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You must protect yourself because in most "minor" or non-major accidents what you do and say at the accident scene will have a significant impact on your personal injury case.
You prepare for work. You prepare for school. You do not prepare for being in a car wreck. But you should. You must protect yourself because in most "minor" or non-major accidents what you do and say at the accident scene will have a significant impact on your personal injury case. Hopefully, any wreck you get into will be one involving only property damage to your car. In reality, whenever objects weighing thousand of pounds run into other objects of the same or greater or lesser weight, no matter what the speed of those objects, there is a transfer of energy or force sufficient enough to cause injury to the human body. Seldom will you ever be in a car accident and not experience some pain or discomfort.
At the scene of the accident what you say and do will stay with your case from that point all the way through a trial. For example, after everything stops you get out of your car and look around. The other driver who caused the wreck comes to you and says, "Are you okay?" You say either, yes or I think so. The other driver, from that point on will tell the insurance company, the defense attorney, the judge and the jury that nobody was hurt in the wreck because he asked that question at the scene and the driver said he or she was okay.
The same happens when the police or state trooper arrives at the scene of the crash. The person with the badge and the gun who has seen every kind of wreck imaginable comes over to you and says in a stern and unforgiving voice, "Do you need paramedics?" or "Are you injured?" You shutter to yourself and don’t want to complain. But you are upset. You have a headache. Your neck is a little stiff. Your lower back hurts. You don’t want to hold up the long line of traffic which has formed in the roadway. You just want to get away from this mess. So what do you do: you tell the police officer, "I am okay." Or, you say, "I think I am fine." The officer will record, "No injuries" in the official police report or make a similar notation somewhere in his field notes. That notation and your statement will stay with you for the rest of the case. The insurance adjuster for the person whose inattentiveness caused the crash will throw that "fact" up in your face. It will come up during settlement negotiations. If you end up in a trial, you will find that the defense attorney makes the statement you made at the scene a central issue in the trial.
To further complicate matters, after the wreck, when you have told the other driver and the police officer that you are okay, you might be tempted to crawl under the rear of your car to check for damage. You might want to pull the crushed fender away from the tire so you can drive away. Don’t do it. Let the police officer or a tow truck driver do it. If you do it, the other driver or the cop will take note of that. It will haunt you throughout the rest of your case.
The solution: tell the other driver and the police the truth. If you are hurting, no matter how slight your injury is, tell someone. If you want to be checked by paramedics, ask the police officer to call for them. If you feel you need to be seen by a doctor, ask to be taken to a hospital emergency room. Do not be embarrassed or shy about your health and well being. Speak up. Be prepared.