Have you been injured in a car accident in Washington, D.C.? You may be wondering what to do next, especially if you are dealing with an injury. The fact is that the path to compensation is often long, winding, and confusing. To make it through successfully can be challenging, especially by yourself. Simeone & Miller, LLP is here to help.
What to Do Immediately After an Accident
Stop and Take Stock of Injuries
If you have just been involved in a crash, first things first—assess your health and get any medical care you need. Your health is the most important thing.
Are you feeling okay? Do you have any visible injuries? And can you get out of the vehicle without getting hurt?
If you need immediate medical help, assistance getting out of the vehicle, or putting out a car fire, don’t waste time calling 911.
Next, take stock of the other people involved. If you were driving with someone else in the car, check to see if they are injured. Then, check to see if the other party—whether it is a driver, bicyclist, or someone else —has been injured. Again, call 911 if you need to.
You must also make sure that you are in a safe location. Put on your hazard lights. Do not attempt to right an overturned vehicle or pick up any fallen parts on your own. Call 911 and leave that to the first responders.
File an Accident Report with the Police
Filing an accident report with the police is not required to have a car accident claim but is helpful. And although it is not a legal requirement, the DC DMV recommends that anyone involved in a crash file an accident report with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). An attorney will, in most cases, agree with the DMV; an accident report can serve as official documentation of the crash, which can strengthen an accident victim’s legal claim.
If you call MPD immediately about the crash, an MPD officer will typically write an accident report once they arrive on the scene. The officer should give you a six-digit identifying number (often called the “CCN”). Make sure to note this down and save it for future reference, as your attorney can use it to get a copy of the accident report.
You may also file a report later by calling the local station. Again, they should provide you with a six-digit CCN.
Try to obtain information from the other parties involved, including but not limited to:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Insurance information
- Name of insurance provider
- Policy number
- Policyholder (and their relationship to the driver)
- Vehicle make and model
- Vehicle registration information
- License Plate Number
- Name of vehicle owner, or who holds the title
If there were any witnesses or passengers in the other vehicle, make sure to also get their contact information.
If you are unable to get all this information, you may still have a claim, so promptly contact an attorney even if you cannot get all of it.
What if the Other Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?
Don’t panic if the other driver does not have insurance. You may still recover compensation through your policy’s uninsured motorist coverage. All DC drivers are required to have this coverage, so it is likely that your insurance provider included it in your policy. Uninsured motorist coverage pays your damages when the responsible driver does not have insurance to cover them.
Other Rules of Thumb to Follow After a Crash
Don’t Admit Fault
Keep in mind to never admit fault. The other party may point fingers at you, either because they sincerely believe you were at fault or because they don’t want to take responsibility for their own actions. Either way, don’t give in and admit fault. Sadly, accident victims often get pressured into admitting fault, which may make it harder to later recover compensation.
Take Pictures of the Accident Scene and Vehicles Involved
To document the accident, take pictures of the accident scene and the damage to the cars involved. If you suffered visible physical injuries, take pictures of those, too. It does not matter how minor or serious, taking them will ensure that your lawyer has the option of using them to pursue your case.
For more information on what to do after a crash in DC, check out our Post-Accident Checklist.
What Should I Tell My Employer After a Car Accident?
Many accident victims find themselves wondering if a car accident is a good excuse to miss work. This question depends on the nature of the car accident injury, as well as your employer’s policies.
In the United States, people often push themselves to go to work even when staying home would be better for their health. A car accident injury can be serious and, as mentioned, a minor one could progress into a serious one in the absence of medical intervention. Therefore, if possible, take the time you need to care for yourself and get medical help immediately.
It is best to be honest with your employer. Tell them you were involved in a car accident, that you need to go to the doctor, and when you can be expected back at work. When you see your doctor, tell them about your job responsibilities so that they can decide whether you should be held out of work or can safely return. A doctor’s note often helps getting an employer to permit you to miss work.
Can I Take Medical Leave from Work?
Under the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA), many employees are eligible for 16 weeks of unpaid medical leave, every 24 months, if a serious injury makes going to work impossible.
