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When an accident suddenly strikes, be it a rear-end car crash, a traumatic slip-and-fall at a grocery store, or any other traumatic event, the initial shock, anxiety, fear and anger of what had happened overcomes the victim. It may cause the victim to disregard and fail to preserve crucial evidence in their case. You may not know what to do next.

If you've been a victim of someone else's negligence, be it an individual driver, or a company,  it is important to know the initial steps to preserve your rights, to ensure you can obtain proper compensation for your injuries down the road.

1. Report

After a traumatic event, it is perfectly normal for the victim to want to leave the place they associate with their pain, embarrassment and suffering as soon as possible. If your injuries are so severe that they require immediate hospitalization, you should call 911 and seek immediate help. In most other cases, you should stay at the scene of the accident until you make sure that an appropriate report has been made. After a car accident, police will often refuse to take down a report unless it was a hit-and-run, or a victim suffered major injuries. However, many kinds of spinal injuries and soft tissue trauma may not manifest until some time later. It never hurts to ask, so let the officer at the scene know that you would like a report to be made. Keeping things in writing will go a long way towards helping you build a stronger case.

By the same token, victims of slip and fall injuries at a store or another business location should also request that an incident report be made. Management and supervisory employees will sometimes attempt to brush things under the rug in the hopes that the injured individual will go home and forget all about it. Protect your rights by preserving the evidence. Documenting the occurrence is the first step of many.

2. Witnesses

Personal injury cases are often won and lost based on the determination of liability. The insurance company for the party at fault will attempt to shift the blame to the injured victim. It is essential that you secure the identities of the people who were present during your accident and who can confirm your version of the events.

3. Get Medical Help

There are no concrete numbers that can be placed on how much pain and suffering compensation may be awarded in any particular case, generally the amount of compensation correlates with the medical costs incurred by the injured victim. Insurance adjusters and juries alike perceive higher hospital and doctor bills to indicate a greater level of pain and suffering. Often, whiplash and spinal injuries from a rear-end collision may take days or weeks to manifest. If you have any doubt as to whether or not you suffered an actual injury to your health and body, seek medical attention immediately. Paramedics that come out to the scene of the accident will always offer to transport you to the nearby hospital for a check up. Accept their offer. If a few days go by, and you begin developing symptoms, see a doctor immediately so that your concerns can be properly documented and addressed. There is nothing worse for your case than suffering pain in silence, hoping that it will just resolve itself, or refusing to seek medical care because it is time consuming and inconvenient. If you've been involved in an accident, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to make sure you take care of your health first.

4.Document your Injuries

Bruises, abrasions, burns and discolorations heal and go away with time. No matter how vividly you can describe the pain you suffered when the glass shattered and cut your skin, or the air bag deployed and broke your nose, a picture is worth a thousand words. Photograph and preserve all pictures of the injured parts of your body. A strong case is a well-documented case.

5. Repair your Car

Property damage is an entirely separate part of your claim that gets resolved before any other claims for bodily injury, lost wages or future medical care. However, before your car is repaired or declared a total loss, you have to be sure that the damage to the vehicle was properly documented. In a motor vehicle accident, your car is one of the most important pieces of evidence. Request and preserve a copy of the repair estimate and all pictures. Your attorney will also want to inspect the vehicle to determine if an accident reconstructionist needs to get involved.

6. Consult an Attorney

Insurance companies are businesses, with their main concern being the bottom line. When you are contacted by an insurance representative a few hours or days after your injury, and they ask you to give a recorded statement, or offer you some money in exchange for a written release, you should know that they are not doing so for your benefit. Their sole job is to minimize losses for their company. So the less they pay you, the more they get to keep in their pocket, regardless of how badly you were injured or what your case is actually worth. Insurance companies also know that victims who represent themselves are not in the position to fight or bargain extensively on their own behalf simply because they lack the experience, skill and resources to do so.

Once an attorney gets involved, they will no longer be able to lowball the victim into accepting an unreasonably low settlement. Another reason why having an attorney handle your case will greatly increase the amount of your ultimate recovery is that the only leverage you have against the insurance company is the possibility of a lawsuit, meaning if they fail to pay you the amount you believe your case is worth, you have to be willing and able to file a lawsuit and fight them in court.