The Ultimate Guide To Making A Personal Injury Claim
In the moment, it can be hard to comprehend that you have been in an accident – you may be in pain as well as feeling overwhelmed and confused.
When an accident happens, it can be hard to know what to do next. When you are the person injured you have to juggle your time between making sure you don’t get hurt any more than you already are, thinking about putting together a claim and thinking about how you will protect your income.
You will need to get yourself to safety and after you have recovered start collecting evidence, so you can make sure that you can get justice.
When it comes to dealing with a personal injury, the best thing you can do is record everything – make note of conversations had with employers, with attorneys, with insurers, and anyone else you might come into contact with during the process.
Being injured in an accident is horrible, but you don’t have to go through the process of claiming and getting justice on your own.
There are many therapists, lawyers, and doctors who have gone through this process with countless other people. And they will be happy to help you too.
In this article, we are going to talk you through the step-by-step process that you should go through if you are injured in an accident. We also have some tips that may help you to win your case.
The First Steps To Take After A Personal Injury
An average of 400,000 personal injury cases go to court each year in the US. But the number of people injured in accidents that weren’t their fault is believed to be much higher.
If you have been involved in an accident or know someone who has been then you have come to the right place. Below is a 10 step guide that will talk you through from the day of the accident until you reach the hearing or settlement.
You will find the following guide helpful whether you have been injured yourself or a loved one has been in an accident and you are helping them put together their claim.
1. Get Medical Attention
Before you do anything else, you need to focus on getting yourself the medical attention you need.
Some of your injuries might be obvious immediately, but others may take longer to show side effects. It is best that you tell your doctor exactly what happened so that they can check you over for hidden or more stubble injuries.
It is worth bearing in mind that damage to your soft tissues or brain damage can take multiple days to appear. A doctor may be able to spot them early and prevent you from being in too much pain later down the line.
When you are getting medical treatment, make sure that you have copies made for you of all your treatments and treatment notes. You can use these to strengthen your case later down the line.
2. Contact An Attorney
Now, you will want to look into getting legal representation.
When you begin to do research into hiring an attorney, you will notice that you have a lot of choices. There will be attorneys that work for an established firm, there will be small groups of attorneys who specialize in personal injury law or lone attorneys.
There will also be a range in price points. You should avoid hiring an attorney that offers the impossible or tries to overcharge you. Talk to a few attorneys and get quotes before you hire one.
When you talk to an attorney for the first time, they may ask you a lot of questions about the accident. You should not be offended, they are just trying to gather enough information to see they feel comfortable taking on your case and how strong a case they think you can make.
You should get it confirmed by more than one attorney that you have a good case.
3. Participate In The Investigation
Once you have settled on an attorney then the two of you will have to work together to make sure that you have a strong case.
Sadly, this isn’t just a job that your attorney can do on their own, they will need your help to collect and verify the data.
It is likely that they will want to interview you first. You can help this by preparing a record of your accident – there is a guide to this in the next section.
Once they have done this interview and the pair of you have put together a detailed timeline of what happened on the day – they will prepare you a checklist of other information that would help you to make your case.
Now, it is time for you to go out and collect it.
Every accident is unique, so there is no setlist of evidence you will need for your case. An accident at work will need to collect a different range of information, compared to the data you will need for an investigation into an accident you had on the street.
The effort that you put in during the investigation will only make the trial process easier.
4. Record Your Accident
We mentioned above that you will need to put together a record of your accident to help your attorney build their case. Here is a quick guide to doing that.
If you find the process of reliving your accident traumatic, then you should consider doing this activity with a therapist or someone who you really trust and know will be patient with you.
You can start by giving them a breakdown of the accident, this should include the following:
- When the accident happened
- The form the accident took
- Where the accident happened
- The situation and circumstances surrounding the accident
- Anyone else who was involved in the accident
- Anyone who did or could have witnessed the accident
- Names of any emergency service members who were involved
- Any treatment you received immediately after the accident
As well as writing a pragmatic report on your accident, you should take the time to write a more personal report.
