A car accident may involve significant injuries and, in many cases, immense financial losses. You may find yourself contending with considerable overall difficulties as you figure out how to rework your life around the limitations of significant injuries. Even minor injuries can lead to substantial medical bills, including long-term care needs as you learn to navigate life with new limitations.
If another driver’s negligence caused your behavior, you may seek compensation for your injuries. However, getting paid after a car accident can prove more difficult than you think. Contact a car accident attorney to get the legal help you need.
Insurance Claims After a Car Accident: Who Pays?
Following a car accident, you may have several options for recovering compensation, depending on who caused the accident.
The Liable Driver’s Insurance Policy
In most car accident claims, the victim of the accident, or the driver who did not commit an error or act of negligence that led to the accident, will pursue compensation through the insurance policy held by the liable driver.
The liable driver’s insurance policy will usually issue compensation based on:
- The damage to your vehicle
- The medical treatment you needed, minus the amount of any PIP coverage
- Lost wages and pain and suffering related to the accident
A claim against the liable driver’s insurance policy can be more complicated than you expect. After even minor injuries, have a lawyer look over the insurance policy to help give you a better idea of your rights and your next steps.
An Outside Entity’s Insurance Policy
Some car accidents may involve a more complex investigation due to multi-party liability. While the driver of a vehicle bears primary liability for any decisions made in that vehicle, including driving while intoxicated, speeding, or ignoring the rules of the road, outside factors can contribute substantially to the risk of an accident. When those factors contribute to your car accident, you may have the right to pursue compensation from the party that caused those injuries.
That may include:
- The vehicle manufacturer, in cases where a mechanical failure in the vehicle led to the accident
- A mechanic that recently worked on the vehicle, if the mechanic committed an error that ultimately led to the accident
- The employer of a driver on the clock at the time of the accident if the employer has dangerous policies that contribute to accident risks
- A vendor who illegally provided alcohol to a drunk driver (including minors clearly intoxicated people)
When you file a claim against an outside entity or that entity’s insurance policy, you must prove how that entity contributed to the accident. A lawyer can help you collect essential evidence from the accident and identify all parties that may bear or share liability for the accident and your injuries.
Your Auto Insurance Policy
Under several circumstances, you may have the right to pursue compensation through your insurance policy after a car accident.
Your PIP Insurance
In New York and New Jersey, drivers must carry personal injury protection insurance in addition to the liability insurance policies on their vehicles. PIP insurance provides immediate compensation for medical bills associated with the accident, less the amount of your deductible. You can use your PIP coverage whether you or the other driver caused the accident or whether any outside entities may have contributed to your injuries.
PIP coverage may also help cover some of the wages lost if your car accident injuries prevent you from working.
In most cases, you will need to use your PIP coverage before you can pursue compensation from the other driver’s insurance company for injury-related expenses. If, for example, you carry $50,000 in PIP coverage, your medical expenses and related financial losses will need to exceed $50,000 before you can file a claim for compensation for your injuries through the other driver’s insurance.
If you cause an accident through an act of negligence, you may still have the right to recover compensation for the damage to your vehicle. If you carry comprehensive or collision insurance, you can use your coverage to help cover vehicle repairs. You can also use comprehensive insurance to cover other costs, including theft, vandalism, or acts of nature that cause serious damage to your vehicle.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
While both New York and New Jersey have relatively low rates of uninsured drivers, with New York hovering around 4.1 percent and New Jersey around 3.1 percent, you may still end up in an accident with a driver who does not carry auto insurance. If you have an accident with an uninsured driver, you may have a much harder time repairing your vehicle or taking care of your medical bills.
Your uninsured motorist coverage, however, can provide vital protection that may make it easier to pay those bills. Uninsured motorist coverage kicks in when the other driver does not carry insurance and may provide the same compensation you might recover from the other driver’s insurance company. However, you may end up paying your deductible.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
In some cases, the other driver might carry auto insurance but might not have adequate insurance to provide the protection you need and deserve following an accident. In that case, you might turn to your underinsured motorist coverage to maximize the compensation you can recover and ensure that you have the funds you need to take care of vehicle repairs.
