What to Do After a Car Accident

An accident may occur on a busy street or an empty road. The event lasts seconds, but the effects can have long-term consequences. You or someone you know could suffer from substantial injuries and lose your means of transportation.

In addition to the stress, motor vehicle collisions create a confusing moment for people. You might be unsure about what to do after a car accident. A lawyer can provide necessary assistance and help file a claim as soon as possible.

How to Know if You Can File a Claim

What To Do After A Car AccidentCar accidents usually significantly impact people emotionally, physically, and financially. Medical expenses, vehicle repairs, and other bills begin to pile up. One possible solution is to seek reimbursement for the damage.

However, receiving monetary compensation generally relies on proving the other person was negligent. A driver can be careless in several ways, but not all causes are evident. You may need to consult an attorney to know if you have a valid case.

For example, you could have the right to file an accident claim if the other driver went over the speed limit. Speeding is a common factor in non-fatal crashes and makes up 29 percent of annual traffic fatalities. A motorist breaches their duty of care on the road by driving at unsafe speeds.

Another driver can even be at fault for accidents in bad weather. Nearly 21 percent of vehicle collisions occur because of rain, high winds, ice, or other conditions. Among the incidents, some drivers were not cautious enough for the weather conditions. They failed to adjust their driving behavior, causing a crash.

Negligence can still apply to an accident even if a single vehicle is involved. The government could have been at fault for neglecting to fill a large pothole. Alternatively, you may have a valid claim if a company is responsible for a defective vehicle part that leads to your accident.

Even if someone behaved carelessly, they might not have been the cause of the collision. A consultation with a car accident attorney can reveal if you have a valid case and against who. They may be able to determine which parties were likely negligent.

The Statute of Limitations Affects Claims

The days after a car accident contain doctor appointments, reviewing insurance policies, and daily tasks. An injured person becomes busy and may put off filing a claim for a while until they have a moment to focus. Nonetheless, they do not have unlimited time to sue the at-fault party for damages.

Every state has a statute of limitations to limit how long people have to file a motor vehicle collision lawsuit. The deadline depends on the jurisdiction and the type of claim someone files.

For instance, a bodily injury claim may have a different number of years than a case for property damage. Furthermore, if you must begin a wrongful death claim if a collision led to a loved one’s death, you have another limitation to meet.

Nevertheless, someone could toll or suspend the statute of limitations for a brief period. Many states provide exceptions for victims in specific situations. The law describes who can pause the deadline and for how long.

A general example would be if the at-fault driver left the state before you had a chance to file a claim against them. The court may grant you additional time to wait until the defendant returns.

Speak to your lawyer if you are unsure if you can toll the statute of limitations. They will know how the law applies to your case.

What to Do After a Car Accident

Call the Authorities

Contact the police if you end up in a collision with a negligent motorist. When the officer arrives at the site, they will speak to each party to get a statement. Only tell them the facts about what happened and avoid speculation. Afterward, the officer assesses the damage to finish their report.

An individual might not contact the authorities if the damage seems inconsequential and no one is visibly hurt. However, they should still visit a local station to report the incident to get a police report. Adjusters typically request a copy, and not notifying the police may impact your claim.

Take Photos

If you can, take multiple photos of the accident scene. The images should include:

  • The damage to each vehicle.
  • Any skid marks on the ground.
  • Possibly dangerous driving hazards.
  • Your injuries.

Record the severity of your condition before you get treatment.

Get Medical Care

The next action after a car accident is to go to the hospital or a physician’s office. If you have a debilitating injury, you will want a doctor to address it immediately. Even if you feel fine, you should still see a healthcare professional, as some injuries don’t present outwardly.

A delay in medical treatment may lead to the insurance company undervaluing your claim. You need to have records from the doctor to prove to the adjuster the extent of your damages.

Call the Insurance Company

Once you know your condition, call the insurance company to notify it of the accident. You might have to speak with your insurer and the other driver’s provider. The company could deny your claim if you do not contact a representative.

Insurers may ask for additional information when you contact them, but you should avoid doing so. Only provide your name, address, date and location of the accident, and attorney’s contact. Do not agree to make any statements, and do not provide any details of the accident to the insurer, even if you think they support your claim.

Hire a Car Accident Lawyer

The next step after a collision is to find a car accident lawyer. An attorney assists you with the claims process and negotiates with the insurance company. They talk to the adjuster and protect you from unfair tactics.

A lawyer will discuss possible legal options with you and advise if you need to file a lawsuit. They may be able to find an effective strategy to raise the possibility of a favorable outcome in court.

What Not to Do After a Car Crash

After a car crash, you must avoid specific actions to prevent the other side from gaining an advantage. The at-fault driver and their defense team could use what you say or do to invalidate your case.

