The first thing to do is to take care of yourself. If you are injured in a car accident and your injury is serious, an ambulance will take you to the nearest hospital. If not seriously injured, you should still see a medical professional soon after the accident to get checked out if you are not feeling 100%.
You should contact an attorney as soon after an accident as you feel up to it. Probably the most important thing an attorney can do for you just after an accident is to act as a buffer between you and the other person’s insurance company. You should not give a statement to another person’s insurance company until you have cleared it with your lawyer. The easiest thing to say when contacted – and you will likely be contacted very soon after an accident – is, “I have an attorney, please contact him/her.”
The second thing a lawyer can do for you immediately following an accident is to investigate the accident. A serious accident may require the hiring of an expert in accident reconstruction, and this should be done immediately so that skid marks may be measured, etc.
Additionally, an Oregon lawyer will assist you in getting your own insurance company to begin paying your bills and lost wages. In Oregon, every car policy contains Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”). PIP is no-fault insurance that pays for your medical treatment for up to one year or $15,000 – whichever comes first. If you were not at fault, the other driver’s insurance company will later reimburse your insurance company. But PIP allows your bills to be paid right away, regardless of fault. PIP will also pay for 70% of your lost wages if you miss 14 days or more of work. (Later, when settling your claim, you can always get the at-fault driver’s insurance to pay for the remaining 30% – or for wages lost when the days are under the 14-day PIP limit.)
Regarding treatment for your injuries, I do not think it matters much what type of doctor you go to. I have seen clients properly compensated for their injuries who have treated with MDs, DOs, chiropractors, naturopaths or acupuncturists. However, I feel it’s best to have an MD or DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) as the referring doctor. You do not want to appear to be directing your own treatment and deciding on your own who to see and for how long. Go to your primary physician and let him or her direct your treatment. You can express your desires of course, but juries do not like to see an injured person making medical decisions concerning the type or duration of treatment. You can generally accomplish what you want through a referral from a primary physician and it creates a much better paper trail rather than simply going where and when you like without a referral.
While you are treating the main thing your attorney will do for you is to see that your PIP carrier is paying your bills. When you are finished treating, the attorney will gather your medical records, bills and lost wages documentation. Then the lawyer will discuss with you the potential value of your claim and make demand upon the responsible party’s insurance company. If the claim can then be settled to your satisfaction – good. If not, the next step is to file a lawsuit to seek the proper amount of compensation for you.