After a car accident in West Palm Beach, you may need to take care of many things in a short time, especially if you sustained severe injuries in the accident. You may feel afraid that you might forget something, especially as you rush to make sure that your physical injuries have a chance to heal and that you do not miss any of the paperwork you need to complete. To help ease your stress, take a look at the checklist below.
At the Scene of the Accident in West Palm Beach
At the scene of the accident in West Palm Beach, make taking care of your injuries your top priority. Do not take any action that could increase the severity of your injuries or put you in any danger. However, in general, to help protect yourself both physically and financially in the aftermath of the accident, you should follow the following key steps.
1. Report the Accident.
A call to 911 will bring both the West Palm Beach Police Department and an ambulance to the scene of the accident. By reporting the accident, you accomplish several things.
First, you provide a record of exactly when the accident took place, which can later prove critical to your car accident claim. Next, your call will summon the police to the accident, where the officers can evaluate the scene and create a statement that will establish who likely caused or contributed to the accident. The police officer will also collect initial evidence from the scene.
When the police arrive, they may ask for a statement about the accident. Do not admit fault or brush off the other driver’s liability for the accident, if at all possible. Instead, provide a simple statement about what led to the accident, including any factors, like a distracted or drunk driver, that may have contributed to the accident.
2. Photograph Relevant Information and Evidence.
As you look around the accident scene, take inventory of what evidence you might later need. If you can move safely around the accident scene, you may want to take some photos that will show how the accident occurred, including any features of the scene that you feel contributed to the accident.
You may also want to take photos of:
- The damage to the two vehicles
- The other vehicle’s license plate number
- The other driver’s license
- The other driver’s insurance card
- Your injuries, if you have any visible injuries
3. Take Note of Any Witnesses.
If you can move safely around the accident scene, you may want to note any witnesses to the accident and collect their contact information. Further, note any nearby cameras that may have caught the accident, if possible. Keep in mind that you should not move around the scene of the accident if it causes any pain or puts you in danger in any way. When in doubt, remain in your vehicle until help arrives.
4. Prioritize Medical Attention.
Even if you think you did not suffer serious injuries in your West Palm Beach car accident, make sure that you seek medical care immediately. You may choose to accept ambulance transport away from the accident scene or transport yourself, depending on the severity of your injuries and the damage to your vehicle; however, you should always allow a doctor to fully evaluate your injuries.
Some injuries, including whiplash and even traumatic brain injury, may not show symptoms immediately after the accident but may show much more severe symptoms later. You may even have broken bones or soft tissue injuries that you did not recognize immediately after the accident, but that you need to have evaluated and treated as soon as possible to maximize your recovery. A doctor can help evaluate those injuries and put together a treatment protocol that will increase your odds of making a full recovery.
Seeking medical attention after your accident also serves another vital function: it provides evidence of when your injuries occurred. Sometimes, insurance companies will attempt to show that you may have suffered injuries at another time and simply want to blame them on the car accident. With medical records showing when your injuries took place, you may have an easier time proving that you should receive compensation from the insurance company.
West Palm Beach has several hospitals, including St. Mary’s Medical Center, Good Samaritan Medical Center, and JFK Medical Center. You may choose the hospital you want to handle your initial medical evaluation based on the provider you feel most confident with or the one covered by your insurance.
5. Summon a Tow Truck, If Needed.
Sometimes, you may move your car easily after an accident. In other cases, your vehicle may not operate well enough to move it away from the scene of the accident, or you may need help due to your current physical capacity. A tow truck can take the vehicle to the location of your choosing.
After Your West Palm Beach Car Accident: What to Do Next
You dealt with the immediate scene of the accident. Now what? You may have questions about the next steps you need to take or the best way to claim compensation for your injuries.
1. Get a Care Plan From Your Medical Provider and Follow It.
If you suffered any type of serious injury in your accident, a medical provider will help put together a care plan that will give you a better idea of what to expect as you recover. Follow that care plan carefully. If your care plan includes specific things you should not do, from bearing weight on a broken limb to engaging in specific activities as you recover, make sure you do not engage in any of those activities. Go to all appointments, including follow-up visits, with your care provider.