You will want to make note of how you felt before the accident – were you nervous about the situation that led to the accident? Did you need to be well trained to use the tool that injured you?
Then talk about how you felt before and after the accident. How did the situation change your life?
5. Take Photos And Gather Evidence
The purpose of your investigation is to prove that the accident you experienced wasn’t your fault and it happened as the result of someone else making a mistake or being negligent.
To do this, you need to collect as much evidence as you can.
We recommend that you start by collecting all the visual evidence that you can. By this, we mean photos and any CCTV camera footage that you can get your hands on.
For example, if your accident took place at work then there will be CCTV footage that shows what happened. Your employer may have also taken photos of the accident for their own company records.
If your accident took place in public and the emergency services and the police got involved, then they will have taken photos of the scene – you should be able to get hold of these photos.
If any insurance party got involved, then there is a high likelihood that a lot of evidence has been gathered – and you should get in contact with the insurance investigator.
If you cannot return to the scene of the accident because of injuries, then ask someone who you trust to go to the location and collect it for you.
If you had raised concerns about the situation that led to your accident before the accident happened then you want to gather evidence of that as well. For example, if you were injured at work by poorly built equipment and you emailed your boss saying you were worried about the build quality of that equipment – include this evidence in your investigation.
Ask around, other people might have brought up issues with the boss and have their own evidence they could share with you to help your case.
6. Gather Witness Details
Think back to the report you wrote about your accident – who did you list as witnesses of your accident?
Make the effort to get in touch with all of the witnesses as their testimonies could help to strengthen your case.
If your accident happened in public then the police might have collected witness statements or be able to point you in the direction of people who are worth talking to.
Once you have collected as many witness statements as you can, send the files over to your attorney.
7. Keep A Diary
Throughout this whole process, you should keep a diary.
There are two reasons for doing this, (1) it will help you to feel like you are making progress when it comes to making your case, and (2) journaling can help you to mentally recover from your accident – particularly if you are suffering from PTSD.
When we experience a traumatic event, our memories don’t always make sense or come to us in the order we expect them to – so make note of what you remember and add to this listen when you remember anything new.
Keep track of your injuries as well. Make note of how much pain you are in, what treatment you are having, and how you are progressing. You want to be able to show that your accident has had an impact on your life.
Finally, you may want to take some time to reflect on how the accident has affected you emotionally. You do not want to let this accident ruin your life, so it is important that you look after your mental health as well as you look after your physical health.
Spend 10 minutes a day, writing down how the accident has affected you each day.
8. Record Financial Losses
This is one of the most important pieces of information and evidence that you can collect.
Some people might find putting this information together traumatic, upsetting, or frustrating.
If you fall into this category then it may help to approach this task with the following thought in your mind: this information will help you to get the help, support, and compensation that you deserve after the accident you have experienced.
This is an exercise that has a purpose, and in the long run, it will be worth it for you.
You will want to gather your financial reports from the last few years. Then you will need to use this information to show how much money you have lost because of the accident. You should talk about money that you have lost from your job and any other side hustles or businesses that you have.
Do you need someone in your family to work less to look after? Have you had to bring in people to look after your children, cook, or clean for you because you cannot do it anymore?
You should also keep detailed records of how much money you have spent on medical treatment – this should include the time and the money that you have spent traveling to your treatment.
Have you had to install accessibility equipment in your home to make it possible for you to move around? Did you have to buy a new car? Have you had to cancel your holidays?
How has the injury affected your finances?
9. Continue To Seek Medical Treatment
We touched on this earlier, but it is important, so we want to reiterate it here.
Even if you do not end up seeking compensation for your injuries, it is important that you look after your health and take up the treatment you need to recover from your injury.
There are some injuries that will affect your life forever, but in most cases, there will be something that your doctor can recommend to you that will ease your pain and improve your mobility.
