Nancy: In a country with millions of miles of roads and approximately 253 million cars, car accidents are an unfortunate fact of life. In the United States alone over 37,000 people die in road crashes every year and nearly 2.5 million Americans are injured or disabled in car accidents annually. The effects of road crashes are often long-term and far reaching.

David Daggett is here today to talk to us about what to do after your car accident, steps to take, people to talk to, mistakes to avoid. Welcome, David, it’s good to have you here.

David: Thank you, Nancy. Thanks for having me on today.

Nancy: It’s great to have you here. David, there are some very significant risks in driving a motor vehicle. Talk about that from your perspective as a personal injury lawyer.

David: Well, we hear about crashes every day and they’re in the news but that’s always somebody else far away not us. The statistics you quoted at the beginning are actually pretty stark but to put that in a little bit more perspective 9/11 was one of America’s greatest tragedies. Each month in the United States we have just about that many people die in motor vehicle crashes.

Nancy: That die not just are injured, wow.

David: That die. Plus the several million who are injured. So, driving a car is a very, very dangerous activity and we need to take that responsibility seriously and we need to be prepared if an unfortunate event occurs.

Nancy: Yeah, we do. What are some of the most important steps then that car accident victims can take like the weeks and months following the accident?

David: Well, the most important thing is to get medical treatment to make sure that you’re personally taken care of, any family or friends who were in the car are taken care of, taken care of physically. Obviously your car has to be taken care of. If it’s just damaged then it needs to be repaired and if it’s totaled it needs to be replaced. Those sort of things are kind of the practical aspects but there’s also the business aspects of taking care of your claim.

You have medical expenses, lost wages, sometimes future medical expenses, ongoing physical problems, all sorts of miscellaneous expenses that’s the business part of taking care of your claim. Now that can get pretty complicated and pretty complex. So you have to start documenting those things and obviously most people aren’t used to doing it and so they may need some help.

Nancy: And not only are they not used to doing that documentation but you just mentioned so many things that they need to document.

David: There are. There are a lot of things that you need to document and you need to have everything in order. And remember, there’s going to be an insurance company on the other side and their business is to know how to handle this and to pay out as little money as possible. What you want and nobody hits the jackpot in these things. I mean if you hit the rewind button everybody would go back. So nobody hits the jackpot. So what you want is you just want to be treated fairly for the losses that you’ve incurred due to the fault of somebody else.

Nancy: And sometimes like immediately afterwards you’re just so overwhelmed by being in the accident you think, oh I’m okay. But do you ever find that people don’t immediately go and get themselves checked out medically and find that they maybe should have or…

David: Sure. It’s kind of like, you know, we have some holidays coming up and you get together and play a game of touch football in the backyard. And an old guy like me I still want to get out there and do it but I haven’t done it in a while I’m sore the next day. Well the same thing happens from an automobile accident. You get a shot of adrenaline right afterwards. You say, I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay. But the day after, you know, reality kind of sets in and there could be some injuries there that, you know, you really need to get taken care of. Your health is number one. As we age one of the things we know the most important possession we have is our health so that’s number one take care of your health.

Nancy: And we don’t recover quite as quickly as we did 10 years ago or 15 years ago. So, some injuries physical or mental may not be immediately evident but, you know, what if, you mentioned there are other injured people in the car so how do you handle that? I mean does the insurance company pay attention to them or what suggestion do you have?

David: Well, the insurance company doesn’t, you know, “pay attention” to them but the insurance company wants to handle them, close the claim, and get it over with. So if you have other people in your car now if they’re minor children we’re responsible for them meaning parents or guardians or what have you and we need to make sure that they get appropriate treatment and are taken care of also. But as those claims progress that’s when it gets more complicated and, you know, each person is going to have an individual claim that’s individual sets of documentation it gets pretty burdensome. That’s where lawyers come in.

The good news is most lawyers that handle this type of claim will give a free consultation and we frequently give guidance and advice and direction for people who may not need a lawyer but if it crosses that line where they do then you know somebody who can get involved and help you.

Nancy: So it sounds like there’s a lot of things involved and you would probably suggest not to depend on the insurance companies to guide you in that. There may be someone else that needs to help you with these things.

David: Absolutely. Absolutely. The insurance company is not looking after you they’re looking out for themselves. So you need somebody who’s looking out for you and on your side.

Nancy: That’s important. That’s about all we have time for today. But before we go what final thoughts do you want to leave us with?

David: Well, what we want to do is make sure that injured people know what their rights are so they know where to go and who to talk to should they need help.

Nancy: Well thank you so much for being with us today. If you know someone who was injured in a car accident, you can call David’s office at (336) 724-1234 to discuss your case. Until next time, this is Nancy Hollett for North Carolina Law TV.