Step 1: Medical Treatment
The first and most important thing you can do – both for your personal wellbeing and any personal injury claim you may choose to pursue – is to seek immediate medical attention if you’ve been injured in an accident.
A medical evaluation can ensure any injuries you sustained are promptly diagnosed and treated, or that any injuries you are not aware of are addressed. Even if you don’t believe you’re hurt, or think you can tough it out, it’s still best to get checked out; there are injuries you may not necessarily feel are significant, but which can quickly become medical emergencies or develop into more significant conditions (i.e. brain injuries and hemorrhaging).
In addition to ensuring you get started on a course of treatment for your injuries, medical evaluations provide critical documentation that can be used as evidence in your personal injury case. Without any documentation from medical professionals, it’s your word against the insurance company’s – and even if you wait it out, and were suffering all along, it may open the door to arguments that you weren’t really injured, or that your injuries weren’t very serious.
Step 2: Collect Any Information You Can / Preserve Evidence
If you’re able to do so, try to collect as much information as possible about your accident and injuries. This may mean:
- Calling emergency services for emergency medical treatment and law enforcement to respond and create a police report;
- Collecting contact, insurance, and vehicle information from all parties involved in an auto accident;
- Taking photos / videos of the accident scene, including any property damage, and visible injuries from multiple angles before and / or after anything is moved, of course without jeopardizing your health or safety.
- Collecting information, including contact information, from any witnesses who may have seen what happened or who could be otherwise helpful;
- If injured by a product, taking photos of the item and preserving it in a safe place so that it can be inspected should you choose to take legal action;
- Obtaining any and all information and documentation resulting from the incident, including any reports to an employer (for construction accidents and work-related injuries), medical bills and documentation from all appointments, documentation of missed work / lost wages, insurance letters or communication with other parties, and more.
Collecting as much information as you can will be useful in both evaluating and successfully prosecuting a personal injury claim, but is easier said than done, especially if your injuries are serious. A lawyer can help ensure you get the right information you need, and that it’s used appropriately for your case.
Step 3: Call a Lawyer
There’s no law saying you must hire a lawyer after an accident, but it’s worth considering and may be regrettable if you don’t. Experienced personal injury attorneys can help you take the right steps from the moment you reach out for help – from information gathering and evidence preservation to in-depth investigations, medical evaluations, and collaboration with the necessary experts and medical professionals.
In addition to leveraging resources you may not have, or may not be able to tap into when you’re in a fragile state of health, a lawyer can view the entirety of your situation from a legal perspective and evaluate the viability of your potential claim, potential defendants who may be held at fault, and the best approach for securing a full and fair recovery of your damages (pain and suffering, medical expenses, and/or loss of earnings and benefits).
Step 4: Know What to Expect
Whether you’re working with a lawyer or not, it’s important to know what to expect as your case moves forward. While that can vary depending on the unique facts of your case (which is why working with an attorney can ensure you’ll understand what to expect), there is a general timeline. Often, that timeline will progress as follows:
- Initial investigation. Initial investigations focus on immediately available evidence and documentation gathering, during which each side (or just the plaintiff) reviews all documents, including medical records, and facts of a case to determine whether there is cause for action.
- In certain case, a demand and / or negotiations for a settlement before a lawsuit is filed.
- Filing of a personal injury lawsuit against the alleged at-fault parties (defendants) in civil court, usually the Supreme Court in the State of New York. Keep in mind civil claims are typically subject to a statute of limitations (time limit to file a lawsuit) that may vary depending on the type of claim and the defendant.
- Discovery. The discovery process is a formal procedure by which each party in a civil suit investigates the other’s claims / defenses. This usually consists of requests for documentation and evidence and depositions where both parties and any witnesses are questioned under oath. This step may last years depending on the complexity of a case.
- Negotiations / mediation. During or after discovery, it may be possible to enter into negotiations or mediation to resolve the lawsuit prior to any actual trial.
- Trial. While settlements are usually obtained before trial, it is sometimes the case that no resolution is reached. There are many different reasons a case does not settle prior to trial. If the case does not settle, the case will be scheduled for trial and that trial date may also be changed, pushing any actual trial further back and increasing the length of a case. Sometimes during this process, even just before a trial is to begin, both parties may come to an agreement to settle the case.
- Post-trial motions and appeals: Even after a verdict is reached at trial either side can try to raise or lower the amount of the verdict, or try to get some other relief from the trial judge. After that, both sides can also appeal those decisions by the trial judge. The case can also settle during this time period.
Have Questions About Your Rights and Options? Call (212) 577-9325
There’s a lot to take in after an accident and at the outset of a personal injury case, and a lot of moving parts to address as they relate specifically to the unique facts and circumstances of your case. Ultimately, working with an attorney can ensure you protect your rights every step of the way, make the most of your available options, and are positioned as best as possible to prevail and recover.
At The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., we’ve earned our recognition and trust across New York City and the State of New York for a reason – we care about our clients, and do all we can to guide them through their legal journeys. What’s more, we offer free consultations, and handle personal injury cases on contingency fees – meaning there’s no up-front cost to hire our team, and no fee unless we win.
Call (212) 577-9325 or contact us online to request a free evaluation of your case.