone else’s wrongful decisions or actions, you may have unique access to evidence that proves what happened to you, and why a person or entity at fault should pay you for the harm you suffered.
Try to collect as much of that evidence as you can, within reason. No one expects you to transform magically into a CSI detective. However, if you have the opportunity to gather information that might help show how you got hurt and who should bear the blame, then take it.
Here are some examples of what we mean:
- At any accident scene, take pictures/video with your cell phone. Images of an accident scene of any kind—motor vehicle, slip-and-fall, fire, etc.—can provide powerful proof in any legal action. It is not always possible to do so safely, but if you can, take out your smartphone and start recording/capturing everything you see. For lawyers, there is no such thing as too many images of an accident scene.
- Get names and contact information from anyone who saw what happened. These people are witnesses. Their potential testimony could prove your case. Again, you may not always have the capacity to start asking people for their names and phone numbers, but if you can (or if someone with you can), then you will have done yourself and your lawyer a huge favor.
- Do not throw anything connected to your accident or injury away. By anything, we mean anything. Have mail you received from your insurance company? Keep it. Have the remnants of your cast after the doctor cut it off? Keep them. Have the receipt from the store where you fell? Keep it. Have a totaled car? Do not take it to the scrap yard. Keep it. Keep all of it, so that your lawyer has as much information as possible to draw from when the time comes to build and prove your case.
Do Not Post on Social Media
Nothing you post on social media about your accident or injury can help your case. Absolutely nothing. It is all downside with zero upside. To learn how to effectively use social media look at these 8 critical safety tips for social media.
Defense lawyers and insurance companies have learned to mine social media for anything—anything at all—that they might spin or twist into a reason not to pay you what you deserve for your injuries. Pictures of you smiling become evidence you did not suffer any emotional trauma. A TikTok of you dancing turns into proof you did not actually get hurt. A post about how you once smoked pot as a teenager transforms into an admission that you are a hardened criminal trying to take advantage of their poor, innocent client.
We are not joking. When it comes to social media, the best thing you can do for yourself after getting hurt in an accident that was not your fault is to take your account private and to stop posting until your case is over.
Do Not Talk to Someone Else’s Insurance Company
Treat contact from anyone else’s insurance company with extreme caution, especially if an insurance company representative calls you out-of-the-blue asking questions or offering a quick settlement. Chances are, this is a trap.
Unlike your own insurance company (see above), someone else’s insurer calls you after an accident for one reason only: to limit its own financial exposure to your injuries and losses. Insurance adjusters may try to trick you into saying something that gives them a reason to dispute any claim you may make down-the-road. Or they may offer you a payment that represents only a tiny fraction of the true amount of money you deserve to receive from them or the person they insure.
Do not trust yourself to handle these conversations. Insurance adjusters do this for a living. They get rewarded for saving their employer money. Talking to them puts you at extreme risk of slipping up and sacrificing valuable legal rights. Leave any conversation with someone else’s insurance company to your lawyer.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer ASAP
If you have read this far, then you probably have a good sense that anyone in your position—hurt because of someone else’s poor choices—needs a lawyer. Not just any lawyer, either; a personal injury lawyer with years of experience fighting to make sure injured people like you get paid the compensation they deserve.
The sooner you contact a lawyer after your injury, the better. Yes, we have a bias in saying this, but that does not make it any less true. Calling a lawyer right after an accident or incident that harms you gives that lawyer the best possible chance of gathering critical evidence, speaking with witnesses while their memories are still fresh, and pressing parties at-fault (and their insurance companies) to pay-up before the fact of your injury grows stale in their minds. It also limits the opportunity for insurance companies to try to trip you up, and for you to make unforced, costly errors in how you deal with your injury.
Do not let concerns about cost keep you from contacting a skilled personal injury lawyer. Virtually all of them (including our firm) represent clients on a contingency basis, meaning they require no payment up-front, and collect their fees only out of any compensation their efforts recover on your behalf. Through this arrangement, you get access to top-quality legal representation and the peace of mind of knowing that you and your lawyer have the same goals—maximum payment to you for your injuries and losses.
The Levin Firm
1500 John F. Kennedy Blvd,
Two Penn Center, Suite 620
Philadelphia, PA 19102