Recovering and being able to enjoy your life after your accident should be your priority.
When you are receiving this treatment, continue to make notes about how your injuries are affecting your life and how much you are being charged for the treatment.
Receiving a treatment will not make your case look any weaker, so it is important that you make the choices that are best for your health.
10. Do Not Admit Fault
Other people don’t like to admit they are at fault and accept blame for an event – so, they might pressure you into trying to take it instead.
This is something you need to avoid doing.
If you accept fault, you are making it possible that someone else might be hurt in the same kind of accident. This is especially likely if you were injured at work.
If an employer is found to be at fault for an accident then not only will they have to pay compensation to the person who was injured but they will also have to spend a lot of money to make sure that it doesn’t happen again – this will affect their profits and might even affect their share prices.
To avoid this outcome, it is not uncommon for employers to put pressure on their employees to take responsibility for an accident even when it wasn’t their fault. You may notice that this situation changes your relationship with the people you work with.
Keep notes of it all, and stay strong. If people are trying to force you to pretend the accident was your fault, then it is likely that they are worried you will actually win your case.
Do not admit fault.
Before we leave you, we want to share 15 tips with you that will help you to win your personal injury case.
This may seem like an overwhelming process, but as you will learn when you have the right people on your side the odds are in your favor.
Be Transparent With Your Attorney
Don’t lie to your attorney, especially when they are talking to you for the first time. You need to give them as much information about your accident as you without hiding anything from them.
This will only make more trouble further down the line.
Keep Case Details To Yourself
You should try to keep as much information about your accident and your case between your attorney.
If you have been involved in an accident and are seeking compensation then there will be people who want you to fail.
When you are collecting evidence to back up your story, it is best to keep what you know to yourself. You don’t want the other side to find out a detail that they can use to make your life more difficult.
Even when you are interviewing witnesses that are on your team, make sure not to share too many case details with them.
Do Not Talk To Insurance Providers
You should not talk to an insurance provider until you have been advised by your lawyer. If you are worried about talking to said adviser, then ask your lawyer to come with you.
It is part of an insurance provider’s job to make sure that only legitimate claims are paid, however, they can be very manipulative when they gather evidence and interview witnesses.
You will want to make sure that you are not tricked into saying something detrimental to your case while you are on the record – your attorney can help you with this.
Ask Yourself If You are Ready For A Legal Battle
While winning your case will bring you a lot of relief and help you to get closure over your accident – the process of going through legal battles and taking others to court is anything other than relaxing.
If this is something you want to do, then you should make sure that you are in the right mental place to do so. You may want to consider paying for therapy during the process so that you can make sure you are well supported.
Legal battles can last for a long time, especially if the person you are asking for compensation wants to fight you on every little detail.
Steer Clear Of Pie-in-the-Sky Attorneys
We recommended that you talk to multiple attorneys before settling on one. We suggested this so that you can get an idea of how big your claim should be.
Some attorneys will promise you the world, they say that if you pay them then they can win you millions of dollars.
The sad news is that this is usually too good to be true. If an attorney is making your promises like this then you are going to want to stay well away from them.
We are not saying that you should go for the most conservative attorney, try and find someone in the middle.
You and your case could really benefit from you doing some research into local case law.
Take a look at people who have taken cases that are similar to yours to court. Look at the ones that lost and find out why they failed. Look at the successful cases and discover which pieces of evidence were crucial to the victory.
You do not have to go into a case blind, you can look at the precedent that has been set by the cases that have gone before you.
Try to Get a Medical Professional On Your Side
One of the best witnesses you can bring to court with you is the medical professional who has been treating you after your injury. You should also talk to the doctor who saw you when you first sought treatment.
Actually, any medical opinion you can get can really strengthen your case. Get hold of your original injury reports, x-rays, photos of your injuries.
