By: Karen Piso Nadeau, Esquire
The Question & Answer
What Do I Do If I Am Injured in a Motor Vehicle Accident in MA?
If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident in Massachusetts, the most important thing to do is to get the medical attention you need first, then call an experienced local personal injury lawyer for a free consultation to advise you of your rights.
At my firm Nadeau Harkavy LLC, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we deal with many potential clients all over Massachusetts after they have been involved in a motor vehicle accident to determine if they have a good case and discuss how we can help them. Many times, it is their first accident with injuries, and they tried their best to do the right things following the accident to protect their interests. However, despite best efforts, they did not really know what to do following the accident. When you are dealing with someone suffering injuries in an accident, your focus is where it should be, on the loved one harmed and making sure they get the right treatment and making them as comfortable and secure as possible. However, having some guidance on the steps to take if you or a loved one is injured in an auto accident greatly improves your chances of having the most successful outcome.
No one wants to think about dealing with a car accident or being hurt in an auto accident. Most of our clients do not give it much thought until the unthinkable happens and they or a loved one is hurt as a result of someone else’s bad driving and disregard for the rules of the road. Dealing with an auto accident when you are at your worst may lead to bad decisions or unintended consequences that may jeopardize your ability to seek the compensation you and your family deserve. Knowing the most important steps to take if you or a loved one is injured in an auto accident can go a long way to protecting your financial well-being and future. Here are some things to consider in the aftermath of a car accident.
1. Get the Medical Care You Need
The first thing to do is to make sure you get the medical care you need. Sometimes this happens without even thinking about it. Emergency care may be needed with an ambulance taking an injured victim from the accident scene to the emergency room of a hospital. The type of medical attention needed will depend upon how bad the injuries are. Sometimes there are broken bones or a head injury requiring surgery and in-patient hospitalization. Sometimes there is rehabilitation, physical therapy, or occupational therapy needed. Some clients need to see specialists such as orthopedic surgeons or neurologists or have imaging such as MRI’s or CT’s.
Addressing your injuries, physical complaints, pain, and difficulty engaging in activities due to the accident is the primary focus after suffering harm in an auto accident. We see clients who lived with pain and waited to seek medical attention hoping they would get better on their own. We also see clients who chose to not follow doctor’s advice for continued care or chose not to get the diagnostic testing ordered by their physician. This may jeopardize the ability of a client to recover the money they should. The insurance company looks for ways to not pay a deserving victim. Failing to follow through with necessary medical treatment and delays in receiving medical care are often used against those injured in an accident by the responsible party’s insurance company that is looking for ways to pay you as little as possible.
Failing to seek the medical attention you need or not following doctor’s orders may lead to an insurance company trying to lessen your recovery. At our personal injury firm, we make sure our clients understand this and help them navigate the challenges raised with medical treatment when they are often at their worst due to the injuries that they or a loved one suffered in an auto accident. Our best advice: follow doctor’s orders and get the medical care you need. Your case is valued based on the medical documentation. The diagnosis, prognosis, need for treatment, length of treatment and how many times you need to treat are all factors in how much money you will receive.
2. Get Needed Information at the Scene of the Accident
At the scene, exchange information with the other driver. Sometimes our clients call another family member or friend to the scene to help them such as a spouse, significant other or sibling or parent. Make sure to get photographs of the vehicles, the scene, the other driver’s registration, and the names, addresses and phone numbers of all witnesses. If you are not able to do this, perhaps a friend or family member can assist and come to the scene to help if possible. The reason for this is that you have one opportunity to secure this information. Once the accident scene is cleared and everyone leaves, evidence may be lost.
Do not rely upon the police to get this information for you. Often, our clients have relied on the police to obtain the information, only to be disappointed that police did not get the witness names or even describe the accident wrong and who is to blame. Also, we see redacted police reports whereby the police department blacks out or whites out crucial information we need such as witness names and even whether the responsible party received a citation. The reason given is to protect personal information or say our client is not entitled to it. We find this outrageous when our clients are the victims often suffering devastating consequences due to the unlawful and irresponsible behavior of another person. You would think the police would focus on protecting the injured party. We have dedicated countless hours to appealing decisions of the police department to not disclose crucial information needed for our client to recover for the harm caused by another driver. We file freedom of information requests and appeals to force the police departments and towns or cities to produce the unredacted versions of their reports.
