I was just in a car accident, what do I do next?

During 2014, there were 78,396 accidents on Minnesota roadways resulting in more than 2,000 injuries. Victims of car accidents always wonder what do I do next? The answer to this is complicated; as it will depend on your physical condition immediately after the accident. However,  assuming you are not seriously injured, you’ll want to take the following actions:

  • Notify law enforcement – the first step should be to contact law enforcement officials to report the accident. One word of warning; avoid taking responsibility for the accident or answering any questions pertaining to the accident. Provide your basic information and explain your observations of what occurred leading up to the accident.
  • Obtain contact information – while the police will generally obtain the information from witnesses, it may be wise for you to do this on your own. Witnesses may be helpful later if you determine you have the basis for a personal injury lawsuit.
  • Photographs can be invaluable – most of us have cell phones with cameras. You or someone with you should photograph as much of the scene of the accident as possible. Photographs should include vehicles involved in the accident, photos of the closest intersection, signage in the area and any other photos you feel will be helpful.
  • Seek medical attention – regardless of whether you feel like you have an injury or not, it is imperative you seek medical attention. Keep in mind, you may not display signs of injury but this could be because of an adrenaline surge that occurs when you are fearful. This could mask injuries which may manifest themselves later.

Moving Forward After Medical Care 

During the few days following an accident, it is important to keep track of any physical or physiological changes you may suffer. You should also make a record of all of your recollections of the accident; what led up to it, how it occurred and the weather conditions at the time.

Because Minnesota is a “no fault” insurance state, you will have to file a claim with your own insurance company for the cost of repairing your vehicle as well as any medical claims you may have. Under Minnesota statutes, a personal injury suit may be filed if you meet one of two thresholds; you incur more than $4,000 in reasonable medical expenses or you have suffered a disfiguring injury, scarring or a disability that is expected to last at least 60 days.

When to Contact a Minnesota Injury Attorney 

After contacting your insurance company, you should contact an attorney immediately. The reason for this is simple: there is a statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit. In Minnesota, there is typically a six year statute of limitations to bring a personal injury action resulting from a car accident.  However, other types of injuries may be subject to a two year statute of limitations.  The sooner you get an attorney involved, the better. Remember, you may not know immediately what your long-term medical costs will be and you cannot count on your insurance company to offer a full settlement; an injury attorney may help with negotiating a more favorable settlement.

Comparative Fault Rule in Minnesota 

One other aspect of Minnesota personal injury law you should be aware of is what is known as the comparative fault rule. Let’s say you were struck from behind by a drunk driver and suffered serious injuries making you eligible to file a lawsuit. The drunk driver’s attorney may attempt to demonstrate your tail light was out at the time of the accident, you failed to properly signal or you were distracted in some way. Should they be able to prove you were partially at fault, any award you may get could be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you.

Car accidents can cause devastating injuries including broken bones, spinal injuries and traumatic brain injuries. It is very important that you not answer any questions posed by insurance adjusters or police officers before you seek the advice of an attorney. Remember, even a question that sounds innocent like “how are you doing” can impact any potential lawsuit. If you have been involved in an accident in the Burnsville area, contact Gilbert Alden PLLC immediately in order to speak a south of the river attorney. The sooner we are involved, the more likely we are to be able to help ensure your rights are protected and understand whether or not you will be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident.

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