Some employers offer paid medical leave as an employee benefit, but they are not required to offer this beyond regular sick leave.
It is likely that an accident injury will impact your paycheck. That is why hiring a car accident attorney may make sense. Many victims obtain compensation for their lost wages in addition to their medical expenses.
Can I File for Workers’ Compensation?
If an employee is injured on the clock, they may have a right to workers’ compensation benefits. In the context of car accidents, this may mean the employee was running an errand for their employer or was otherwise working at the time of the accident. Making a workers’ compensation claim is in addition to any claim you have against anyone else involved in the accident. It is common for people injured while working to have two claims – a worker’s compensation claim and an accident claim against the responsible person.
Workers’ comp is no-fault insurance, which means employees can recover compensation even in accidents for which they were at fault. The only thing that could disqualify them is if they were violating company policies, such as by driving drunk or impaired. Employees must notify their employer of the injury and file a workers’ comp claim to receive benefits.
Employees severely injured in auto accidents typically qualify for one or more of the following workers’ compensation benefits:
- Temporary or permanent total disability benefits
- Temporary or permanent partial disability benefits
- Medical benefits to cover medical treatment
- Vocational rehabilitation to help the injured worker switch careers, if needed
Disability benefits are determined using the employee’s average weekly earnings. They will, however, not be paid out in the same amount as a full paycheck. Further, workers’ comp will not cover non-economic damages, such as mental distress.
If an employee was killed in a work-related auto accident, their loved ones may seek death benefits through workers’ comp.
Filing an Insurance Claim After an Accident
Speaking with Your or the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
It is smart to contact an attorney before speaking to an insurance company – both yours and the other driver’s – and to let the attorney set up your claims. Insurance companies have one goal – to pay nothing or as little as possible on a claim – and they are not looking out for your interests. They may seek information or a recorded statement that they are not entitled to obtain. Moreover, your discussions with any insurance company – including your own – are not privileged and can be obtained by any other insurance company. For all these reasons and more, it makes sense to first contact an attorney.
If you do have to speak with your or the other driver’s insurance company, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Do not admit fault, even partial fault
- Do not say you haven’t been injured
- Do not grant the insurance company access to your medical records
- Do not get into the details
- Do not speculate, just stick to the facts of the crash
- Do not discuss settlement or even ask for a specific amount of compensation before consulting an attorney
Anything you say to an insurance adjuster can and will be held against you. Many accident victims are misled by their trust for their agent or the adjuster assigned to their claim. But keep in mind that an insurance agent’s loyalty to you ends once you file a claim. They are working in their employer’s best interest, not yours. And their employer cares most about their bottom line. They will have no problem using the opportunity to speak with you to their benefit, and not yours.
What Is Personal Injury Protection Insurance?
Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance is a type of no-fault insurance. Policyholders can file a PIP claim to recover compensation for an accident, regardless of their role in causing it.
Like any insurance policy, PIP only covers up to a specified amount of damages. In most jurisdictions, you can make a PIP claim and make a claim against the other driver. However, in some jurisdictions, you must elect between making a PIP claim and making a claim against the other driver. Therefore, it is wise to consult with an attorney before making or rejecting a PIP claim. Further, in some of the jurisdictions that may you decide between claims, you may be able to make both if your medical expenses and other losses (such as lost wages) meet or exceed certain thresholds. Typically, this route only applies to accident victims who suffered severe and/or lifelong injuries, such as:
- Severe burns
- Head and brain injuries
- Amputation, partial or full
- Paralysis, complete or incomplete
- Serious orthopedic injuries
- Spinal cord injuries, including herniated discs
Read more about PIP insurance here.
How Much Should I Settle for in a Car Accident Claim?
As auto accident attorneys, this is one of the most frequent questions clients ask us. The answer changes depending on the facts of the case.
Accident victims should not accept anything less than the amount of damages they suffered. These damages may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Reduced future earning capacity
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Every accident victim will experience a different amount of losses because of their own personal life circumstances. For example, two accident victims who both suffered spine injuries and needed time off work may have spent about the same on medical expenses, but their lost wages will be different if they hold different jobs.
