Over the past few weeks I’ve talked to quite a few people regarding their car accidents. I’ve had fender benders in my life and dealing with insurance companies isn’t pleasant; even when it is your own insurance company. The stakes increase when you have been injured in a wreck. The blatant truth of the matter is that insurance companies want to pay as little as possible. Therefore, I thought this week I would give some brief instructions on what to do when you’ve been involved in a car accident.

First of all, speak with an attorney. Most attorneys will tell you whether your case is of enough value to warrant retaining counsel. If a person is not injured in a wreck, then most attorneys will not take the case. Secondly, if you decide to retain an attorney, then you should not discuss your case with anyone other than your attorney and his or her staff or your medical providers. Do not give any recorded statements to the insurance company without first discussing that with your attorney. Also, do not sign any documents sent to you by the insurance company without first discussing it with your attorney. Remember, the insurance company you are dealing with is not looking out for you. Insurance companies are a business. While insurance is meant to compensate you for your losses, the companies want to limit how much they pay out.

Next, it is extremely important to follow up with your medical providers. This helps to document your injuries and ongoing pain and suffering. If these complaints aren’t documented then the insurance companies are not inclined to compensate you for them. Do make sure that you follow the recommendations of your doctors. Avoid unnecessary treatment because insurance companies will not want to compensate someone that over treats.

The next important instruction is to maintain all medical bills and prescriptions related to your case. The value of a personal injury case is relative to the amount of the medical bills incurred by the injured person. The amount of pain and suffering is often gauged by the amount of bills. Someone with $20,000 in medical bills likely suffered more than a person with $200 in expenses. So get those medical bills to your attorney.

Once you have finished treating and your injuries have healed as much as possible, then your attorney will draft a demand to the insurance carrier. As you can see, if your treatment takes several months to a year, then your case will take time to settle. A demand is essentially a letter outlining your case along with attachments of all your medical bills and records. Once the insurance company receives the demand, they will make an offer to resolve your case. Keep in mind, it usually take some back and forth negotiating with the insurance company to get an acceptable settlement.

There are many other considerations in dealing with a car wreck case. Some of them most folks would not be aware of without the assistance of legal counsel. For example, some documents insurance companies ask you to sign might preclude you from any further recovery under other insurance policies. Therefore, don’t try to handle significant car wreck cases on you own.

Jeffrey E. Johnston is a local attorney licensed to practice in Georgia. His practice focuses primarily on Criminal Defense and Personal Injury law. His law firm can be reached at (706) 869-8171.