A pedestrian accident is a traumatic experience. On top of the physical pain from injuries sustained, there’s the emotional turmoil that inevitably arises—the fear from not knowing what will happen and the confusion from not knowing what to do. In working with clients, I’ve seen that the sense of having lost control over one’s life can easily become overwhelming.
I hope that this chapter, which covers the most important actions you can take following your accident, will in some small way mitigate the sense of powerlessness, giving you a clear course of action and the certainty that you are doing the right thing for yourself and your family.
Write an account of the accident
Your memory of the accident is a valuable source of information, but it becomes less and less reliable as time passes and important details can be forgotten. So, as soon as you can, sit down and write a detailed account of the accident, being careful to leave nothing out. To help you do this, I’ve created the Diary for the Injured: A Workbook for Recording your Injuries and Losses, an easy-to-use tool designed to ensure that all critical information regarding the accident is recorded. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend acquiring a copy. This record could make an important contribution to the success of your case.
You may have gotten into an accident that you feel was clearly the fault of the driver, and it’s tempting to assume that because the truth of the situation was so obvious, there’s little need to be so meticulous in collecting information and making records. The reality, however, is that claims can be denied for virtually any reason, no matter how unmistakable the driver’s negligence was at the time of the accident. It’s impossible to know exactly what will later prove to be significant in the success of your claim. By taking these steps, you are helping to ensure that you will be able to obtain the financial resources you need to fully recover.
See a doctor
If you sustained an injury in your accident, no matter how minor you think it is, see your doctor immediately—this is one of the most important pieces of advice I can offer, not only for your health, but also for the success of your claim. Some injuries you’ll be aware of immediately—abrasions or fractures, for example. However, many of the most common injuries don’t become symptomatic until hours and even days later. Damage to soft tissue occurs immediately, but you may not feel it for some time. That’s why it’s so important to see your family physician at once, and in person. That way, the doctor can give you a full evaluation and document your injuries. And don’t just see a doctor, but listen too. Your condition can become chronic and permanent if not properly treated, and your physician is the best judge of the necessary treatment. If your physician recommends physical therapy and on-going care, listen and follow those recommendations. Sadly, I’ve seen a great many people ignore their doctor’s directions, taking the attitude of “it’ll heal on its own,” only to find that their injury becomes more painful and debilitating as time wears on.
Document your injuries
When it comes to receiving fair compensation from insurance companies, documentation is everything. Records, we might say, are the language of insurance adjustors, and to get what you need to fully recover, you have to learn to speak their language. But now, more and more, the work of insurance adjustors is being delegated to computers, and in a later chapter we’ll discuss the computer programs currently being used by the industry to evaluate your case. If the required documentation is not entered into the program, and in terms that the computer can understand, the program will not properly evaluate your injury and you will be denied fair compensation.
Both you and your doctor are responsible for documenting your injuries, but each of you is looking at the situation from somewhat different, though equally important angles. Your physician is responsible for recording the nature of your injury, any diagnostic procedures you undergo and all care and treatment you receive—in other words, from a medical perspective. Your job is to record the ways in which your injuries impact you from a personal perspective: the pain you feel, the activities you can no longer engage in and any other ways in which the injuries have impacted your life.
To help you, your doctor and your attorney ensure that the full extent of your injuries are understood and well documented, I urge you to use Diary for the Injured: A Workbook for Recording your Injuries and Losses, which I mentioned above. In addition to helping you record important details of the accident, it is also designed to help you document your injuries. It contains both specific questions regarding your symptoms and a convenient format for tracking them over time.
Report the accident to your insurance company
If you carry an automobile insurance policy that includes the types of coverage that protect you in the event of a pedestrian accident, and you intend to make a claim, you should promptly report the accident to your insurance carrier. In the chapter on insurance, we’ll discuss the various types of “automobile” insurance and distinguish between those that cover you in a pedestrian accident and those that don’t. But for now, the types of coverage most likely to be relevant and pedestrian accidents are Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage and Personal Injury Protection.
Contact a qualified pedestrian injury attorney
Because pedestrian accidents tend to be more severe than collisions between motor vehicles, it is most often in the victim’s best interest to immediately contact an attorney with experience handling these types of cases. Unless you escaped the accident with the most minor of injuries, you should consult with an attorney even before reporting the accident to your insurance company.
Why? Because your insurance company is not always on your side. It all boils down to money. If you are seeking compensation under the other driver’s insurance policy, then your own insurance company can be a powerful ally. If, however, the situation requires that your insurance carrier cover some of your losses, suddenly their interests are counter to your own. While still honoring the terms of your policy, they are now looking to pay you as little money as possible. And when your insurance company is no longer on your side, you need someone who is—someone who can level the playing field, someone who can advocate for you and protect your interests. The problem is that it is not always clear ahead of time which insurance company is going to pay for what, and that’s why I recommend consulting with an attorney in the event of a serious accident.
I also recommend speaking with an attorney before discussing the accident with the driver’s insurance carrier. Think about it. You intend to show that the other driver was at fault and that his or her insurance should pay for your medical treatment and pain and suffering. The other driver’s insurance company wants nothing of the sort. They would much prefer to show that you were at least partially at fault in the accident, and that they should therefore pay for only a certain percentage of your losses.
As I mentioned in the introduction, my premise in writing this book is that, for someone injured in an accident, a little knowledge can go a long way towards achieving justice and peace of mind. Since you’re reading this book, I can only assume you feel the same way. In my experience as an attorney, the most effective clients are continually seeking to empower themselves with an understanding of the legal process. Rather than resigning themselves to being a victim, they are committed to playing an active role in securing the fair outcome to which they are entitled. In your relationship with your attorney, don’t hesitate to assert yourself. All attorneys worth their salt encourage their clients to ask questions, become involved and seek to understand the legal process.
In light of your circumstances, relaxing may sound absurd or impossible. You may be facing serious injury, a mountain of medical bills and an uncertain future. Nonetheless, although the healing process will take time, healing will happen. At this point, you’ve done everything you can do to ensure that you are given the financial resources you need to get your life back on track. Rest assured that, having hired a qualified attorney, you’re in good hands. When things go wrong, there’s great value in knowing that you have an experienced, professional advocate on your side. It’s your attorney’s job to fight for your interests and your rights. Though you should provide whatever assistance and information you’re asked for, your most important job is to take care of yourself—body and mind—as best you can.
If you or someone you care about has been in an accident, we’re here to talk.
Contact us today for a free consultation.