The Common Law

Options when injured in an auto accident

I've been hurt in a car wreck. Now what do I do?

If you are hurt, follow your doctor's instructions and get all the care the doctor believes you need. Whether it is a suggestion for physical therapy, home exercises, or follow-up care with another doctor, follow the orders. That will help you get better (always your ultimate goal) and prevent some unsympathetic adjuster from attacking you later on down the road.

On the other hand, get only the treatment you need. Some victims believe they will increase their recovery by "ginning up" extra charges with unnecessary treatment. This is almost always counterproductive. Most doctors and insurance adjusters will know what you are doing.

If you do not have health insurance to pay for your treatment, your automobile-insurance policy may include personal-injury protection or MedPay coverage that will cover some bills and lost wages. Your agent will be able to tell you if you have this coverage.

During treatment, decide if you need a lawyer. If you are in a small wreck and only go to the doctor a handful of times, you likely do not need a lawyer. If that is the case, you can contact the other driver's insurance company and settle the case on your own. If you choose to do that, educate yourself on what you're entitled to recover. Numerous online sources (including my firm's site, www.civtrial.com) can help with that. If in doubt, consult a lawyer. Most personal-injury lawyers give free consultations, and reputable lawyers should tell you if you can do better on your own.

Document your injuries. Everyone knows a picture is worth a thousand words. Take photos of your car, and, if you have bruising or other visible injuries, have someone take photos of those.

Finally, take your time. Do not settle your claim before you know the full extent of your injuries. A settlement is final. If you settle your case in the first day or week and then find out your condition is worse than you thought, you are out of luck.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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