1. Secure the correct identity of the person who hit you, as well as the proper name of the owner of the vehicle if owned by someone else.
2. Get the full contact information of any independent witnesses to the accident.
3. Secure the name of the defendant's insurance company.
4. Determine whether the defendant had any other insurance available for the accident.
5. Contact defendant's insurance company. [They act like they're your friend - don't fall for it.]
6. Get pictures of the vehicles and your injuries.
7. Find out how much insurance the defendant actually carried. If he is one of those people who carried the minimum $200,000 of coverage, and your injuries are significant, see how much coverage your agent sold you that will protect you. [If your agent sold you only $200,000 of coverage, and never advised you to buy more, call her up and yell at her if you have significant injuries.]
8. Go back and get some pictures of the accident scene as well-the police who investigated the accident may have taken some, call them and see if they'll send you a set.
9. Make a decision as to whether you will voluntarily submit to a recorded statement requested by the defendant's insurance company, without your lawyer being present.
10. For kicks, ask the insurance company if you can take a recorded statement from their guy. [You'd be the first!]
11. Decide whether you will allow the defendant's insurance company to have broad, open-ended medical releases that will allow them to go fishing through your medical history for some unlimited time period.
12. Depending on your injuries, track down your own medical records for the last 10 years or so and read them before the defendant's insurance gets them and reads them.
13. Figure out which of your insurance companies (your own car insurance or your health insurance or both!) should pay your therapists so that you don't get sued for non-payment while the defendant's insurance company is deciding whether and when to compensate you for your injuries.
14. Figure out exactly how much of your therapy bills your own car insurance company might pay (since you've likely been paying them a premium for that coverage all these years).
15. If Medicare or some other government entity paid your medical bills, contact them and get the information as to who they paid and how much and, using their formula, figure out what they might be owed later by you if you get a recovery.
16. Attend the defendant's court appearance if he was charged with a traffic violation.
17. Get a transcript of the defendant's court appearance so that whatever he says might be "used against him" later.
18. Go back and review your own health insurance policy to figure out whether they will pay the therapy bills now or wait until your therapists sue you to get reimbursed out of your settlement money.
19. Review your policy and see if your disability insurance company is entitled to be repaid out of your recovery. Make sure you aren't giving your money away just because they send you a form letter!
20. While you are at it, if you are receiving workers' compensation for the injuries, figure out if THEY want to get at THAT money, too, and whether it's in your best interest to let them sue the bad guy on your behalf or whether you should do it yourself.
21. Don't over-treat...insurance companies for defendants hate overtreatment and they won't pay for it.
22. When all of your treatment is done, get a disability or prognosis report from your health care providers.
23. Track down wage and salary information from your employer and get those tax returns together from the last 3-5 years.
24. When treatment is over, make sure you have all of the medical records and bills (not those "explanation of benefit" forms the insurance company sends you) so that you can submit them with the "demand package" you are going to create.
25. Keep all receipts.
26. Research and figure out what the reasonable settlement value of your case is in the jurisdiction where the accident happened. [Maybe hire your kids to hit the internet for this information.]
27. Make an appropriate demand on the insurance company for the bad guy...one that's not so "wacky" that they just ignore you completely.
28. If the insurance company responds to your demand, and you like what they are offering, take it...but FIRST read the general release of liability that they sent you to make sure you are not waiving important rights. And make sure your insurer can't accuse you of prejudicing their rights of recovery from the bad guy's insurer and sue you for it.
**This isn't legal advice. Trying to actually handle a case on your own is something like trying to take out your own appendix, or doing a root canal. It's possible, we suppose, but that's not what MOST sane people do. Obviously we can't put three years of law school and many years of experience on one little piece of paper, so take the above for what it's worth. We offer lots of information on this website. Have a look around --but take note that there are time limits on when you can begin your claim. Each case is different, so you may want to speak with an injury lawyer about yours.