Know your legal rights in personal injury cases

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2012

(ARA) – You’re a passenger in a friend’s car when it’s struck by a truck running a red light. Your child is bitten by the neighbor’s dog and requires a trip to the emergency room. You’re skiing at a well-known mountain resort when a snowboarder who was drinking hits you from behind and knocks you unconscious. You eat a hamburger at a local restaurant and later become seriously ill, the result of an E. coli bacterial infection.

Americans of all walks of life experience personal injuries every day – many of them through no fault of their own. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. While most can recover from these injuries, the road to recovery is long for others. Some may never again be able to lead normal, healthy lives.

What should you do if you’ve been involved in an accident that left you with injuries? According to, the nation’s leading source of free online legal information, people who have been injured should act quickly to ensure that their rights are protected and they receive fair compensation to pay for medical treatment and lost wages.

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Here are some tips from to keep in mind if you’re involved in an accident:

Seek medical help immediately. It’s important to seek medical help as soon as possible to recover from your injuries – and to establish they were caused by the accident and not by a previous incident. Medical bills and receipts will be crucial in demonstrating the extent and nature of your injuries.

Call the police. Sometimes it’s critical to call legal authorities into a situation to not only provide immediate help, but also to establish a legal record of an accident or incident. For example, the neighbor’s dog gets off its leash and attacks your child, resulting in a trip to the emergency room where your child receives stitches. Filing a police report may be the right thing to do to protect your rights and prevent the dog from attacking another child in the future.

File an accident report. If you’re involved in a workplace accident – either you were injured or were a witness to an accident – file a report with the person responsible for a safe working environment. Following this procedure will be critical to creating a safer work environment, and to recovering compensation for injuries and lost wages.

Document the accident. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident, it’s vital that you document what happened. The longer you wait, the greater the possibility that memories fade and physical evidence disappears. This involves writing down what you remember about the accident, identifying all possible witnesses and obtaining detailed observations from them about what happened, and preserving evidence that may be essential to proving your claim (including photos and video). The more information you have to lend credibility to your claims, the greater the chance you will be believed and recover compensation for the damages you suffered.

Find the instructions. Every year, thousands of Americans suffer personal injuries when using a product. If it happens to you, be sure to keep the item exactly as it was when the injury took place. You also should store any instructions, labels, warnings or packaging that came with the product in a safe place.

Contact a personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney can help determine if your case is strong enough to file a claim. In addition, a personal injury attorney can help evaluate any offers you may receive from the insurance company representing the person or company that may have injured you. To find a personal injury attorney in your area, consider using the attorney locator at

Keep track of the time. Every state has laws regarding time limits under which you can file a personal injury lawsuit. This is called the “statute of limitations.” In some states, you may have only a year to file a lawsuit involving an auto accident. If you miss the deadline, your claims may be dismissed. That’s why it’s important to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident.

Recognize that you may be at fault. There’s always a chance that you may be partially at fault in an accident. For example, if you were hit by a car while bicycling, you may be at fault if you did not follow the road regulations for cyclists in your state at the time of the accident. This could affect any compensation you may receive for your injuries. If it’s determined you were 50 percent at fault, for instance, your compensation may be reduced by that amount.

To learn more about your legal rights if you’ve been personally injured, visit