This is very probably the most common question that I get, at least with respect to those asked by new, as opposed to established, personal injury clients. In any given year, we litigate evaluate and resolve hundreds of personal injury cases. If you believe that you have sustained personal injury, property damage, or other loss as the result of an accident, or through an event that is caused by the negligence of another person, I have absolutely no objection to, and recommend calling a lawyer, getting some advice, and getting a handle on your legal rights and responsibilities in a given situation. Now, I might suggest that there might be a preferred order to your efforts. For example, if you've been injured, your first inquiry should be to a medical provider to have that injury evaluated. If you've been involved in a situation in which insurance could potentially be involved, e.g. a car accident, you should notify the involved insurance companies of the event.
You should also take steps to safeguard or minimize any potential future or ongoing loss from the event. The legal jargon for this concept, that one has a duty to minimize loss, is called ‘Mitigation of Damages” By way of example only, if your car was damaged and a window was broken out, it's probably a good idea to garage that vehicle. You have some options in terms of priority of action, and there are no set rules. My general suggestion is that you take steps, quickly and promptly, so as not to give an insurance company the option to later argue the delay meant:
- there was no claim
- that you were not seriously injured, or
- there was no injury-causing event altogether.
Although there are options in terms of what you should do, and the order, immediately after the event, my standing recommendation to anyone who asks is that
if you think you have been injured, there really is no argument against you obtaining medical attention, first, and if you haven't sustained a personal injury, then reporting the claim to applicable insurance and acting to protect property.
Getting a handle on your legal rights and obligations should be done undertaken next. It surprises some to learn that the victim of accident or injury as the case may be might have legal obligations arising from that event in addition to rights remedies. For example, every insurance policy has a duty to cooperate provision. I think it's just good practice for an insured person to notify their insurance company of an event. Certainly, a personal injury attorney will provide additional detail and information regarding the case and the claim. So, for example, if you intend to pursue a personal injury protection claim, or a claim for uninsured motorist benefits, your insurance company is entitled to insist on your cooperation in assessing and processing the claim. Insurance companies sometimes deny claims, taking the position that an insured person has failed to cooperate and therefore has breached the insurance contract, and it is simply not entitled to benefits. There might be other scenarios. Consider a situation in which your initial assessment of fault for an accident turns out to be incorrect, and the other participant in the accident claims that they were injured through your negligence. Obviously, you are going to want to make sure that your insurance company has been involved from the inception.
I routinely handle automobile accidents and other personal injury causing occurrences and events. Some of these cases resolve through settlement, but many of these cases involve litigation, the filing of a lawsuit, and a not insubstantial portion of the cases ultimately go to trial. Before any of those things happen I'm happy to discuss with you your event, your accident, as your rights and responsibilities under the applicable law. Please call me today to arrange a meeting.