So, you are on I-495 driving home from work and suddenly the traffic erupts in vehicles flying every which way. You do your best to stay out of the fray but the chain reaction sweeps you in and while you are slowing down to avoid hitting vehicles in front of you, ka-boom someone hits you from behind.
You come to a rest and predictably other vehicles behind you strike each other bringing them into contact with you again. The next day you are focused on getting your car fixed or replaced and you realize that now that the post-crash adrenaline has faded, you hurt, all over but most particularly in your neck and low back.
The insurance companies, including your own, treat the responsibility for the crash like a hot potato and rather than pay your sizable deductible and put up your rental car deposit, you elect to wait until the dust settles and everyone surely sees you weren't in any way at fault.
The absence of transportation makes it impossible to get in and see a doctor and of course driving to work is out.
It seems everyone is waiting for the police report to state who was at fault so that person's insurance company can pay for all the damage. It finally comes out and while it seems partially correct at least as far as your part of it is concerned, no citations or tickets are issued
The insurance companies take varying approaches after the police report, with some taking responsibility and others interpreting the report as vindication for their insured drivers.
Fortunately, they reach out to you and fix you up with a rental car, while they assess your property damage. By this time your back hurts like the dickens and you have been out of work for a week and a half. You contact your family doctor who can see you in a couple of days and you tell your boss you hope to be back into work next week.
Then you hear from the adjuster for the at-fault driver your car because of its age is declared a total loss and they want you to sign your title over so they can drop an electronic payment in your bank account and discontinue your rental asap.
Your family doctor says you need to see a specialist because your accident-related injuries are to the same part of your back you hurt five years ago sledding and they may need an MRI to evaluate the extent of your injury. The orthopedic surgeon he suggests can see you in two weeks.
Because you lose your rental in three days you have to go out and test replacement vehicles while in pain and the amount for the total loss doesn't go as far as you hope. You go to work on Monday in pain in your crummy replacement car and hear from your boss that you need a note from your doctor saying you were disabled from your job or you won't get paid sick leave and have to use up your vacation leave.
Your family doctor is happy to write a note but he didn't see you until 10 days after the crash so he can't cover the time period before he saw you. You figure okay I'll contact the at-fault driver's insurance company and they can make up the difference in lost pay.
The insurance adjuster says sure but we will need you to sign a release of all claims and they offer to add another two thousand dollars in for medical care and pain and suffering. You counter that you still have bad symptoms and two thousand dollars isn't enough but of course you don't know how far you can push it and you need the money to keep the family bills paid.
The adjuster replies that he knows you hurt your back before and that you would need a doctor's note saying you needed to be off work and also payroll support for your missed work time.
You weren't born yesterday, so you aren't signing away your rights to fair compensation. Time to call a lawyer!
The lawyers you speak to are pretty busy and can't see you right away especially since you want to see them after you get off work at 5PM. By the time you see an attorney it is three weeks affter the accident and you have just seen the orthopedist who says you do need an MRI and a return visit and how will you be paying for this?
The lawyer tells you what you should have done ( thanks a lot) and you have learned lesson # One: Don't Delay!
1). Don't delay getting a lawyer who knows what they are doing, don't delay getting appropriate medical care and don't delay assembling the information that supports all aspects of your case including lost time from work.
2). Be aware that liability insurance companies will do pretty much anything to avoid paying you and follow the advice of your attorney completely so your claim is unassailable.
3). Be aware that your prior injury and medical treatment history is available to at-fault insurance companies and that they will use it to suggest that your present crash-related back problems are the result of something that happened years ago and hasn't required any recent treatment. Make sure to explain to your treating doctor your past history and to distinguish it from the present injuries.
4). Be aware that even with the best legal representation your lawyer has no control over how stingy the insurance company will be with its offers. With many of the largest insurers low-ball offers are the norm.
5). Be patient. Even the clearest and best prepared case will often require a lawsuit to generate a fair offer and the mere filing of such a suit doesn't apply the same pressure as an imminent trial date. Calling your lawyer constantly doesn't help. You are entitled to know the schedule and strategy being pursued by your lawyer but nervous clients who call their lawyers constantly often alienate their lawyers.
A capable lawyer will have strategies for your case including ensuring you get necessary medical care and diagnostic testing such as MRIs but your follow through on doctor's orders is an important element of a sucessful strategy.