The other day a client called, telling me that she was very nervous about what to do because she just had a car accident. She said that she had the green light, but the woman that blasted through a red light, lied to the police, and the police report says that the accident is a “question of lights.” She said she had a witness, a pedestrian, that had to jump out of the way as that woman sped through a red light. She said she was hurt and so was her mother. I told her she should come in right away. She said she was busy and could not come in until next Tuesday.
By the time they came in, the case was already severely jeopardized. She and her mom had not gone to the hospital from the scene. They both had bruises and strains and were pretty badly beat up. When the police come to the scene of an accident, they always ask if an ambulance should be called. If you have been hurt, even if it doesn’t seem serious at the time, you should always accept the ambulance. So many times I see people come and tell me that they woke up the next morning with so much pain that they couldn’t get out of bed. This happened to me once, so I know this is true. I was travelling in France and twisted my ankle, I walked back to the hotel and went to bed. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but the next morning I couldn’t put any weight on the foot and was diagnosed with a torn ligament. It took a year to recover. Well, I probably had a case because I did trip over a pretty bad pothole, but I wasn’t going to bother to start a lawsuit in France.
The point is that if you don’t immediately go to the hospital from the scene of an accident you are jeopardizing your case if it turns out that you are more badly hurt than you thought. That’s the first thing the insurance companies look at when evaluating a case for settlement – did the claimant go to the hospital from the scene. We need to prove not just that you were seriously injured, but that the injury was caused by the accident. The larger the gap between the accident and medical treatment, the more difficult this is to prove.
Ok, so you wake up the next morning and can’t get out of bed, so you drive to the hospital or go to the your doctor. Now there is twelve hours or more between the accident and your medical treatment. The insurance company (and the lawyers for the insurance company if your case goes into litigation) will claim that you could have been injured during that lapse in time, or, even worse, that you weren’t really injured at all and your lawyer “put you up to it” and told you to “make a case.” They will claim that your injuries were pre-existing since you couldn’t have really been that badly hurt if you REFUSED an ambulance that was offered.
Nobody has time to waste sitting in an emergency room, but if you’ve been injured, even if it doesn’t seem serious at the time, preserve your rights by accepting the ambulance and complaining about anything and everything that is bothering you at the emergency room. Don’t ruin your case before it begins!