Screeching brakes, the sound of metal scraping metal and the jar of an impact is more than enough to put your nerves on edge. No one wants to be in an accident, they are scary, confusing and stressful. With over 253 million cars on the road and approximately 6.1 million reported car accidents every year, chances are better than not, you will get into at least one vehicle accident in your lifetime. It is important to know what to do if you are in a wreck, whether it be minor or major.
It is just as important to know what NOT to do after a car wreck.
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The spinal cord is a dense cable of nerves inside your spine that relays messages from your body to your brain. A car accident can cause these nerves to be compressed or hurt.
When the spinal cord is hurt, your brain and nerves may have a hard time communicating with each other. This can cause mild numbness and tingling in parts of your body or impaired movement and feeling. At worst, the afflicted part of the body may be totally numb or paralyzed permanently.
If a person is hurt severely enough on the lower part of the spinal cord, they may become paraplegic. When this happens they will lose some or all of the movement of their legs. An injury higher up on the spinal cord will affect the upper extremities like the arms and neck. Severe spinal cord injuries of this type can cause quadriplegia. This is when a person has paralysis from the chest or neck down.
Your spine consists of bones called vertebrae. In between the vertebra are soft disks composed of connective tissue. These disks hold your spine together and act like shock absorbers. The disks gradually wear out as you age, or can become damaged by injury.
Herniated disks happen when a disk bulges out of shape and puts pressure on spinal nerves. A herniated disk can also leak and aggravate nerves. Either can cause neck or back pain, numbness, weakness, tingling, and even paralysis.
Disc injuries are the most common reason for sciatica. Sciatica happens from pressure on the sciatic nerve. This can cause jolts of pain or burning down the back and one leg. The worst cases can cause weakness and numbness of the muscles. Sciatica is a crippling disorder.
Compression fractures can also occur in car accidents. They are more common in older adults with osteoporosis, but a harsh impact can cause them in younger people.
Compression fractures happen when a vertebra is so thoroughly cracked that it begins to collapse on itself. They can cause excruciating back pain and shortening of the spine.
Whiplash occurs when the neck is forcibly and violently bent backward and then forward (or vice versa). This causes injury to the soft tissues of the neck. These are the joints and ligaments that link your vertebrae together and allow you to flex your neck in a wide range of directions. Whiplash most commonly occurs when there is a very sudden acceleration or deceleration, such as in a car accident. Although, it is important to note that some degree of this injury occurs with head injuries.
Whiplash can encompass a wide array of specific neck injuries. Usually there is a minor sprain to ligaments of the neck. Sometimes there is also a partial dislocation of a joint. The classic symptom of whiplash is that the stiffness and pain in the neck are much more noticeable 24 hours after the injury has occurred, and may continue to worsen over a period of several days.
The harsh forces of car accidents can also cause injury to soft tissues of the body. Even low speed accidents can quite often lead to tissue damage in the neck and back.
Tiny tears in muscles, nerves, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage can occur in minor accidents but not be apparent until days afterward. The types of symptoms vary, but pain, swelling, tingling, and bruising are most common.
Soft tissue injuries may heal completely after several weeks or months depending on the severity of the injury. Sometimes they can linger into lasting discomfort and difficulty in performing day to day tasks.
Trauma to the brain can lead to bleeding within and around brain tissues. Symptoms can include headache, sleepiness, paralysis on one side of the body, and confusion.
Depending on the type and severity of hemorrhage, symptoms can develop in a matter of hours after a car accident or over the course of several months.
A concussion is a period of brief unconsciousness that occurs for a few seconds after a blow to the head or neck. Symptoms can include: vomiting, blurry vision, dizziness, and inability to recall the timeframe of the injury.
Anyone who has had a loss of consciousness due to a head injury (even briefly) should see a doctor for medical evaluation.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when there is an external force that damages the brain. During a car accident, this can include projectiles, sudden de/acceleration, and impacts. Unlike nerves in other parts of the body, nerves of the brain do not regenerate and will die if they are severely damaged.
Most cases of TBI are mild and only cause a few days of impairment with no disability. More severe cases can lead to a spectrum of disabilities, including disturbances of movement, speech, or sensation, seizures, or mental handicaps. In car accidents, TBI risk are reduced by wearing a seatbelt and having airbags in the vehicle.
If the accident is in the limits of a city or town, your police report will be with that local police department. If your car accident was outside of any city limits, then the sheriff’s office handles your police report. You must provide a valid ID.
By Louisiana law, this police report will contain the name and address of the owner and the driver of the vehicle, the vehicle’s license number, the name of the insurance agency of the vehicle, and the name, address, and telephone number of the insurance agent responsible for that insurance policy.
The report is generally available within seven to ten working days, and you must go to the appropriate local office and request a copy. You must pay a small fee for the report, generally not more than $8 for a basic printed report.
Depending on the nature of the accident, there may also be photographs or additional types of documentation. You can request copies of these additional items for a fee.
Depending on the local office, some police departments have the option to pay for and access reports online.
If, for some reason, a police officer did not come to the scene of your accident, then you will have to go in person to the proper police office and file one in person. Again, some offices allow you to file police reports online.
(1) Immediately, by the quickest means of communication, give notice of the accident to the local police department if the accident occurs within an incorporated city or town or, if the accident occurs outside of an incorporated city or town, to the nearest sheriff’s office or state police station.
(2) Give his name, address, and the registration number of the vehicle he was driving and, upon request and if available, exhibit his license or permit to drive to any person who has injuries in such accident or to the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle or other property damage in the accident.
(3) Give such information and, upon request, exhibit such license or permit to any police officer at the scene of the accident or who is investigating the accident.
(4) If the accident occurs in a geographical area under order of evacuation by a competent authority or is under a declared state of emergency, comply with the provisions of Paragraphs (1) and (2) herein within seventy-two hours after the occurrence of the accident.
Louisiana is an at fault state. Meaning the driver that is deemed at fault, or negligent, will be held liable for the resulting injuries and property damage. Negligence is when a person fails to exercise reasonable caution, resulting in damage or injury to another.
Fault is proven with evidence gathered after the accident.
The police report is the written observations of the officer that studied the accident. It is the ‘official’ unbiased version of what occurred. The officer will get statements from both drivers and other witnesses. The report will also indicate if any drivers had citations. Traffic violations and citations do not prove who is at fault for the accident, but they do serve as evidence of a driver’s negligence.
An insurance adjuster will investigate the accident from both driver’s insurance companies. The adjuster speaks to witnesses, studies the medical reports, examines the vehicle damage, studies the police accident report and verifies the insurance coverage of both parties.
The insurance adjuster ultimately determines who is at fault in an auto accident. In some cases, both drivers are accountable and a percentage of fault given to each, this is known as pure comparative fault. If the driver with injuries is assigned a percentage of fault for his own injuries, his damages get a reduction.
In some instances it will be easier to determine fault. Vehicles making left turns are almost always liable when hitting a car coming straight from the other direction.
The same holds true for rear-end collisions, blame is generally put on the driver that struck the car from behind. There are circumstances that are exceptions to these rules, but more often than not, these are the easiest cases to assign blame or the greatest percentage of blame.
If you have injuries due to a negligent driver an experienced car accident attorney may be able to help you collect damages from their insurance company to cover your property damage and medical expenses.