There are several simple steps you can take to protect your rights after a motor vehicle accident:
- get medical treatment;
- preserve accident and injury evidence;
- refuse to talk to the other driver’s insurance adjuster; and
- contact a personal injury lawyer.
Under Louisiana law, any person who causes you harm is liable to pay for your damages. That means that if a reckless driver caused a car accident that resulted in your injuries, that other driver must repair your vehicle, pay your medical bills, replace your lost wages, cover your out-of-pocket expenses, and compensate you for your physical and mental pain and suffering, among other things. Where the other driver’s automobile insurance or other liability insurance applies, insurance companies employ claims adjusters, trained risk management professionals who represent the insurance companies’ interests – not yours!
First and foremost, you should attend to your injuries by seeking immediate medical attention from a doctor. Go to an emergency room, family practice, after-hours clinic, chiropractor, or other licensed health care provider. Thereafter, follow your doctor’s advice about follow-up treatment and go to every scheduled medical appointment. Injuries must be proven through medical records and expert testimony; it is not enough for you to simply say you are hurt. Also, you should collect all of the information you can from accident witnesses and other drivers, including names, addresses, license plate numbers, telephone numbers, insurance info, and police info, etc. Save all the documents you receive that relate to the accident and your injuries: accident reports; photos of the accident scene, your vehicle, and your injuries; names and contact information of witnesses; medical reports; medical bills; and receipts for prescriptions, vehicle repairs, and other related out-of-pocket expenses. Damages must be proven with actual evidence; the insurance company will not believe your word without supporting documentation.
Additionally, you should refrain from discussing the details of the accident or your injuries with anyone except the police, your doctors, and your lawyer. Do not count on insurance adjusters who call you on the telephone to deal fairly or protect your rights in any way. Think of the usual line from police movies: “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Although you are not a criminal, the same principle applies: loose lips sink ships! Adjusters and other witnesses can twist your words and use them against you later on. Therefore, do not give a statement to the other driver’s insurance adjuster. Also, do not sign any insurance company forms.
Finally, if you have been injured in an automobile accident through no fault of your own, you should contact a Louisiana personal injury attorney for a free consultation. Lawyers typically charge a contingent fee in personal injury cases, meaning that you do not pay anything up front and the lawyers do not get paid until you get paid by settlement or judgment.