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What to save after a car accident

May 14, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Person under pile of documents

Recovering from a car accident can be incredibly overwhelming. Aside from healing from serious injuries, car accident victims must face vehicle repairs, property damage and insurance company correspondence. And there can be a lot of paperwork and medical bills.

In the midst of all of this stress, it’s important to remember one thing if you’ve been hurt in a car accident:

Save everything.

It’s the advice I give to my own clients all the time. Your attorney can always go through the documentation later; and it’s better to be extra careful than to miss an important date of service bill or an important document from your claims adjuster.

Saving everything will help protect you if you’re forced to bring an auto accident lawsuit later for your injuries and pain and suffering.  If you are in a No Fault state, such as Michigan, where I practice injury law, you will  also need specific documents to obtain No Fault insurance benefits, such as mileage forms and wage and salary verification forms. You can only recover reimbursement for allowable expenses with documented submittal of these forms.

Here are the top three things our own attorneys recommend to save after a car crash:

  1. Receipts: The Michigan No Fault Act requires your car insurance company to pay for all your accident-related medical expenses. This includes everything from over-the-counter medications to surgeries – even transportation to doctors’ appointments and in-home nursing care. But you have to prove the expenses you’ve incurred, and submit them so the insurance company has reasonable proof of loss. So save all of your receipts related to your medical care and expenses. Your attorney can organize your receipts later, but better to throw everything together in one file if you are uncertain.
  2. Photos of the car and any visible injuries, such as after a surgery: Try to take photos of the accident scene and of both cars with your cell phone, if it is safe to do so. Taking photos of both cars is important because sometimes the car that is struck may have little damage but the other vehicle is severely smashed.  If that’s not an option, either because it is not safe or because you are too badly injured, make sure to have the repair shop take photos of your car damage. Even though the police will document the crash in a police report, mistakes are often made. If you have good pictures of the car accident, your attorney can use them to help the jury understand the severity of the impact and the forces involved in the accident. And always take photos of any visible injuries  you have suffered.
  3. All documents from your own auto insurance company and the insurance company of the driver who caused the crash: You will likely receive lots of paperwork from your insurance company once you make a claim, especially if you’re in a No Fault state and you’re making a claim for No Fault insurance benefits. If you hire an attorney, your attorney needs to see the letters and correspondence you’ve received from your insurance company. An “explanation of benefits” from your health insurance company, or a letter summarizing your disability claim may seem unimportant, but it could be essential to your case and making sure your attorney doesn’t miss a bill or additional wage loss he or she can recover on your behalf.

Also, if an adjuster from the other insurance company calls you, consider reviewing your case with an attorney as soon as possible. Often, these insurance adjusters are heavily incentivized to try to settle potential claims before you hire an attorney, in part because the insurance industry knows people who retain attorneys statistically recover three to four times what unrepresented claimants recover.

Remember, the lawyer you hire is your shield, and is meant to protect you from often very adverse interests.  Your lawyer can’t do the job effectively unless he or she is fully appraised on insurance company correspondence and has frequent treatment and status updates from you.

A key takeaway: Save everything.

Related information:

17 mistakes that can ruin your lawsuit

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