What not to do includes:

  • Posts on social media. Some people want to let friends and followers online know their condition. However, attorneys advise clients against making posts about the collision. The court allows the other side to use your updates to disprove your claim.
  • An admission of fault. You may feel the urge to apologize to the other driver or say you feel fine immediately after a crash. The insurer may see an apologetic statement as a sign you are responsible for the accident and deny your claim.
  • Agree to an unfair settlement. The insurer may pressure victims to accept a low offer to move on with their lives more quickly. They may not realize the full extent of their injuries at the time. Once you sign the settlement papers, you cannot pursue additional compensation.
  • File a lawsuit by yourself. A person might be able to start a civil suit if the matter at hand is minor. However, car accident injury cases are complex. An attorney explains the process and has experience with the challenges of a lawsuit and negotiations.
  • Underestimate your injuries. Do not assume your condition is fine even if a wound appears insignificant. Some injuries take a while to manifest themselves. Get a medical evaluation immediately to know what to claim for compensation.

A mistake may cause a setback in someone’s lawsuit or cost them their reimbursement. Car accident attorneys can prevent errors from impacting your right to seek compensation.

Two Types of Car Accident Claims

The process of recovering damages comes in two types of accident claims. One of them is a first-party claim. First-party claims are those people file with their own insurance company. If you need to begin one, you should review the terms of your policy and speak with an attorney to avoid setbacks.

You may have to make a first-party claim based on your state’s motor vehicle accident laws. Additionally, if your crash is with an uninsured motorist or you experience a hit and run, you may need to seek compensation from your insurer.

Meanwhile, a third-party claim is when you pursue reimbursement from the other party’s insurer. You can start one regardless if you are a driver, passenger, bicyclist, or pedestrian. Nevertheless, you may need to reach out to your insurance company to notify it of the incident regardless.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Helps You

Saves You Time

Motor vehicle collision lawsuits require people to file plenty of paperwork and gather evidence. The injured victim should be focusing on treatment and recovery and likely doesn’t have time to deal with the lawsuit. Therefore, the case could take longer to resolve without an attorney to handle the necessary legal steps.

A car accident lawyer saves you time by managing the legal side of your lawsuit. Your attorney has experience with the different aspects of the court system. They know how to obtain the proper, admissible evidence and create a compelling claim.

Calculates the Value of Your Claim Accurately

Settlements include the value of economic and non-economic damages. However, non-economic damages are not easy to calculate since they cover intangible losses, like pain and suffering. Additionally, the various factors of a car accident impact the victim’s compensation.

Car collision attorneys know how to estimate the value of a lawsuit with accuracy. They are familiar with what elements could increase compensation as well. You do not have to worry about the final settlement not being enough to cover your losses.

Proves the Accident Caused Your Injuries

One of the elements of negligence is that the other driver’s action caused you bodily harm. Your lawyer uses your medical records to prove you sustained injuries from the crash. They use testimonies from witnesses and experts to recreate the accident scene to support your claim.

Furthermore, an attorney is beneficial if the opposing side attempts to say you have a pre-existing condition responsible for your injuries. Your lawyer can show how your injuries are directly connected to the accident. If you do have a pre-existing condition, your lawyer may be able to prove the defendant’s actions exacerbated your symptoms.

Protects You From the Adjuster’s Tactics

During the investigation, the insurance company may use unfair tactics to minimize or avoid payment. Common strategies include asking for a recorded statement or authorization for your medical documents. The adjuster will look for any relevant information to use against your claim.

A car accident attorney protects your right to fair compensation. They handle the insurance company and adjuster to ensure you can focus on your health. If you need to talk to an adjuster, your lawyer can advise you on what to say so that the insurer can’t use your words against you.

Will Your Case Go to Trial?

Most motor vehicle accident lawsuits never make it to the courtroom. Both sides typically agree on a settlement deal beforehand. Usually, they decide on compensation during mediation. However, the at-fault party may be willing to settle earlier in the lawsuit timeline.

Only a tiny fraction of cases reach the trial phase. When both parties go to court, they stand before a judge. The plaintiff has to present their argument and convince the jury to decide in their favor.

Plaintiffs experience different challenges when they appear in court. The outcome is less predictable, and the chance of a fair settlement decreases. Plaintiffs win an estimated 64 percent of trials for car accidents. As a result, you should only head to the courtroom with a qualified lawyer by your side.

How Will You Receive Compensation?

Personal injury attorney Andrew Finkelstein managing partner of Jacoby and Meyers LLP

Andrew G. Finkelstein, Car Accident Attorney

Most people get their settlement money in a lump sum payment. A lump sum is a single check the defendant sends to your lawyer after you sign the release forms. The total compensation amount is in the payout, and you can access all your funds.

You can use the money to pay bills and invest as you see fit. Many people prefer a lump sum since they can afford any unexpected expenses they face.

An alternative is a structured settlement where people receive their compensation through multiple payments. Both sides discuss the terms of a structured settlement during the negotiation phase. For instance, you decide on the timeline of the payout. Moreover, you can have the amount of each payment decrease or increase over time.

Some people choose structured settlements since they have financial security over time. You can use the money as a source of income if you expect to be unable to work following your injury. Nevertheless, you may have difficulty paying sudden, large bills. You can discuss each payment option with your attorney and determine which is most helpful in your situation.

If you are injured in a motor vehicle collision, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Call for an initial free consultation, and let a legal professional answer your questions and provide guidance on how to pursue the compensation you deserve.