Virtually any civil lawsuit has one thing in common: damages. Damages include the injuries, financial harm, or damage to property for which one is entitled to recover money from the other party. Personal injury claims related with helping drivers and passengers receive compensation for injuries they suffer in auto accidents are no exception. However, several factors can affect the amount of compensation received and the time it takes to receive it.

For example, for accident-related claims, your primary damages will probably include the physical damage to your vehicle, medical expenses (both immediately after the accident and into the future if your injuries are severe enough), lost wages, and possibly other damages like loss of consortium. However, even among these damages, the definiteness and amount recovered will depend on how well you can prove your case. For example:

1. Did you obtain a copy of the police report? Obtaining a copy of the police report is important after a car accident. The report contains important details about the accident, including the names and contact information of all parties involved, the conditions of the road, and any citations issued. The report can also provide valuable information for insurance claims and potential legal proceedings. It’s a good idea to obtain a copy of the report as soon as possible after the accident, typically from the police department that responded to the accident scene.

2. Did you immediately seek medical attention? Visit the emergency room or your physician as soon as possible after an accident. In some jurisdictions, failing to do so may actually bar claims for injuries that do not manifest until later. So if there is any doubt at all, seek immediate medical attention.

3. Did you have pre-existing injuries? If you had existing injuries or health conditions prior to the accident, ask your physician to take new x-rays or ultrasounds of those injured areas. Comparisons in the pre-accident scans and the post-accident scans can help to show that the accident did in fact cause additional damage to the area. Of course, if your injury was entirely pre-existing and not aggravated by the more recent accident, then there will probably not be a claim for that injury.

4. Was anybody charged with criminal misconduct like DUI/DWI? If so, many states may impose liability on the criminal driver, regardless of actual fault.

5. Did you speak to anyone at the scene? Statements you make to other drivers or passengers after the accident can be used against you if you say things like “this was totally my fault,” or “I can’t believe I did something so stupid.” But, by the same token, if the other driver says something, you may want to take note of this and even see if others on the scene heard the statement. Keep in mind that although your emotions might be intense following a car accident, you should avoid making promises or blame yourself, but that does not mean you should not take advantage if the other driver does make that mistake.

6. Were there witnesses? If so, you will want there assistance in proving your case or, if they tend to harm your case, you will want to know about what they will say so you can counter it.

7. Did you take photos of the accident scene? A picture is worth a thousand words, and can be worth a lot more than that in a car accident lawsuit.

8. Did you keep records of ongoing damages after the accident? For example, records and documents that validate the number of days and wages you lost due to the accident, interference with personal interests and activities, visits to medical and psychiatric professionals, etc. will all help to show the consequential damages resulting from your car accident.

9. What are the limits written into each driver’s car insurance policy? Insurance limits will often create an actual limit to your ability to recover. Few people have enough other assets to make it worth seeking a personal judgment, so you will normally attempt to recover from the other driver’s insurance carrier. If the limits of the insurance policy are less than the damages you sustained, you may be capped in your recovery, though there are often ways to work around this.

More often than not, it is best to hire a personal injury lawyer if you have been in a car accident. These lawyers have experience dealing with auto insurance companies and auto claims adjusters and can help you properly file your claim as well as increase the amount of money to which you might be entitled. A good personal injury attorney will also be able to refer you to doctors, and give you other advice on how best to handle your claim and coping with your damages and injuries. Best of all, most personal injury attorneys will handle these cases on a contingency basis, meaning they will not charge you directly, but instead get a portion of any settlement or judgment they are able to obtain on your behalf.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case.