The majority of the time the police do disclose complete police reports and provide us with all the information we need for our injured clients to pursue their bodily injury claims against the at fault parties. However, it is best to make sure valuable information is secured so you do not run into this obstacle. Get what you can at the scene. Obtain the exchange form at the scene from police so you have the police officer’s name, the police department, and incident number. Sometimes finding the correct police department is a challenge and clients do not know if it is local or state police. When you are injured, the last thing you are thinking about is securing information and evidence. However, having these guidelines may help you in a time of need.
3. Take A Lot of Photographs
Photographs are very important to document the accident, the scene, property damage, and injuries. The more photographs you have, the better. Photographs of the accident scene, the vehicles involved, the damage to the vehicles, and the property damage are relied upon when the insurance company is evaluating your case. Also, photographs of any visible injuries from the time of the accident as well as through the healing process are valuable to present your case. Photographs of any bruising, cuts, scrapes, abrasions, any sutures, or casts, of any hospitalization or use of wheelchair, crutches, a cane, or any medical devices such as neck brace should be secured for the case. Any scars should also be photographed. Having the injured person’s face in some photographs is good practice to connect the injured body part to the person.
Securing these photographs in real time is best, before things change.
4. Report Your Accident to Your Auto Insurance
Once you get the medical care you need immediately following the accident and you are safe, you need to contact your own auto insurance company and report the accident. They will set up a claim file and assign a claims adjuster and claim number. They will ask you questions about how the accident happened and about your injuries, treatment and time missed from work. They will set up a property damage file and have your vehicle inspected for the damage if you have collision coverage.
Behind the scenes, your own auto insurance will investigate the accident and secure important information to verify the accident events and decide who is at fault. They will set up a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim for you to have PIP benefits available to cover medical expenses and lost wages up to $8,000.00. There will be paperwork to complete and forms to fill out. We handle all of this paperwork for our clients that we represent and make things as easy as possible for them.
5. Do Not Speak to the Insurance Company for the Other Driver Until You Have Spoken to an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer about Your Rights
The last several guidelines discussed what you should do if you are in a motor vehicle accident and injured. However, there is one important thing you should not do until you speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Whether you are a bicyclist, a pedestrian, a passenger or driver, one important thing to remember is that the insurance companies are in the business of not paying claims and saving money and finding a way out of paying you the money you deserve.
The insurance company for the driver that you believe is at fault is looking for a way to blame someone else for the accident. Often, they will try to tape record you and ask leading and loaded questions. Innocent victims get taken advantage of by the insurance adjusters working hard to not pay their claim and blame anyone but their insured driver. You may innocently say the wrong thing or not realize the legal significance of how you answer a question.
If you are injured and will pursue a bodily injury claim for compensation due to the harm caused by someone else, the best advice is to speak to a lawyer who concentrates in personal injury and is a local lawyer with many years of fighting insurance companies and handling auto accidents in Massachusetts before you speak with the insurance company.
6. Call a Local Personal Injury Law Firm- With Experience and Positive Client Reviews -to Discuss Your Case
An experienced personal injury law firm will offer you a free consultation to determine if you have a case and offer you some guidance. When a new client calls us, we try to place them at ease and feel comfortable talking with us. We understand that people calling us, whether for themselves or a loved one that has been injured, are not at their best, usually stressed out and anxious about the process. During the initial call, we explore 2 important issues in deciding whether you have a case worthy of pursuit. First, we focus on liability. This means we will discuss how the accident happened. We evaluate who is at fault and who may be responsible. Second, we review the damages. We discuss the injuries suffered and treatment. We also offer some guidance and answer some common questions and concerns. We evaluate the merits of your case and how we can help you. This consult is free. Most importantly, our goal is to listen to your concerns and help with your next steps.
At Nadeau Harkavy LLC, we have over 60 years combined experience representing injured people and their families when they have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, trip and fall or other type of accident. We have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients over the years to help them get on with their lives after suffering the consequences of a serious accident. We make sure everything is done to protect your interests while you and your family concentrate on getting better. We handle all types of car accident cases including wrongful death and brain injury. We represent drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, as well as other types of car accident cases such as scooter, motorcycle and skateboard cases. We also handle other types of injury cases such as trip and fall, slip and fall, dog bite, construction site, and catastrophic injury accidents. If you or a loved one has been harmed through no fault of your own, call us today for a free consultation about your legal rights at 617-674-7640.