CAR ACCIDENT CHECKLIST: IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING AUTO ACCIDENT
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The following car accident checklist is a brief outline of the most important things to do immediately following an auto accident.
Timing is critical, particular in Michigan, where no fault law has made it increasingly difficult for victims to be compensated fairly for accident-related injuries.
If you have questions about your unique circumstances, Michigan car accident lawyers are available for a free, confidential consultation at 800-777-0028.
1. Seek Medical Treatment
? Even if you feel your injuries are only minor, see a doctor as soon as possible. Many injuries that initially appear to be insignificant can later cause substantial pain and discomfort. These injuries must be documented immediately to prove they were caused by the accident and not some other event.
2. Report ALL Injuries to EMS and Emergency Room Personnel
? It is extremely important that all injuries suffered as a result of the accident are well-documented. It is especially important to tell emergency workers or emergency room doctors if you experienced any loss of consciousness as a result of the accident. Insist that medical personnel record all of your injuries.
Although they may initially appear to be minor, be sure to report symptoms resulting from the accident such as:
Ringing in the Ears
Problems with Short Term Memory or Concentration
3. Seek Additional Medical Attention if Necessary
? Return to your medical provider if you experience any new symptoms that were not documented during initial treatment.
4. Attend all Medical Appointments
? Insurance adjusters often contend that an accident victim who fails to attend his or her doctor¡¯s appointment must not be experiencing pain.
5. Obtain a Copy of Your Police Report
? Contact the police department where your accident occurred to order a copy of your police report. Many reports can be ordered online.
6. Keep Good Records
- Document all doctor¡¯s visits, prescriptions, over the counter medications, laboratory services, physical therapy, hospital visits, treatments, medical documents and x-rays.
- Be sure to note the date each service was provided and the amount you were charged.
- Keep a diary of your day-to-day pain, discomfort, emotional distress, fatigue, tenderness, inconvenience, etc.
- Record how your injuries have impacted your daily life and relationships.
- Take photographs of all of your injuries, as soon after the accident as possible.
- Keep copies of all medical bills, medical records and other documents.
7. Notify Your Auto Insurance Company Immediately and File an Application for Benefits (within 1 year)
? Auto insurance companies must be notified of a motor vehicle accident immediately. In Michigan, there is a strict one year time limit to notify your own (first party) no-fault insurance company and to file your Application for Benefits.
There is a three year time limit to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver¡¯s (third party) insurance company. Filing the Application for Benefits Form is extremely important and absolutely essential in order to protect your no-fault rights in Michigan. This form should be completed even if injuries do not seem severe.
This form is required to receive 5 important benefits:
¡¤Attendant Care Benefits (based on the severity of the car accident injuries)
For your convenience, the car accident attorneys of Michigan Auto Law have created a generic Application Benefits, which is available for free download. Complete this form or the form available through your auto insurance company. It is important to be as accurate and thorough as possible when completing an Application for Benefits as poor or incomplete documentation may harm an accident victim¡¯s right to recover.
Be sure to ask for a claim number and request that a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) file be opened to preserve all of your rights.
8. Check Insurance Policy for VERY Specific Notification Requirements
In addition to the above ¡°legislative¡± deadlines, many auto insurance policies impose even stricter ¡°policy driven¡± notification requirements (such as 30 days notice for hit and run accidents). Additionally, many policies have separate provisions for uninsured and underinsured coverage, which require very prompt notice.
Insurance carriers may change their policy filing requirements at any time. For this reason, it is critical to understand your policy thoroughly at the time it is issued, as well as to review your policy regularly to be aware of any changes.
Regretfully, Michigan auto accident attorneys have seen far too many unadvised clients who assume they have 1 year, or 3 years to take action. In many cases, the contractual language of their particular policy lays out far more restrictive filing limits.
If an auto accident victim fails to follow the notification requirements specified in the insurance policy, he or she may lose important coverage. Accident victims should discuss any questions about notice and filing with a Michigan attorney who is experienced in handling car accident cases.
9. Check Insurance Policies for Coordinated Benefits
It is also important to review auto insurance policies and any additional contractual coverage (such as underinsured or uninsured). Insurance polices are often very confusing to read. If you are having difficulty interpreting your policy, contact an experienced Michigan auto accident attorney as soon as possible. For example, there are many confusing issues with health insurance plans, managed care plans, ERISA plans, coordinated vs. uncoordinated policies where clients have lost thousands of dollars. In each case, a consultation with an experienced auto accident attorney would have avoided this outcome.
It is particularly important to understand all related insurance policies while receiving ongoing medical care to ensure that health care providers bill appropriately. Most providers will bill the ¡°easiest¡± insurance company or bill no fault insurance first ? which can be an expensive mistake that could have been avoided by reviewing policies with an expert.
10. Never Give Statements or Sign a Release
Never give ¡°statements¡± to a claims adjuster, sign any type of release or allow the adjuster inspect damage to the vehicle without the presence of a Michigan car accident attorney. Claims adjusters often try to get recorded statements early in an effort to minimize a victim¡¯s pain and injuries (for use later in court when trying to undermine the victim). Many times, when there is minimal car damage, adjusters try to claim that no one could have been seriously injured. It is recommended that nothing be discussed or signed directly after any automobile accident in order to protect your rights. Even limited property damage releases will contain unrelated language releasing all personal injuries suffered from a car accident, whether known or unknown. Too many people rush into signing these documents without having the release language reviewed by a Michigan attorney. This may cause them to lose their right to sue the negligent driver later for their auto accident related injuries.
The information above is a simplified summary of the most important things to know and address immediately following a Michigan automobile accident. Additional information, tips, and important advice about successfully handling car accident cases can be found throughout this section, in the Michigan Lawyers Resource Center and in the No Fault Advice section.