Whether it be a motor vehicle accident, or a slip and fall accident on a city sidewalk or private property, being injured in one of these incidents can cause significant stress, confusion, and leave you with a lot of questions. Who should I call? What should I do? Can I be compensated? These are some of the common questions that victims have when injured in an accident.
In an effort to provide guidance and to alleviate some of this stress and confusion, the following list has been created of some of the recommended steps that should be taken if you are injured in an accident, in order to preserve and protect a potential legal and/or insurance claim.
1) Take Photographs
Taking photographs immediately after the accident occurs can provide helpful evidence in demonstrating how the accident occurred, what was the cause. This is particularly the case, especially in absence of any witnesses.
Examples of when photographs are helpful:
In a motor vehicle accident where more than one vehicle is involved, there are often competing versions of how the accident occurred. Detailed pictures of the vehicles, accident scene, etc. can provide accident reconstruction experts or the police with the appropriate tools to piece together the cause of the accident.
In a slip and fall accident, a temporary hazard may be the cause of your fall (ex. ice or snow), or the hazard could be something that is repaired following the accident (ex. pothole on a crosswalk). Photographs of this hazard immediately after the fall occurs, may be the only evidence proving that such a hazard existed.
2) Identify Witnesses
Similar to photographs, having the evidence of any witnesses who observed your accident occur can be considerably helpful.
Were there passengers in the vehicles involved in a motor vehicle accident? Were there other vehicles nearby when the motor vehicle accident occurred? Were there any bystanders who witnessed your fall? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it is important to obtain key information from these witnesses including their name, phone number, email and address.
3) Call the Police
In a motor vehicle accident, if damage to the vehicles involved exceed $1,000, or someone has been injured in the accident, then there is an obligation to report the accident to the police.
When the police arrive to the scene, they will conduct an investigation, talk to any witnesses, and attempt to make a determination of how the accident occurred. If the police determine that the accident occurred due to the fault of another driver, they could charge that driver with an infraction pursuant to the Highway Traffic Act.
The accumulation of evidence obtained from an investigation, as well as any charges laid by the Police can be particularly helpful in establishing liability on another party in any subsequent legal action you make take as a result of the injuries suffered.
4) Document Everything
How did your accident occur? Was it your fault? Were other people involved? Where did the accident occur? Did you trip over something? Were police called? What conclusions did they make?
The answers to these questions are all very important details in establishing either a legal or insurance claim as a result of an accident. Take notes of any and all circumstances related to your accident. These notes will be the most accurate reflection of exactly how and why your accident occurred, given the proximity in time following the accident that they were taken.
As time passes, your memory may fade and it can be difficult to have an accurate recollection of the accident and any related details. Taking notes and keeping detailed documentation, can be instrumental in creating a written record of the occurrence of your accident.
5) Inform Your Family Doctor of the Accident
Your family doctor can be one of the biggest advocates in support of making a legal or insurance claim as a result of suffering injuries in an accident. It is important to make your family doctor aware of the accident, and the injuries that you have suffered for a number of reasons:
- Their clinical notes and records can be used to corroborate the injuries that you claim to have suffered as a result of the accident.
- They can refer you to specialists in order to conduct further investigations into the full nature of your injuries, and they can refer you to rehabilitative treatment providers (ex. physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, etc.).
Additionally, it is very critical that your family physician is informed of the full extent of the injuries you have suffered. The medical records that would be obtained in either a legal action or an insurance claim are key pieces of evidence. If you fail to disclose some of your injuries and/or symptoms that were directly caused by an accident, there will not be a written record of these injuries/symptoms, and it could be difficult to be adequately compensated for these injuries.
6) Report the Accident
In a motor vehicle accident, you have an obligation to report the accident to your insurance company within 7 days.
In a slip and fall accident, reporting the incident to the entity or person responsible for the area in which you suffered your fall can also be an important step. If it is City property, by law, this accident needs to be reported within 10 days or you will not be eligible for a lawsuit.
Reporting a slip and fall accident to the owner and/or occupier of a property can also be important as they may conduct an investigation which creates a written record of the accident. Additionally, these parties can also inform you of any other person or entity that may be responsible for maintaining the area such as a property manager or third party maintenance company. This is all information that is crucial to beginning a legal action against the appropriate parties.
7) Keep Receipts
Following an accident where an injury occurs, you may incur out-of-pocket expenses. This can include payments for physiotherapy, taxi rides to the hospital, the cost of over the counter pain medication at the drug store, etc.
These are out of pocket expenses that can you could potentially be compensated for. Without proof of these expenses in the form of a receipt, it can be difficult to substantiate these expenses and you may not be compensated accordingly.
8) Follow the Advice of all Treating Medical Practitioners
If you are injured in an accident, your number one priority should be to take all necessary and reasonable steps to return to your pre-accident health. Not only should you seek immediate medical attention following an accident either at the hospital or from your family physician, but you should continue to follow up with them as required, and follow all of their treatment advice.
In a lawsuit or an insurance claim made as a result of being injured, you may be eligible to be compensated for the costs of any future treatments that may be required. However, it will be difficult to be successful for such a claim if you do not follow the advice of your treating medical practitioners and participate in any recommended rehabilitation treatment. This could be seen as evidence that you do not require such treatments.
9) Contact a Lawyer
The majority of personal injury law firms who can assist you if you are injured in an accident work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not owe them a dime until they are successful in your case; whether it be through a settlement or a decision at trial or administrative tribunal.
Additionally, given the contingency fee retainer, these law firms also typically offer free initial consultations. Even if you do not want to hire a lawyer or pursue legal action, you can contact one of these personal injury firms for a free consultation to obtain information and advice about your rights and possible avenues of recourse.
Outside of a lawsuit, there are typically other means to which you can be compensated for your injuries. For example, regardless of fault, anyone (with some exceptions) who is injured in a motor vehicle accident is entitled to accident benefits through their own auto insurance company. Through these benefits you could have access to coverage for any treatment costs or time missed from work.
A simple call can provide you with advice and information to allow you to take the appropriate next steps.
10) Be Mindful of Limitation Periods
Under the Limitations Act, there is a strict, 2-year limitation to starting a lawsuit for result injuries sustained in an accident. There are a few narrow exceptions to the 2-year limitation, but outside of these narrow exceptions, the 2-year limitation period is strict and once lapsed, you can no longer bring a lawsuit in relation to that accident. It is therefore important to contact a lawyer within 2 years of being injured if you would like to explore the possibility of a lawsuit.