2. Contact Your Auto Insurance Provider.
Florida drivers, in addition to carrying liability insurance on their vehicles, must also carry an additional type of coverage known as personal injury protection insurance. Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance covers the immediate medical expenses you may have following a serious car accident regardless of who caused those injuries.
Your auto insurance provider needs to know about your accident so that the company can release the funds immediately needed to help pay for medical treatment for your injuries. While PIP coverage will not cover the full cost of extreme injuries, it may offer considerable compensation to many accident victims and will help make it easier for you to pay for the immediate cost of medical care.
3. Get in Touch With an Experienced West Palm Beach Car Accident Attorney.
As soon after your accident as possible, get in touch with an experienced personal injury attorney. Any time you suffer serious injuries in a West Palm Beach car accident, a car accident attorney can calculate the compensation you really need to cover the full cost of the injuries you sustained in your car accident. Often, that can provide you with a better idea of what to expect as you move forward with your car accident claim. Many attorneys will provide a free consultation to help go over the basics of your claim and what you should expect, which may provide you with more confidence about your next steps.
An attorney can also take over dealing with the insurance company on your behalf. It may not take long before you grow frustrated by the calls from the insurance company. The agent assigned to your claim may try to convince you to accept less than the true value of your case or may push you to make a fast decision about a settlement offer regardless of whether you feel that offer really fits your needs. An attorney can help eliminate those conversations and that pressure, which can make it easier for you to manage your claim.
Furthermore, an attorney can help collect vital evidence that may help establish exactly who caused your accident, including whether more than one party may have contributed to your accident and your injuries. By identifying multiple liable parties, you can often increase the compensation you can recover for your West Palm Beach car accident injuries.
4. Contact Your Employer.
Many West Palm Beach car accident victims quickly discover a challenge they had not expected: getting back to work. You need to notify your employer about your accident as soon as possible. Immediately after the accident, that may mean a quick notification that you suffered injuries and cannot come back to work immediately. Once you have a better assessment of your injuries and your prognosis, however, you may find that you need to have a more detailed conversation with your employer about the extent of your injuries and how much work you will need to miss.
Some employers will work with you to help you keep working—and maintain your income in the aftermath of an accident—as much as possible. Others, however, might lack the capacity to bring you back to work due to safety concerns or that your injuries prevent you from performing your usual job duties.
Discuss your limitations with your employer. Offer an honest assessment of what you can do. Can you work from home while recovering, or do you need more time before you can get back to work? How much time has your doctor suggested you may need to spend in recovery before going back to work? Your employer may need to make plans to reassign your duties if you need to stay out of work for a long time. If you can go back to work, you may require modifications to your duties or your equipment and set up to make it easier for you to manage your usual job requirements. Talking to your employer as soon as you know what to expect can make that easier.
5. Arrange an Estimate of Your Vehicle’s Repairs.
The insurance company that covers the liable driver may want to send out one of its employees to evaluate your vehicle, or you may need to take your vehicle to a certified service center. Do not repair your vehicle until your lawyer evaluates it, since the insurance company may refuse to cover those repairs. You do have the right to select the place that will ultimately perform repairs on your vehicle.
6. Contact Your Medical Insurance Provider.
If you sustained serious injuries in the accident, your medical insurance can provide vital financial assistance with the medical bills you may face as you recover from those injuries. However, your coverage may have specific limitations that may influence how much your medical bills will ultimately cost.
Contact your medical insurance provider and ask questions about:
- In-network providers who can help with treatment for your specific injuries
- Your co-pays and deductibles related to the accident
- Any specific elements of your coverage that you may worry about in the aftermath of your accident, including coverage for durable medical equipment, physical therapy, occupational therapy, a stay in a long-term care facility, or in-home medical care
Let your insurance provider know about the accident to help streamline approval of any medical costs, then ask any questions you might have about your coverage. Make sure you understand what coverage you have so that you can create a care plan based on your financial and medical needs.
If you suffered serious injuries in a car accident in West Palm Beach, you may have a long road to recovery and a lot of concerns to deal with. An attorney can help. Contact an experienced West Palm Beach car accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about your right to compensation and any steps you may need to take next.