Things a good personal injury lawyer would tell you.

After a car accident, it can be overwhelming just getting your car back on the road and sorting out insurance issues, never mind missing work and handling medical bills. When it comes to sorting out issues after a car accident, a trained personal injury lawyer will be your best advocate, and in the end will give you the best chance at a fair settlement. In the meantime, here are some key things you should know.

1. Get the Care You Need

The most common mistake people make is minimizing their health care. Busy with demands of life and hesitant to miss work, they put off going to the doctor and assume their injuries are minor and will heal on their own. Even when folks have been to the Emergency Room, they often fail to follow up promptly because they think they just need a little time to heal.

That approach has serious problems. First, not following up with your doctor in the first days after a collision can mean you’re not getting the care your body needs. Some injuries, like concussions, don’t show up on X-rays and may have symptoms that only get noticed hours or days after the injury.  Most injuries have the best chance of healing if they’re treated early and consistently. Going back to the doctor, even when that becomes discouraging and frustrating, can help make sure you heal as well as you can.

Second, gaps between the date of a car accident and the dates of later treatments are used by insurance companies to doubt you when you say injuries were caused by the crash.  You may think you’re being reasonable when you put off going to the doctor but the insurance company will argue that you weren’t really hurting during those times or you would have been getting care. If treatment gaps are large enough, they will claim something else caused your injuries in the meantime, insisting they have nothing to do with the accident.

Get the medical or chiropractic help you need. It is important to your health. Documentation of your care also can be important to your legal claim.

2. Don’t Assume You Can Settle the Claim Yourself

First, it will be almost impossible to know if you are being treated fairly. The insurance adjuster assigned to your claim works for a company with a strong financial interest in settling claims as cheaply as it can. The company’s interest is in keeping claim payments low, not in making sure each settlement is fair. Adjusters may be genuinely friendly and may even claim to have your interests in mind, but they do not work for you. They work for companies with interests at odds to yours.

Many factors go into proper evaluation of your claim, and they aren’t all obvious. One is the range of likely verdicts if the case goes to trial, information not known by most people. Subtle rules of law affect what damages people are entitled to collect and how certain issues – like aggravation of a preexisting condition – are treated. Even lawyers who are general practitioners may not recognize details important to evaluation of a personal injury claim, so it’s impossible for most non-lawyers to do that.

Third, negotiations typically are part of the settlement process, and the person negotiating for the other side is a skilled professional who does it for a living. The main leverage available in negotiating an insurance settlement is the threat of a jury trial, but an unrepresented person doesn’t pose a credible threat in that regard. Even people who expect to be savvy negotiators because of their life skills and personal experience typically find themselves outgunned when they try to negotiate insurance claims on their own behalf.

Making your legal claim a “Do It Yourself” project is “penny wise and pound foolish.”  What you save in attorney’s fees will nearly always pale compared to what you will give up by not knowing the worth of your claim and how to present and negotiate it effectively.

3. Don’t Wait Too Long Before Getting Legal Help

Folks often overlook options they have to use all their applicable insurance coverages. Coordinating coverages between health plans and auto insurance policies early on can help relieve financial pressure in the short run and maximize the net amount in your pocket later on.  Acting early to document facts, identify witnesses, and gather evidence can be critical to getting a fair settlement or verdict months down the road. It is easier to do something well from the beginning than to play “catch up” later on. Get moving on your claim long before the statute of limitations (a deadline that bars a claim that is too old) expires.

If you were injured as the result of a car accident in South Dakota, contact Turbak Law now to gain advice, assistance, and advocacy by calling us at 866-231-0914.