Step-by-Step Guide: What if You Have Been Injured in an Accident?
Have you been injured in an accident and want to pursue a claim for those injuries? The time after an accident can be extremely stressful, but this step-by-step guide will assist you in pursuing a personal injury claim for your injuries, and ultimately recovering the compensation you deserve. First, the health of those involved in the accident should be of the utmost concern. Once you have done that, you should go through the following steps in order to ensure yourself the most favorable settlement possible.
1. Seek medical attention.
After an accident, getting medical attention should be your number one priority.
Contact 911 if necessary and complete a detailed police report.
Never admit to causing the accident, and refrain from apologizing.
Seek medical attention immediately even if you think your injuries are not serious. It is better for paramedics to examine you and take you to the hospital if necessary than to refuse treatment and discover later that you are hurt or injured.
In addition, this can strengthen your claim by proving that your injuries were the result of the accident.
2. Collect and preserve evidence.
Take photographs of the scene. Photographs that can point to who caused the accident and the damage caused by the accident.
Look around for any other evidence that might have contributed to the accident and take photographs or notes of that (such as a broken traffic light).
Protect physical evidence such as a dent in your car. If you cannot preserve the physical evidence, take photographs.
Try to get the names and contact information for anyone involved in the accident or anyone that witnessed the accident.
Document your injuries by photographing anything visible on your body such as bruises, wounds, cuts, or even casts or bandages. Injuries heal, so an early record will prove the severity of your injuries at the time of the accident.
3. Keep a record of everything that happens after the accident.
Take notes of what happened as soon as possible after the accident or injury. Writing down these details will be more helpful in your demand for compensation than relying on your memory. Include every single detail you can remember, from the time and weather to anything you heard or felt.
Take daily notes of your injuries and how they affect your daily tasks. Detail the pain and discomfort you felt every day after the accident.
Take notes of any losses you incur due to the injuries such as lost wages, travel expenses, missing school, etc.
Take notes of any conversations that occur about the accident such as discussions with your doctor or any witnesses.
4. Hire a knowledgeable personal injury attorney, such as the law firm of Ball & McCann, P.C.
A personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights and ensure the highest compensation possible for your claim.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help with every step of the process such investigating the accident, documenting your claim, negotiating with insurance companies, filing a lawsuit, and trying your case.
Most personal injury attorneys provide a free consultation where you can evaluate the attorney and get a professional opinion on the validity of your claim.
Once you have chosen an attorney that you believe can represent you well and that attorney has determined that you have a possible case, he or she will discuss their fees with you.
Many personal injury cases are settled by negotiation. After reviewing information about the case, the attorney will decide whether to make a demand and negotiate the case outside of the courtroom or to file a lawsuit.
5. File a personal injury lawsuit.
As a note, it is important to know that the statute of limitations refers to the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit, which in Illinois is two years after your injury. Always make sure to consult with an attorney within that timeframe.
The first step in the litigation is to file a complaint. A complaint is a document filed with the court that identifies the parties involved in the lawsuit, sets out the facts, explains the basis of jurisdiction, and lists the legal claims. It also includes what relief you are seeking or amount of damages.
After filing the complaint, the defendant will be notified by a summons of your suit and how to respond. The defendant will have a certain amount of time to respond by filing an answer, denying or admitting to the allegations in your complaint.
The next stage is the discovery phase to uncover the facts of the case. At this stage, each side has the opportunity to question the parties or witnesses of the other side and request any documents or information regarding the accident giving rise to the lawsuit.
Often times parties will settle the case during the discovery phase, but if they are unable to do so, the case will go to trial.
If the case does proceed to trial, then the first step will be to select the jury. Next come opening statements, which will give a brief overview of the case from each side's perspective. Finally, after the jury hears all the evidence, the testimony of witnesses, and closing arguments, they will make their final verdict.