You've just been in a car accident. It was not your fault. You are getting all kinds of advice from friends and family. You brace yourself for the onslaught of telephone calls or in-person contact with insurance adjusters, law enforcement and maybe even lawyers that is sure to come. You are dealing with injuries and property damage to your car. Should you hire a lawyer? Not hire a lawyer? It's all so confusing. 

What you do and say in the days and weeks after the collision are crucial. Your contacts and interactions will affect your ability to seek medical attention for your injuries and to gain appropriate compensation. 

So what can you do in the days and weeks following the collision to protect your rights?

  1. Especially if you were injured in the collision, limit your contact with insurance adjusters. - Insurance adjusters, whether contacting you on behalf of the at-fault driver or even your own insurance company, no matter how nice they seem, are NOT your friends. His or her entire job is to limit dollar compensation payments to people with car damage and injuries from automobile collisions by making arguments about the facts of the collision and your injuries. The adjusters have extensive training in how to gain information from you that will harm any claim you need to make.
  2. Even if you do not hire a personal injury lawyer, consider consulting with a lawyer before talking with any insurance representative. - Insurance adjusters know they can do the most harm to your claims by getting you to make statements BEFORE you have a lawyer working with you. Personal injury lawyers will generally give free consultations, allowing you to ask questions and decide whether hiring a lawyer is right for you in your specific situation. Even if you do not ultimately hire a personal injury lawyer, you can gain valuable information in a consultation about understanding applicable laws, seeking appropriate chiropractic or medical treatment, and planning any later contact with insurance adjusters.
  3. If you are injured, seek health care treatment immediately or promptly after the collision. - Insurance adjusters or others may tell you that you should wait to seek medical attention after a collision and hope that your injuries simply improve with time. However, the greater the amount of time that you delay medical treatment, the more likely the insurance company will argue that your injuries must not be significant. If you experiencing injury symptoms it is best to seek health care treatment wither immediately at an emergency room or urgent care clinic or within a day or two with a chiropractic or primary care physician. Seeking prompt health care treatment will also ensure against missing any serious medical condition resulting from the collision that is not immediately or obviously apparent to you.

Terry W. Church is the founding law partner at Church Rietzke Johnson, a personal injury law firm in Olympia, Washington. He has been in practice for 28 years.