Chicago streets and highways are clogged with vehicles. You are at risk of being involved in a car accident every time you get behind the wheel. In most cases, you make it home without incident. In the worst case, you find yourself dealing with the aftermath of a serious wreck. If you were injured in a car crash in Cook County, take steps to protect your rights after a car accident.
Vital Steps Following Your Accident
The first thing to do following your wreck is to call 911. Filing a police report is critical because it serves as objective documentation of the accident. Answer the dispatcher’s questions and follow their instructions.
If you or anyone else is obviously or seriously injured, ask that an ambulance be sent to your location. If you fail to request an ambulance for other injured parties, you may be seen as failing to uphold your duty to take reasonable steps to secure the needed care. If you fail to request an ambulance after you are seriously injured, the insurer could allege that you were not as hurt as you claimed.
1. Speak to the Police
When officers arrive on the scene, they will begin an investigation. This will involve speaking with you, the other driver, and any witnesses present. It may also involve taking photographs or videos of the accident scene.
Protect your rights after a car accident by providing only the facts. Do not exaggerate what occurred, and do not apologize for anything. The things you say now are highly likely to come up later in a court case. Keep that in mind.
2. Take Your Own Photos
Even if you see the police taking pictures of the accident, be sure to take your own. Take pictures of each vehicle involved. Your pictures should be close up as well as far enough back to see the entire vehicle. Document damage as well as any lack of damage. Try to take pictures that will show the present conditions of the road and the weather.
Gathering your own evidence protects your rights. The other parties involved may allege something about the incident that you can prove is inaccurate based on aspects like tire marks and the location of damage. Having proof of your injuries right after the accident also ensures that you can connect them directly to the crash. In some cases, insurers may allege that injuries somehow happened after the accident.
3. Talk To Witnesses
If anyone stayed to help you or has simply stopped to wait for the police to arrive because they saw the accident happen, speak with them. Ask for their contact information. The more witnesses you have on your side in court, the stronger your case will be. Your Chicago car accident attorney will want to solidify your case with every available witness.
4. Take Notes
In the moments following your crash, your body is full of adrenaline, which can make you confused or anxious. As soon as you are able, take notes about the accident. Write down any conversations you have, the date and time, contact information of the other driver, and how your body feels. This narrative ensures you don’t forget key facts. It also refutes allegations that your recollection of events is hazy, which can happen when you don’t record facts with a time and date.
5. Speak With Your Insurance Agent and the Third-Party Liability Insurer
You must report your accident to your insurance agent within a specific amount of time as outlined in your policy declaration. This is true even if you aren’t at fault. Failing to do so could jeopardize a future claim. Like with the police, only provide facts. Insurance agents are trained to get you to talk – do not provide any information that is not factual.
You are also required to give notice of a claim within a certain period of time to any third-party liability insurers. This period can be anywhere from 14 days to 30, and it can differ from insurer to insurer. Make sure to file notice within this time frame to preserve your right to seek an injury claim. Even if you’re not sure that you have an injury or if the other party is at fault, filing notice allows you to reserve your right to investigate and explore a claim later on.
Note that when filing notice of a claim, you do not have to declare specific damages or reasons that the other party is at fault. Be limited in the information you provide, and decline to make a recorded statement. Also, provide insurers only with the medical records and other official documents they require to process the claim. Don’t release your medical files or give them permission to access your entire medical history. This will only allow them to dig for a pre-existing condition or other compromising details.
6. Start Keeping Records
Begin a file of any bills or receipts you obtain that are related to your injuries or property damage. Keep records of each medical appointment, repair estimate, and any lost wages. Provide your lawyer with enough information to prove that you have indeed suffered damages as a direct result of your accident. You also want to have original copies of every expense to justify them during your claim – and possibly even during a subsequent trial.
7. Attend All Follow-Up Appointments and Avoid Discussing Your Case
Attending follow-up medical appointments shows that you are meeting the expected standard of care given the injuries you have declared. It also removes the opportunity for insurers to allege that you worsened your own condition by failing to keep up with the prescribed care regimen. Do not decline services like physical rehabilitation if offered, as insurers can use this fact to show you weren’t as hurt as you claimed or that you aren’t taking the necessary steps to recover.
While recovering, avoid discussing your case in any form, especially online. Something as simple as posting a vacation photo can serve as evidence to insurers that you are ignoring doctor’s orders or that your condition is not as debilitating as you claim. As your case is an evolving matter, keep information close and protected until your case is fully resolved.
8. Speak With an Attorney
Finally, reach out to an expert Chicago car accident attorney. A lawyer will act as your advocate during every step of the negotiation process with the insurance companies and, if necessary, help you file a court claim to seek fair compensation.
They will keep you informed of your rights and use their resources to investigate your accident. Just as important, a car accident lawyer can determine which damages are claimable and document those damages using best practices.
Langdon & Emison: Your Legal Advocates After a Chicago Car Accident
As experienced car accident lawyers in Chicago, Langdon & Emison have seen countless personal injury victims make mistakes in the hectic moments following a car accident. We know that these mistakes can mean losing out on the compensation you are entitled to. If you have been involved in a vehicle crash in Will County, Lake County, DuPage County, Cook County or any area near Chicago, we are here for you.
Call our office at (312) 872-3389 or contact us online to speak with a member of our team and learn more about your rights.