Car Accident Basics
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The United States is a nation of automobiles, as nearly two-thirds of Americans are licensed drivers. As a result, automobile accidents are inevitable. Though most accidents may leave minor damage to the drivers and cars involved, there are thousands of car accidents that result in severe injuries or even death.
Steps to Take After a Motor Vehicle Accident
Once you have been involved in a car accident, it can be difficult to remember all of the things you should do next. This list of steps you can take may help, relieving some of the stress.
1. Get Medical Help
One of the first things you should do after being involved in an accident is to receive medical attention. Even if you feel fine, you should go visit a doctor. Oftentimes you may not notice the full extent of your injuries right away because of the adrenaline from the accident. Some injuries do not fully manifest themselves until weeks or months after the accident.
If you do not discover these injuries by the time you speak with a car insurance claims adjuster and later try to add these additional injuries to your claim, the claims adjuster will likely push back. The claims adjuster may argue that you may be exaggerating your injuries since you did not report the injury immediately after the accident.
2. Document the Accident
Documentation is extremely important in a personal injury lawsuit or car accident insurance claim. You are arguing to a judge, jury, or claims adjuster that you deserve a certain amount of compensation because of the injuries you received and that the defendant was at fault for the accident. You need evidence for a successful claim.
For example, photographs of the accident can show that you were indeed the victim due to the negligence of the defendant driver. Many states have laws declaring that the driver of the rear vehicle is at fault for an accident. If you have photographs showing that your car was the front vehicle, you may have a better chance of recovery. If there were witnesses of the accident nearby, collect their contact information, such as their name and telephone number. They may serve to act as trial witnesses if your lawsuit progresses.
In addition to documentary evidence of the accident itself, you will want to document expenses associated with the injuries. For example, you will want to store your hospital bills and car repair bills. If you were unable to work for a period of time due to the injury, you will need a record of your paystubs.
3. Notify Your Insurance Company
In general, you must contact your insurance company if you were involved in a car accident, whether or not you caused the accident. Be sure, however, not to admit fault for the accident.
4. Contact a Lawyer
Though you do not always need a lawyer for a car accident, you may wish to consult with a lawyer to get basic advice about your case. Note that most attorneys will not ask for a fee for a consultation.
Stages of a Car Accident Claim
After a car accident, there are steps you can take to get a settlement faster. Since it can be hard to remember all of the steps, referring to this list may help.
1. Start Claims Process Through an Attorney or by Yourself
In general, the first step in a car accident claim is to file a claim with the insurance company of the defendant driver. Though you may do it yourself, you may also hire an attorney to represent you.
2. Settlement Negotiation
Once a claim has been filed with the insurance company, a claims adjuster will meet with you or your attorney to see if a settlement amount can be reached. How long this process takes depends on the severity of the car accident. Having a lawyer do the settlement negotiations may be more effective since a claims adjuster may handle the claim differently.
3. Filing a Lawsuit
If negotiations fail to result in an agreeable settlement amount, a lawsuit may be filed against the defendant driver. At this point, if you have a lawyer, he or she will start the discovery process, which is the stage of a lawsuit where the parties will take depositions of witnesses and experts and investigate the accident for facts beneficial to their case. Keep in mind that parties can still decide to settle instead of proceeding to trial at this point.
If settlement never occurs, your case will go to trial. There are two types of trials: bench and jury. In bench trials, the attorneys make their case to a judge instead of a jury. Whether or not you want to have a bench or jury trial is a matter of strategic importance. Certain regions may have juries less sympathetic towards plaintiffs. In such cases, you may wish to have a bench trial.
Do I Need an Attorney After a Car Accident?
If your car accident was a minor fender bender, you may not need an attorney. Simply filing a claim with an insurance company may be all that you need to do. However, below are some reasons why you may wish to hire an attorney for your case.
Your Injuries Are Serious
Some car accidents can leave the victim with injuries so severe that they may no longer be able work again. In such cases, you may not wish to spare money on an experienced lawyer. This is because you will need to receive compensation that may have to last you for your entire life. Hiring an experienced attorney who has been successful in personal injury lawsuits can increase your chances of getting this compensation.
The Victim Is a Family Member and Has Passed Away Due to the Accident
If the car accident resulted in death, you may wish to hire a lawyer—especially if the family member was someone you depended on financially. A lawyer may file a wrongful death claim on your behalf. A wrongful death claim is like an ordinary personal injury lawsuit but it is filed by the family members of the victim rather than the victim. Due to the number of intricacies that can be involved in a wrongful death claim, you may wish to consult an attorney if you decide on this path forward.
If You Were Partially at Fault for the Accident
Being at fault for the accident does not necessarily mean that you are barred from receiving compensation. An experienced lawyer can help maximize the compensation you may receive by showing a jury or judge that the defendant was more proportionately more at fault than you were.
Other Attorneys Are Involved
When attorneys are involved in a case representing the other parties who were involved in your accident, you may wish to have an attorney yourself.
Common Car Accident Injuries
The injuries suffered by victims of automobile accidents can vary from mild to fatal. Some of the most common ones endured by defendants and plaintiffs alike are these:
- Scrapes and Cuts
- Head Injuries
- Broken Bones
- Internal Bleeding
- Herniated Discs
Car Insurance Information
Understand that nearly every state requires automobile drivers to carry an insurance policy that covers bodily injury and property damage. For instance, if you caused an injury or the death of another driver, your car insurance policy helps cover the associated costs. Thus, if you were a victim of a car accident, you will generally look to file a claim with the defendant driver’s insurance company. If you are unable to get to a settlement, you may wish to file a lawsuit.
Compensation You May Be Entitled to
In general, plaintiffs may be entitled to compensation for their economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses are those that are tangible in monetary terms. For instance, a plaintiff may be compensated for their medical bills, damaged property, and lost wages. Note that plaintiffs can be compensated for both past and future economic losses.
Non-economic losses are those losses that are subjective and are more difficult to determine with a dollar amount. For example, pain and suffering is a common non-economic loss that plaintiffs can be compensated for. It is, of course, difficult for a jury to know how much pain and suffering a plaintiff is going through. Therefore, experts are often brought in to give an approximate value.
Statute of Limitations
Every state has a statute of limitations governing the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit for a personal injury. Usually, the period to file a personal injury lawsuit is between one to three years. If you miss this window, you will be unable to file a lawsuit no matter how solid your case seems. Of course, like most things in the law, there are exceptions. For instance, if you were a minor at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations does not apply until you turn eighteen.
CONTACT A Zinda Law Group CAR ACCIDENT LAWYER today
The experienced attorneys at Zinda Law Group may be able to help you recover compensation after a car accident. After an accident, you shouldn’t have to worry about affording legal representation, which is why we work on a contingency fee basis. You don’t owe us anything unless we win your case. It is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.