I would venture to say that this is probably the most commonly asked question that I receive from a prospective client who has just been involved in an accident.
I certainly agree that it makes sense to seek the guidance and counsel of someone who deals with accidents, and particularly accident and injury victims on a daily basis.
An experienced Maryland personal injury attorney is certainly such a qualified individual. Having said that, I would also suggest that there are a variety of consequences and ramifications that flow from a typical Maryland car accident. Some of those ramifications are medical, some are legal, and some of those consequences involve the application of insurance claims handling practices. In my experience, the best, concise, advice I can give is as follows:
- If you have been involved in an accident, the most important thing you can do -if you've been injured, or if you believe you might have been injured- is to get yourself medically evaluated as quickly as possible.
- If the situation allows, and you are physically able to safely gather information, you should gather as much contemporaneous data as possible. This would include things like: identifying information about the other driver including, vitally, his or her insurance company.
- The names of any witnesses.
- Photographic evidence of the scene, the vehicles and the participant’s identifying information.
- Any time an accident involves personal injury or property damage the police should be involved.
- You must immediately notify your insurance company of the accident and make sure that a personal injury protection [or pip] claim has been set up for you.
- You must notify the insurance company for the other driver of the accident and any injuries that you sustained. Note: I frequently counseled clients not to make a final pronouncement on whether or not they sustained a bodily injury until several days have passed after the accident, and until you've had a medical evaluation.
A thorough personal injury attorney will handle many of these steps for you, and certainly:
- notify the appropriate parties.
- collect pertinent information.
- file the appropriate claims, and if necessary
- file a lawsuit if an adequate settlement is not obtainable.
Accidents by their very nature are unexpected and startling events. When the unexpected happens, an individual impacted by the event is jarred from their normal processes. Pain, adrenaline and stress can all impact someone's perceptions, judgment and decision-making ability. While one can never prepare for an accident [if you could, you would never be involved in an accident because you could prevent it- and I would be out of work] you can have a general checklist of “must-do” measures in which to engage immediately after an accident. I've provided a brief checklist here.