Things to Do in Auto Accident

By: John P. Harris, Iii

In Part I, we discussed what to do at the scene, getting medical care and dealing with insurance. So let’s start where we left off with an important tip when dealing with insurance adjusters: Only sign releases that are specifically addressed to the doctors and providers you are seeing for your accident-related injuries. Also, DO NOT sign a release that allows an adjuster to speak with your physicians directly.

Note: If you have health or auto med-pay insurance coverage, your insurance company will require you to sign a medical release. Your own company will need, and is contractually entitled to, your medical records in order to process your medical bills for payment.

Damage to your car

While you will want to make sure that your vehicle is repaired or replaced as soon as possible, you must also look at your damaged vehicle as evidence supporting your injury claim. Keep in mind that all evidence of your claim must be preserved. Consequently, make sure that you have very good photos clearly showing all of the damages done to your vehicle. If you have visible injuries or marks on your body, be sure to take photographs of the injuries or marks on your body. Since we are talking about the photographs you will be taking, let me give you this tip: Print the photographs immediately so that if for some reason they did not turn out you can take them again before the evidence disappears.

If your vehicle is a later year model, it may be equipped with computer sensors that record the collision data such as speed at time of impact. An engineer may be required to retrieve and analyze this data in some cases.

In the days after the collision, a property damage adjuster for the other driver will most likely look at your car and make an initial estimate of the damages. If the damages exceed a certain percentage of the vehicle's fair market value (usually more than 75%) the adjuster will declare your vehicle a total loss. At this point he or she will determine what the fair market value is and make a settlement offer based on this amount.

You should verify that the offered value is accurate for a vehicle of your year, mileage and general condition.

Value can be verified by an Internet book value calculator such as Kelly Blue Book, through researching local newspaper ads or by talking with used car dealers. Make certain that the property damage adjuster's offer is truly for "fair market value."

Caution: Some insurance companies will tell you that their offer is based on the cars "blue book value"; however, they can come up with much lower amounts by either quoting you the "wholesale value" or by understating the condition of your vehicle. Either method will seriously undervalue your vehicle but are still "blue book values".

If your vehicle is repairable, then you must make sure that a reputable body shop performs the work. I recommend using a dealer auto body shop that specializes in your make of vehicle or at least a shop recommended by your dealer. Even if the property damage adjuster offers to estimate the damages, consider getting additional estimates on your own from trustworthy body shops. Property damage adjusters may lower estimates by using non-original manufacturer parts that may not fit as well as manufacturer (OEM) parts.

If you and the property damage adjuster are able to agree on an estimated amount for the repair and you agree to have the repairs started, also make sure that the adjuster agrees that any damage which was not covered in the initial estimate, but is discovered once the repairs begin, also be covered.

Caution: You will usually be asked to sign a release when the property damage portion of your insurance claim settles. READ THIS RELEASE CAREFULLY to ensure that it is limited to the property damage portion of the claim and that you are not releasing the responsible driver's insurance company for any bodily injury losses. If you are not certain about what the release is covering, contact an attorney before you sign the release.

Documenting treatment and wage loss

Hopefully, you will already have an established relationship with a primary care physician or family doctor who will be your first contact with a medical professional unless you need emergency or urgent care.

Important Tip: Before going to the doctor, make a list of all of your symptoms so that you are sure that you tell your doctor about every accident-related complaint you have. If you fail to make a list of all your symptoms, you will almost certainly forget to tell the doctor about something. Also, be sure to list all of the normal activities that you cannot perform because of the pain.

Make sure that the doctor gives you a clear diagnosis and treatment plan and be sure to follow up with all of the doctor's recommendations. Do not be afraid to change physicians if you feel that your doctor is not listening to your complaints or doing enough to help you recover.

It is also very important that your main treating physician makes the appropriate referrals for complementary care such as physical therapy. Get a prescription slip for each of these referrals and keep a copy for your records.

Chiropractic is now widely recognized as a valid treatment protocol for acute biomechanical injuries after an accident. It is often effective at relieving the spasms, pain and stiffness associated with soft-tissue whiplash-type injuries when other treatment options have failed.

A Special Note on Chiropractic Care: Do NOT continue chiropractic treatment beyond six weeks or eight weeks at most without getting a note from a medical doctor to continue chiropractic treatment. This is very important because insurance companies always, always like to complain that chiropractic treatment beyond six weeks is excessive and unnecessary treatment that they are reluctant to pay for. Get an M.D. to say grace over treatment that continues beyond six to eight weeks.

You are entitled to recover for lost wages. If you used your sick leave or vacation time to recover from your injuries, you are entitled to be reimbursed for that time as well. If your main treating physician directs you to remain off work for any period of time, make sure that this directive is in the form of a prescription which you can provide to your employer. Also, be sure to keep a copy of the "work release" prescription for your records. Document all time lost from work due to your injuriesArticle Submission, including time spent attending medical visits and physical therapy.

Car Accidents
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