You can then ask another medical professional to come into court and give a second opinion on these injuries – one that backs up your claims about how your injury has affected your life.
Medical opinions carry a lot of weight in court.
Document All The Evidence In Your Case
When you are collecting evidence with your attorney, you will want to make sure that you record everything you come across. Even if it doesn’t obviously back up your case.
You never know what piece of evidence might become more important in the long run. What might have seemed unimportant two days after your accident might become crucial 3 months later.
Your attorney will advise you to keep hold of all the information you come across during your investigation – it is in your best interest to listen to them and act on their advice.
Try Not To Exaggerate When Discussing The Case
When talking about what happened to you, it can be all too easy to exaggerate what happened to you. Part of our brain is worried that people won’t take us seriously, so we pretend the accident was worse than it was.
It is very important that you do not do this when you are discussing the case with your attorney. It is in your best interest, to tell the truth. Your whole case could be thrown out of court if your opponent can prove that you are exaggerating your claims. They can make the point that you are being dishonest to the court.
You And Your Attorney Are A Team
As well as telling your attorney the truth, you want to make sure that you are trying your best to work with them.
They are on your side and you should see them as part of your team. You will have brought the attorney onto your team because they have expertise in an area that you don’t (i.e. legal proceedings). So, it is best to follow their advice and instructions even if they don’t always make sense to you.
Try to remember that they have a lot to gain from winning the case, just as you do.
Trust The Process
If you have been involved in an accident then you will probably find yourself very driven to get justice for yourself. Before you enter the legal process it is worth talking to your attorney about how long it will take to get your compensation.
In the US, it can take anywhere between 2 months and 3 years for a personal injury claim to be settled.
However, you should also know the process has been created to help people like you get justice for what happened to them. It may take a while, but sit back and trust the process.
Cover All Of Your Bases
We have talked a lot about gathering as much information as you can and keeping hold of everything you find – but what exactly do we mean by this?
Well, you need to be prepared for whatever your opponent brings up in court. So, you want to have as much evidence on hand to disprove whatever they bring up.
For example, they might claim that your headlights weren’t working properly. So, you want to make sure you have a copy of your latest car service on hand that shows no issues with the headlights on your car.
Your Character May Be A Point Of Contention
Your opponent’s lawyer will be trying to discredit you and your story. It is nothing personal, it is just part of their job.
However, the fact that it is not personal doesn’t make the experience any less upsetting or emotional.
The best thing you can do is go into the court date knowing that they will try to discredit you. Prepare for it and keep your cool, you do not want to feed into the point they are trying to make.
If the lawyer starts to become too aggressive or offensive then your attorney will step in and defend you.
Sometimes A Settlement Is A Good Option
There are times when settling outside of court is the best option for you.
Going to court usually means publicity that companies would really like to avoid. Therefore they may offer you a generous settlement so that the court case doesn’t have to go ahead. Sometimes, this might be a larger amount of money than you would receive in court.
This is not always the case, however. So, make sure that you listen to the advice of your attorney. They will know best when someone is trying to lowball you, or whether a settlement is a better option for you than court.
Choose An Attorney Who Is Right For You
Our final piece of advice is to make sure that you choose an attorney who is right for you.
Every personal injury case is driven by a different cause – some people want repayment for what happened to them, some people want to prevent the same from happening to other people and others want to expose a company or person for being negligent.
You want to make sure that you and your attorney are on the same page about what you are pursuing this case. You will need their knowledge and support so you do not want to be at odds with them.
Recovering from an accident can be a long process. No matter whether you are pursuing compensation or not, it is important that you make your physical and mental recovery a priority.
If you do decide to pursue compensation then the most important thing you can do is find an attorney who understands you, your case, and why you want to take it to court.
You should start gathering all the information you can as soon as possible, and if you are unable to gather information because of your injury then you will want to enlist someone to help you.
Be prepared for the case to take a long time to go to court, but know that this is the best way for you to get justice for your injury.