Make sure you are not settling for less. Contact Simeone & Miller, LLP online for a free case evaluation.
Seeing Your Doctor for a Car Accident Injury
The Importance of Getting Immediate Medical Help
It is crucial to go to a doctor as soon after an accident as you can. Accident injuries may worsen and become more severe later, so prompt diagnosis will prevent you from making an unknown injury worse and allow you to get better sooner.
Take a head and brain injury for example. An accident victim may unknowingly suffer a minor concussion in a car crash. If they decide to ignore it and go about their day, this injury could progress. Symptoms of a concussion may arise and progress into those of a moderate traumatic brain injury. The longer the victim goes without treatment, the worse it could get and the harder the injury will be to treat.
Do not wait to go to the doctor. It is much better to be safe than sorry.
Can I Choose My Own Doctor?
Yes, you can choose your own doctor after a car accident.
It should be noted, however, that you may need to see a medical professional who isn’t your primary care physician (PCP). It is often better to seek help from the soonest available qualified medical professional, and PCPs may not have an appointment available for weeks. In these cases, consider going to the local urgent care or emergency room (ER).
Unfortunately, it is also common for PCPs to refuse to treat car accident injuries. Many PCPs don’t want to have to testify in court. Others simply want to avoid the billing process; they may not know how to bill auto insurance companies for accident victims’ medical care.
If you are having trouble finding a doctor who you can trust to treat your injuries, we can help by providing a medical referral to a qualified doctor who regularly cares for accident victims and understands their injuries and how to treat them. Contact us for our help finding a trusted, qualified auto accident doctor.
Who Will Pay My Medical Bills?
Generally, accident victims need to pay their medical bills and then be reimbursed by the automobile insurance provider for the responsible driver. There is always a chance that insurance will refuse to compensate you, leaving you 100% responsible for the bill.
Many victims find it beneficial to use their health insurance to cover their medical bills while waiting for a settlement from the auto insurance company. Hospitals and doctors usually will not wait for a personal injury claim or lawsuit to be completed before they seek payment, so this may be the best option for many victims to keep their credit score untouched and their phone lines free of debt collectors.
When Should I Hire a Car Accident Attorney?
You should contact an attorney for a free consultation as soon as possible. An attorney can assist you in getting follow-up medical care and you should contact one before you speak with an insurance company about the accident.
Insurance adjusters are skilled at using your statements to reduce the amount of your claim. No matter how long you have been a policyholder, you can’t change the fact that the insurance adjuster works for the company, not you. It is their job to pay you as little as possible, even if it means taking advantage of loopholes to shortchange you.
What Does a Car Accident Lawyer Do?
A car accident lawyer can maximize your recovery – to ensure that you receive all the compensation to which you are entitled – and handle the bulk of the legal work – so you don’t have to. They can use their experience and legal knowledge to protect you and guide you through the claims process. Also, having a car accident lawyer means that you have the option of filing a lawsuit if the insurance company denies your claim or makes you an unreasonably low offer. That alone encourages insurance companies to make better settlement offers.
Working with an attorney takes the stress and mystery out of seeking compensation. You won’t have to worry about asking for too little compensation, accepting an unfair settlement offer, accidentally wrecking your case, or getting taken advantage of by an insurance company.
At Simeone & Miller, LLP, our attorneys can manage your case the right way, which will allow you to focus on your health and getting your life back in order:
- Investigate the true cause of the accident: This may include reconstructing the accident, looking into accident reports, reviewing medical records, and speaking to witnesses and other experts in the field.
- Determine who is at fault for the crash: Once we identify the cause, we can find which party is at fault for the accident. There may be one or multiple parties, such as in multiple-vehicle collisions.
- Build a convincing case and develop a case strategy: We will gather the findings of our investigations and use them to create a compelling claim. How the accident has affected your everyday life should be at the center of the claim. That way, you can ensure your needs are fully met.
