Tips to maximise recovery if involved in an accident

The Road Traffic Management Corporation’s (RTMC) figures for 2016 highlighted that, last year, 14,071 people died on roads in South Africa, and pedestrians remain the most vulnerable of all road users.

Accidents in recent times have been mainly due to human factors, such as drink driving, jaywalking, speeding, irresponsible overtaking, and driver fatigue. According to an article published on Lowveld, “recent statistics show that the top three causes of accidents on South African roads are distracted drivers, speed, and driving while under the influence of alcohol. They further indicate that these driving crimes increase during peak traffic periods, such as Easter and the festive holidays.”

The AA said: “These figures are alarming, and should worry every motorist in the country. These numbers seem to indicate that awareness campaigns and education initiatives are not working well enough, driver attitudes are getting worse, and that law enforcement is not making the impact it should.”

Given these findings, it is clearly a sad but common occurrence to be involved in a road accident in South Africa. Hence, it’s important to be prepared if this unfortunate eventuality arises. This starts with taking action before an accident even occurs by making sure you buy good car insurance that will cover potential costs.

The steps you take before and immediately after an accident — especially if you are an innocent victim — can help you to maximise your recovery and receive what you deserve to cover your medical bills, repair costs, and any other expenses.

Here are some tips that will help you on the path to recovery.

1.Document everything from the start

It is important for errant drivers to realise that they are not above the law, and to be held accountable for any wayward actions that resulted in the accident and any injuries. Unfortunately, in South Africa, there is often a perception that it isn’t a serious crime to commit a traffic offense, and people are especially lackadaisical due to a widespread belief that any traffic crimes won’t be effectively dealt with in court.

It is, therefore, vital that you report any accident immediately and, if possible, start documenting the accident and any injuries straight away. Delaying or failing to report an accident will result in there being less evidence, making it harder to gain the full compensation that could aid your recovery.

Try to take photos of the accident scene, your vehicles, and your injuries; and keep copies of the police report of the accident, as well as any medical records, reports or invoices related to your injuries.

Any tangible evidence of the accident, such as damaged clothing, vehicles or personal effects will help. There really is no such thing as too much documentation, so gather every possible piece of evidence in an organised fashion, and write everything down accurately to save you further stress later down the line.

2. Call a personal injury attorney

If you’ve suffered in an accident that isn’t your fault, call Henry Shields Attorneys immediately for a free consultation to verify whether you have a case. If you do, an expert member of our team will be able to use all the information you have gathered to seek the best possible outcome for you. Pursuing fair compensation from the moment the accident occurs is important to ensure you are given all the medical support and any other aid you may need.

After your obligation-free assessment, we will be able to explain to you what is required to maximise your recovery and the compensation you deserve. You may assume car insurance is your best option for pursuing benefits, but one of our attorneys can review whether a civil claim or another option may be better for your situation.

It is then important that you keep us updated on your treatment and the progress of your recovery. Be sure to keep us updated with any changes in your health, any new medical providers that you are seeing in regards to your injuries, and anything else that you think could affect your case.

Do be sure to act with haste, as there are deadlines and statutes that limit legal claims. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to seek fair compensation.

3. Visit a medical care provider

Given the adrenalin coursing through your body after an accident, it’s easy to assume you have escaped injury if you initially feel fine. However, don’t make any assumptions until you’ve been assessed by a qualified medical professional, as you may not be able to diagnose certain injuries, such as internal bleeding or a concussion. It’s also important not to underestimate potential psychological effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

After a car accident, it’s best to go straight to an A&E for a full medical check-up, so you can be aware of any possible injuries early on, and begin any necessary treatment that will help to maximise your recovery. Seeking medical help straight away will also help to establish a clear cause-and-effect between the car accident and your injuries, which could bolster your case.

If a doctor declares that you’re not injured, keep an eye out for any new symptoms, and get a second opinion at the first sign of anything out of the ordinary.

As soon as you have been examined, communicate your health status to your personal injury attorney at Henry Shields. Your medical records will be one of the most important parts of your accident injury claim, so it is vital to inform medical care providers about all areas of pain or discomfort.

4. Follow advice

It’s important to seek treatment for all possible injuries, as ignoring symptoms can result in complications or injuries becoming even more serious.
Be sure to follow all courses of treatment to their fullest, and never skip doctors’ appointments or fail to do home exercise programmes, as this could affect your physical recovery, as well as reduce the chances of you receiving full compensation, as it may appear that your injuries are not as serious as your claim suggests.
Where possible, choose physical therapy, surgery or chiropractic solutions from a qualified practitioner, rather than medication alone, as this will increase the chances of more complete healing.

5. Try to rest and be patient

If you’ve suffered a serious injury, you may need to take some time off work. Before you do so, it’s important to speak to your attorney at Henry Shields, so as to be sure that any decision you make doesn’t impact your ability to recover damages for your injuries.

If you can’t work for some time, you may even be eligible for compensation to pay your bills, so as to avoid financial stress. A serious injury could prevent you from working for the rest of your life, and can cost you hundreds of thousands of Rand in lost income and medical care. Even a small injury, such as a broken foot, can end up costing a lot if it prevents you from working and means you have medical bills to pay.

Insurance companies and liable parties may be keen to make an initial offer, but if you can wait to build your case, and are aware of all the risks or benefits involved, you may be able to get a fairer settlement. The decision to settle lies with you and depends on various factors, such as whether you believe the amount to be fair, or whether you have the time and financial resources to wait for an amount you believe adequately compensates you.

An expert at Henry Shields can advise you on the best course of action for your case. The important thing is to communicate honestly with your attorney about your situation, so you can work out a way to pursue the most appropriate compensation.