If you have been injured in a car accident, there are many different steps you can take to support a future personal injury claim. Assuming that you are physically safe and able to move around, the first step to take is to preserve the evidence. There are several important things you can do in order to preserve evidence.
In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, the first thing you will want to do is to take photographs. You don’t have to have a professional camera to do this: the camera on your phone will be fine. Make sure to get photographic evidence depicting the state of your vehicle as well as the state of the other vehicle. You will want to get as many pictures as possible, both in the areas that have visible damage and the areas that do not. Some of these pictures should depict the physical location of the cars, the angle they rested in after the crash, and how close they are to one another. In addition, you should try to get pictures of of the interior of each vehicle, or at least the interior of your own vehicle. Pay special attention to photographs that note the position of your seat, your headrest, the airbag (if it deployed), and the seatbelts.
Another important step involves your car’s EDR (Event Data Recorder). An EDR is an electronic device that comes installed in most modern cars. It essentially functions as a black box, recording certain data points about what’s going on in the car at any given time. If you have an EDR in your car and get into an accident, the EDR will record what happened in the 5 seconds leading up to the accident, as well as what happened during the crash itself.
EDRs are quickly becoming some of the most convincing and authoritative forms of evidence in personal injury car accident cases. This is because EDR data is not subjective evidence. It can prove otherwise debatable facts beyond a shadow of a doubt, both to the court and to your insurance company.
For instance, if you were stopped at a stop sign and got rear-ended, you can use your EDR data to prove how long you were stopped at the stop sign, whether you were wearing your seatbelt, and whether your foot was on the brake pedal or the gas pedal. EDRs also indicate the severity of a given collision. If you are building a personal injury case, this gives you a good starting point to determine how bad the crash actually was. With that information, you can give much stronger evidence for actually having sustained the injuries you sustained in your accident.
Once you secure your EDR, you can download the information stored on the device to be used in your case. It should be noted that if your car’s airbags deployed during your accident, you will need to get the information on your EDR downloaded before the airbags are reset. Once the airbags are reset, all of the data stored in the EDR is erased. You should therefore be sure to secure the information from the EDR before any resetting or repairs can begin.
If I Have Been Injured In A Car Accident, How Important Is It That I Seek Medical Treatment Within A Reasonable Timeframe?
If you have been injured in a car accident, the most important thing for you to do is to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Seeking treatment is important to your health, as well as to your personal injury case.
Typically, unless they are extremely severe, the injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents tend to take some time for the injured person to actually feel them. Due to the nature of the injuries most common in car crashes, as well as the adrenaline and potential shock from the crash itself, people often sustain these injuries without feeling anything for a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks. However, it is still very important when it comes to these injuries to be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Therefore, if you feel that you were injured during a car accident in any way, it is essential to get a medical evaluation as soon as you can. You can go to the ER to get evaluated, or you could go to an urgent care facility, or to your primary care physician (PCP).
If there are barriers to accessing an in-person doctor or medical professional, you can also utilize telemedicine. Telemedicine provides access to medical evaluation very quickly, usually within 24 hours of a collision. Telemedicine sessions consist of a healthcare provider asking you questions to evaluate your injury and your symptoms as accurately as possible, after which they can order diagnostic studies and imaging (such as MRIs). After you go get your imaging and testing done, you can get a clearer picture of the extent of your injuries and start to formulate a treatment plan with your PCP, telemedicine doctor, or another medical professional.
Once you have received your initial medical evaluation and imaging, you might need to seek out the help of specialists. For instance, if your imaging shows disk bulges, you should pursue a consult with an orthopedic surgeon. Specialists like orthopedic surgeons have the background and training needed to evaluate and then treat more severe car accident injuries.
There are some attorneys who suggest their clients go to chiropractors. I have noticed that chiropractor referral is more popular with the type of attorneys that take a cookie-cutter approach to their legal practice, particularly “billboard attorneys.” These types of attorneys will rush their clients to their preferred chiropractor right away, often in the immediate aftermath of a car crash. When the patient comes in for treatment, the chiropractor will start doing adjustments. In certain cases, they may order some X-rays, and in far fewer cases they may even—eventually—order MRIs. The problem with this approach is the fact that patients are often taken to the chiropractor first, without having any diagnostic studies or imaging (such as MRI) done to confirm the nature and extent of their injuries. In seeking chiropractic treatment without detailed information about the actual nature of the injury, patients may subject themselves to further injury, or even to sustaining a new injury, all based on a medically inadvisable adjustment.
For instance, let’s say you got into a car accident and were injured. If your injury includes significant disk bulging or ruptures, you want to have that known before anybody touches your body at all. You especially want to have that known before allowing a chiropractor to perform the types of medically dubious adjustments and exercises that they are known for on your injured body. There are many types of injuries commonly sustained during car crashes for which the best medical advice is keeping the area still and stable. These injuries can be significantly worsened by chiropractic adjustments, especially those which are not informed by diagnostic or imaging data. It would be like trying to diagnose a problem with your car without opening up the hood.
For these reasons, I tend not to send my clients to chiropractors. If they want to pursue chiropractic treatment, I let them know about the risks and usually advise them to pursue physical therapy or a consult with a specialist (like an orthopedic surgeon) instead. At the very least, I usually ask them to wait until they have a thorough medical diagnosis (along with imaging) before they pursue chiropractic treatment.
I Was Partially At-Fault For The Car Accident That Caused My Injuries. Will My Partial Liability Impact My California Personal Injury Claim?
California is a “comparative fault” state. This means that you can be found at-fault (or liable) for a certain portion of the accident and still be awarded personal injury damages. However, it also means that your damages will be reduced by the percentage of liability you were found to hold.
As an example, imagine an apple pie on a counter. The whole pie represents the full amount of damages available to someone with zero liability or fault in the accident. If you are found to be, for instance, 25% liable, ¼ of the pie will be removed, leaving you with 75% of the pie. In that case, the defendant would be responsible for 75% of your injuries, including economic injuries (like medical expenses and loss of earnings) as well as non-economic injuries (like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life).
The laws in California are designed such that even if you are partially at fault for your accident, you are still entitled to compensation. Specifically, you are entitled to as much compensation as the percentage of liability for the accident held by another party (or parties). For more information on Personal Injury Law in California, a free initial consultation is your next best step.