- Calculate your damages and maximize your compensation: We will conduct a thorough review of your damages to ensure that you demand and receive full compensation. As they say, knowledge is power – knowing how much your case is worth will save you from taking a low settlement.
- Negotiate with the at-fault party: We will communicate and negotiate with the at-fault party and their insurance company to get you the best settlement offer possible.
- Take your case to court, if needed: It is common for insurance adjusters to refuse to pay what they owe. We will not force you to settle or to file a lawsuit, but if you receive a low offer in your case, we can take them to court. Cases filed in court can still be settled until the judge or jury reaches a final decision.
- Meet legal deadlines: When making a claim for damages from a car accident, there are important deadlines that must be met, including legal action. We know those deadlines and will ensure that your case is on track to meet these deadlines. Missing certain deadlines, like the statute of limitations, can wreck your case. That is why promptly contacting an attorney after an accident is extremely important.
- Keep you up to speed: A good lawyer should keep you updated about your case, as well as continue to ensure you are happy with where your case is going. While no lawyer can truly control whether you ultimately win or lose your case, they can control which tactics to use and which steps to take throughout the process to maximize your chances of winning. We will also remain available throughout your case to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
How Much Does a Lawyer Cost?
One of the first concerns people have when they think about hiring a lawyer is money. Lawyers can be expensive in some areas of the law; the good news is, personal injury is not one of them.
Most personal injury lawyers work on contingency fees. Car accident victims won’t have to pay any upfront attorney’s fees—if the lawyer doesn’t win your case, you won’t owe them a cent. The only time you should have to pay your lawyer is once they recover compensation for you. Then, their attorney’s fees will be taken out of the judgment or settlement. Your bank account will be left untouched.
At Simeone & Miller, LLP, we believe every accident victim should be able to afford effective legal representation. Contingency fees are the standard at our firm.
How to Choose a Lawyer
Choosing an attorney requires research, as even the best attorney in DC may not be the best fit for your case. For example, some attorneys only focus on big cases; others only take on smaller cases. This is because complex cases are handled differently than small ones. You need someone who has experience in car accident law, with cases similar to yours, and with the injuries you have sustained.
Here are a few things you should consider when choosing an attorney in DC:
- Does the attorney have experience in car accident law? Personal injury law covers a wide range of cases, from car crashes to defective products. Take care to research whether the attorney has experience helping clients in DC car accident cases. Some simply list it online as a type of case they would be willing to take on, but not as a practice area they have experience in.
- Does the attorney have a history of success? No attorney can guarantee that you will recover compensation for your injuries. But to give yourself a strong fighting chance, opt for an attorney who has had significant success in DC car accident law. Great attorneys will have client testimonials and case results you can check out.
- Is the attorney respected by peers and past clients? Try to learn about other people’s experiences with the attorney. Again, you can do this by looking at client testimonials and online reviews.
- What is the attorney’s approach to legal representation? Consider whether their approach matches what you are looking for. Some attorneys will take a detailed approach; some will take a goal-oriented approach; and others will combine the two.
- Does the attorney seem to care about their work? This may seem like a strange question to ask, but you need an attorney who genuinely cares about your case. If they don’t seem enthusiastic about the law, you can’t really trust them to fight tooth and nail for you.
About Simeone & Miller, LLP
At Simeone & Miller, LLP, we have handled a wide range of personal injury cases over the past 20 years. We have recovered compensation for clients harmed in big and small car accidents in DC, and we have experience with all types of injuries—from minor injuries to catastrophic and even fatal injuries.
Nationally respected by peers and clients, we stand out from the competition with:
- Millions of dollars secured for accident victims in DC, Maryland, and Virginia
- More than 1,000 testimonials from satisfied clients
- Completely free, no-obligation consultations
- Legal services in both English and Spanish
- “No recovery, no fee” guarantee—you don’t pay unless we win your case
If you have been injured or lost a loved one, we are right here to answer your call. We won’t stand by silently as the other party attempts to cheat you out of your rightful compensation. You deserve top-tier legal support; we are here to provide it.
Contact Simeone & Miller, LLP online. Our DC injury lawyers won’t rest in the fight for your rights!