How to Maximize Your Odds of Recovering Compensation After a Car Accident
After a car accident involving only property damage, you can usually simply file a claim through the liable driver’s insurance company. An injury claim, however—especially an injury claim involving severe injuries—can prove much more complicated. Make sure you understand and follow the right steps to raise your odds of recovering maximum compensation for your injuries and the damage to your vehicle following a serious accident.
- Always report the accident to the police. A police report serves as essential evidence regarding when the accident took place. It can also offer the first look at who likely caused the accident and, therefore, who bears liability for the accident and your injuries. If you do not report the accident to the police, on the other hand, the other driver could try to claim that the accident never happened. With inadequate evidence, you may have a much harder time proving that the other driver caused or contributed to your accident, which may make it much more difficult to recover compensation.
- Get medical attention for any injuries, and follow the instructions issued by your medical care team. Do not walk away from an accident assuming that you have no injuries. Any time the accident involves severe property damage, the potential for serious injury exists. Get medical care for those injuries immediately. Do not put off medical care.
Once you have had your injuries diagnosed by a qualified medical care provider, make sure you follow the instructions issued by that medical care provider. For example, if you have broken your leg, the doctor may recommend that you avoid bearing weight on it for several weeks after the initial accident.
If you try to bear weight on the leg too early, you may do further damage, which could cause you to suffer more long-term limitations and interfere substantially with your recovery. On the other hand, if you follow your doctor’s instructions, you increase your odds of making a full recovery.
If the insurance company that covers your accident can uncover evidence that you ignored your care provider’s instructions, it could decrease the compensation you can recover for those injuries. The insurance company may claim that you worsened your injuries because you failed to adhere to those rules, and that, therefore, the insurance company does not bear liability for any of your complications.
- Collect what evidence you can access safely at the accident scene. Collecting evidence from the accident scene can provide you with better overall proof of what, or who, likely caused your accident.
You may want to take pictures of:
- The damage to both vehicles
- The position of both vehicles on the road after you stop
- Any features of the local area that may have contributed to your accident
You may also want to collect contact information from any witnesses who saw the accident. In addition, consider taking photos of the other driver’s license, license plate, and vehicle so that you can easily identify it to the insurance company later.
- Talk to a lawyer before you contact either insurance company. Ideally, get in touch with a lawyer as soon after the accident as possible, before you contact the insurance company or the insurance company has a chance to contact you.
Insurance companies operate on a profit-based model. While most people pay for insurance so that it will provide protection and coverage in the event of a serious accident, insurance companies often have a model that reduces the compensation they have to pay out as much as possible in the event of an accident. Adjusters and representatives may use several strategies to help reduce the compensation they have to pay out, from pressuring you to accept a low settlement offer to trying to shift fault in the accident to another party.
Working with a lawyer from the beginning can help you avoid a number of those tactics. Not only can a lawyer make sure that you fully understand the compensation you deserve based on the terms of the insurance policy, a lawyer can take a deeper look at who likely bears liability for your accident and what evidence you have that establishes that liability.
Furthermore, a car accident lawyer can help deal with the insurance company, including fighting to help you maximize that compensation. Finally, a lawyer can recover compensation for you after a car accident.
- Write or record a statement about what likely led to the car accident as soon as you can. Memory often fades faster than people think it will, especially when it comes to traumatic events. In some cases, you may not retain the memory of the car accident as long as you think you will—and details, in particular, may become spotty.
Take the time to record what you observed leading up to the car accident, including any extra factors that you think may have contributed. You may want to talk to your lawyer and have him help guide you through that process so that you can include all essential details.
- Avoid communicating with the insurance company yourself. The insurance company may use strategies designed to trip you up after a car accident, including questions designed to make you minimize the impact of your injuries or convince you to accept partial liability for the accident. Even small talk with the adjuster while you wait for a screen to load or a program to process could cause you to inadvertently limit the compensation you can recover.
For example, your conversation about your weekend plans could cause the insurance adjuster to believe that you suffer fewer limitations from your injuries than the car accident claim suggests. Instead, let your lawyer take over communication with the insurance company on your behalf.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer to Learn More
In a perfect world, getting paid after a car accident would prove simple. Unfortunately, a car accident claim can be more complicated than anticipated. Contact a car accident lawyer as soon after your accident as you can to discuss the compensation you deserve and how to best get paid following a car accident.