Personal Injury FAQ
What should I do right after an accident?
Assess the situation. In the case of a minor accident where medical assistance isn’t needed and the damage to the vehicles is minimal, sometimes it’s easier to handle the problem under the table because the damage is less than the deductible anyway. Exchange information, take pictures for evidence and get an estimate from a body shop.
Take pictures of the accident scene. If you can, take a picture from multiple vantage points. Also make sure to get close up shots of damage to specific areas of the vehicle and other injuries. Pictures will often help the insurance companies better than a statement could.
If the accident caused significant damage, don’t hesitate to call 911. It’s imperative the injured get immediate medical attention. The police should also be present to decide if any citations should be issued and to file a report. Make sure to exchange information.
Even if you don’t immediately feel hurt and refuse treatment at the scene, visit a physician just in case. Especially in the case of brain injuries like concussions, the effects of the injury may not immediately show themselves. These types of injuries can be devastating if they aren’t caught early. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Get in touch with an accident attorney as soon as possible. The other party’s insurance may be calling asking for a statement. Without the advice of an attorney, you could inadvertently limit your legal rights or admit to fault that wasn’t yours. It’s in your best interest to speak with a lawyer before signing anything.
Do report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. If you need compensation for medical treatments or a rental car, this could be the fastest way for you to get your life back on track until the lawsuit is settled.
What if it was a hit and run?
It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident. If you see someone leaving, try your best to record the license plate number, the make and model of the car and other details. Don’t chase them down. File a police report and make a claim with your insurance. You may think you can force them to stop and pay for the damages, but sometimes the chase will cause you more trouble than it’s worth.
If you left your car unattended in a parking lot and returned to find a dent or scratch that clearly wasn’t there before, you can still file a police report with the location and approximate time. Hopefully, you have insurance to cover the damage, but otherwise you may be paying for the damages out of pocket. Even if your car is “safe” in a garage, the garage owner may not be liable for the damages.
What if the other driver is uninsured?
Some drivers, despite being required by law, do drive without the proper insurance coverage. In many cases, this is because they simply can’t afford the costs. Even if you sue for damages, you may never be able to collect enough money to cover costs because if they can’t afford insurance, chances are they don’t have much in assets.
Still, you can still sue the driver for compensation. You will at least get something from them if they were at fault. However, it’s not guaranteed that the settlement will meet your expectations or needs.
The best way to protect yourself from uninsured drivers is to pay for coverage against them in your own car insurance policy. You will pay more monthly, but should an uninsured driver hit you then your own insurance company will cover the difference.
How long will this process take?
There’s no telling how long it could take to settle a car accident claim. If the accident is clearly the other driver’s fault, they accept responsibility and don’t challenge the ruling, then the claim could be settled within weeks.
When the accident is more complicated, the process could go on for months. Sometimes fault is unclear and sometimes multiple parties can be at fault. The processing and investigation of a claim by a single insurance company could take time, especially if one party is being uncooperative.
Having a lawyer help you through the process can help expedite the proceedings. An accident attorney can help you speak to insurance and keep things moving as fast as possible. Usually, things won’t move very fast. It could be years. It’s impossible to tell and depends on the case.
How much can I expect from a settlement?
Settlement amounts vary depending on the severity of the injuries, insurance, damage and other factors dependent on the specific case. For example, if the driver is uninsured, you shouldn’t expect a large settlement. If the other driver has cut-rate insurance, you may not be completely covered in the settlement either.
That said, what you should expect from a settlement is medical expenses, lost wages, reparations to the car, legal fees and any other complications that arose from the accident. Your insurance company and lawyer can help you decide what amount is reasonable for your case.
Why do I need a lawyer if I’m not at fault?
While you may not consider yourself at fault, the other party may feel the same way. They may have their insurance calling you immediately hoping to get you to admit to things that may put the liability on your shoulders. Speak to a lawyer to protect you and be treated fairly. Insurance companies often place profit over customer satisfaction, so don’t assume your best interests are also the insurer’s priority.
What about missed work?
For some drivers, their car is the only way to get to work and pay the bills. Not every policy includes a rental car in the agreement. You can be compensated for lost wages because of the accident as part of your settlement. You can also ask for compensation for the alternative transportation needed to continue to work.
Will I have to go to court?
It’s not necessary for all accident claims to go to court. Many simply settle with insurance or the other driver rather than go to trial. Whenever medical expenses are in question, the process of settlement takes much longer as insurance companies disagree over how much they want to pay and what the client deserves. The process could go back and forth without ever going to court.
In some cases, you may have to sue the other party directly for negligence or liability. This may be the case if you were hit by an uninsured driver. You may have to take the other driver to small claims court to repair your car if they don’t have insurance. Whether or not you have to go to court, the legal proceedings are greatly helped by the presence of a lawyer.
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