What To Do After An Accident

By William Waddell,

It is important that a person involved in an automobile accident understand that injuries sustained as a result of an accident may not seem apparent at the time of the accident. One to four days after the accident, the soreness, stiffness and pain may finally surface. Whether you are aware of your injuries immediately or after a few days, this article describes certain steps you should take to ensure you heal quickly and also to support a claim entitling you to be compensated for your injuries.

1. See A Doctor If You Have Soreness, Pain, Stiffness, Difficulty Concentrating Or Other Symptoms

Based on my experience, many people do not feel pain immediately after an accident or auto injury. You may need an attorney. I recently represented a woman in her sixties who was rear-ended on Sepulveda Blvd. in Manhattan Beach who felt very little pain at the time of the accident, but actually suffered from TMJ discovered more than a month later that formed the basis of a strong claim for which she was well compensated. I am currently representing a woman who was hit by a driver that ran a red light in Los Angeles on La Brea Blvd. She realized a month later that she was having difficulty concentrating at work. It is apparent that she suffered a closed head injury that was not immediately diagnosed.

Each of the un-named clients described in the above paragraph are credible, hard-working professionals; not people trying to take advantage of the system. I am sharing these stories so that all people learn that if you are involved in an accident and feels out of sorts, are stiff, sore, or in pain, you must seek medical help. The primary reason is to make sure that the injuries are addressed early to hasten the healing process and avoid complications that could arise. Secondly (and I do mean secondly), getting medical treatment has the accompanying effect of proving the severity of your injuries which leads to being properly compensated for those injuries.

2. Keep A Diary

Keep notes in a diary or log describing how the injuries and medical treatment caused pain, discomfort, difficulty sleeping and how the injuries prevented you from going to work, from performing routine activities and negatively impacted your relationships, among other things. Over time, your memory will fade and it will be difficult to describe to the jury how the injuries affected your life unless you kept some type of record.

3. When You See A Doctor, Describe Your Symptoms And Pain Completely

Based on my experience, women are better than men at communicating with doctors. Maybe it’s because men are supposed to be tough and thus don’t want to admit that they are in excruciating pain. Regardless of your gender, my advice is: Drop the “tough persona” and tell your doctor about every ache and pain, every sore muscle, every aspect of what you are feeling. Tell the doctor how it is affecting your mood, your sleep patterns, your marriage and how your injuries are limiting your normal routine or activities. Not only will your doctor be better able to diagnose your injuries, later in time, at mediation, arbitration or trial, the medical records will support the claim you are making thus increasing your credibility. In the world of law, credibility is a big deal.

4. Once You Have Seen A Doctor, Do What You Are Told

Normally, upon seeing a doctor, an injured person will receive a treatment plan intended to address the injuries sustained. The plan may be as simple as going through physical therapy for a month or so. Or the plan may entail surgical procedures, rehabilitation, or further diagnosis (MRI, CT scan) or being evaluated by other specialists (orthopedic surgeon, neurologist, etc.).
Whatever the course of treatment is, do it! Participate in the treatment until you are released from further treatment by the doctor concerned.

It is vital that you follow through with the treatment plan. Doctors are specially trained and are in the best position to determine the severity of the injuries and the best manner in which to address those injuries so as to ensure the quick and full recovery therefrom. Everyone has busy lives, but I cannot overstate the importance of slowing down for a moment to make sure your injuries are properly addressed. Take the time to get the rehab or the physical therapy. If the general practitioner says to go see an orthopedic surgeon, then follow those instructions.

5. Obtain And Read Your Medical Records

Medical records are hugely important in proving your claim. If they are inaccurate, such inaccuracies may lower the value of your claim. To ensure that the records match reality, obtain the records and read through them carefully. If you see inaccuracies, contact the doctor and have those inaccuracies cleaned up to reflect what actually happened or what symptoms you actually felt at the time.

During your review, look at the description of your accident. Is the description accurate? If not, you need to address it or you will find yourself at a deposition or at trial trying to explain why the medical records say the accident happened in a manner different than what you testified to. Again, credibility issues are to be avoided to ensure you are properly compensated for your injuries.
The most effective way for a defense lawyer to defend a claim is to establish the injured person has credibility issues. One of the best ways to create credibility issues is to contrast the injured person’s statements on the stand with the statements in the medical records. Juries perceive the doctor to be “right.” Thus what is written in the medical records is normally taken as the truth. If the doctor misunderstood what you were saying, you must address the issue and correct the inaccuracies so that credibility problems are avoided.

William E. Waddell is the principle of the Law Offices of William E. Waddell. He is a graduate of the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law; where he was awarded the “Best Trial Advocate Award.” Mr. Waddell handles personal injury, employment law and other matters.
Email: william@wewlawfirm.com; Telephone.: (310) 318-6398

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