Car accidents are a common everyday occurrence and are considered a national public health concern. Vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death in the U.S. and kill over 100 people daily.
Most concerning for anyone involved in a devastating car accident is how immensely stressful and confusing they can be to navigate. As a result, those involved in a car accident may not prioritize considering whether they have a legal claim against the other driver or wait too long to pursue a personal injury or a wrongful death case.
If you were in a car accident and wonder whether you should consider your legal options, think about the following.
Why Do Car Accidents Happen?
Car accidents are highly preventable, yet they happen daily and unpredictably. While every car accident is unique, common factors apply in many cases. Importantly, accident trends can vary across states.
Some of the common reasons why accidents occur include the following:
- Driving recklessly, such as speeding and weaving in and out of traffic
- Driving while impaired and beyond the state’s legal alcohol limit
- Driving while distracted, such as texting or making a video or voice recording
- Unsafe road conditions due to inclement weather such as sleet and snow and cold
- Temperatures causing black ice
Damages From a Car Accident
A devastating car accident can leave those involved with minor to severe and long-term injuries that can be tangible or intangible.
For example, you may experience:
- A destroyed car that must be repaired or replaced
- Costly medical bills for medical treatment resulting from the car accident
- Lost wages due to the inability to work because of the car accident, and you are now suffering a loss of income
- Emotional and psychological distress
Common physical injuries following a car accident include:
- Neck injuries and sprain
- Limb injuries
- Chest bruises
- Spinal fractures: in the most severe cases, death can occur with trauma to the spinal cord
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are among the most severe injuries you can experience after a car accident. In a case where you may have experienced any sort of trauma to your head, it is critical to be evaluated and closely monitor clinical symptoms. These can vary from a headache to more severe and obvious symptoms and even progress over time.
For example, in one TBI car accident study, a patient’s symptoms initially presented as minor lower back and neck pain with headaches. The symptoms became more severe and developed into focal neurological deficits in time.
Compensation for Damages
Based on your injuries and the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to a monetary amount to compensate you for your injuries. Specifically, the financial amount your case is worth depends on the type of injury and severity. For example, were the injuries minor, or do you have along the recovery road ahead because of the severe trauma to your body?
Additionally, it will be essential to have these injuries documented. Therefore, seek medical attention for your injury and keep or access your medical documentation.
You will base the compensation you are seeking on your documented ailment(s) and medical expenses, including those that you will incur in the future because of the accident. For example, do you have upcoming appointments for treatments or surgery?
Fault refers to who caused the car accident. Fault apportionment and calculations are primarily based upon your state’s specific rules as each state takes its approach. Additionally, when pursuing your case in state court, the judge will consider the available evidence and how the parties present their case.
For example, Texas follows a Modified Comparative Fault approach where a driver is wholly prevented from recovery if a court finds them 51 percent or more at fault or has their recovery reduced by the percentage of fault if they are less than 51 percent at fault for the accident.
Holding a party responsible for compensating you for your injuries will be based on their liability or fault. Who caused the accident and how well you can prove this dramatically affects how much the other party’s insurance is obligated to cover to make you whole.
Car Accident Impact
Car accidents often lead to injuries that send drivers to the hospital. In the worst cases, deaths result from a car accident at the scene or the hospital. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, over 36,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes.
Additionally, more than 2.5 million people were treated in emergency departments (ED) for motor vehicle crash injuries in this same year. Specifically, the CDC’s National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey reports that the vehicle accident ED rate between 2017 and 2018 was 5.3 visits per 1,000 persons. This study found that patients between 15 to 24 experienced the highest ED rates. Interestingly, as age increased, the ED rate decreased.
Immediately after an accident, seek medical attention, as an injury may not show immediate symptoms and can worsen over time if left undiagnosed and untreated. For these reasons, when a driver is injured, they must devote a lot of time to healing from their injuries. As a result, an injured driver may not consider or seek legal assistance.
Driver’s legal rights following a car accident are not commonly understood. For example, you may not believe you have a solid legal claim against the other driver(s), which may deter you from scheduling a legal consultation to determine your legal options and assess liability to compensate you for your losses.
For example, you can be compensated for your medical expense damages if you spent money to cover your medical expenses such as a surgical procedure or ongoing physical therapy treatment.
If you or a loved one were involved in a car accident and suffered injuries, you may be wondering what your legal rights are and how you and/or a loved one can seek compensation for your injuries.
The accident scene is a critical opportunity to collect valuable information that can help you build a potential personal injury case.
For example, as a person in the accident, regardless of fault, you have a right to:
- Collect critical information from drivers and passengers also involved in the accident. In this situation, be sure to collect the contact information of all the people involved.
- Document information about the cars involved in the accident. Specifically, collect information on vehicle make and model, and plate numbers.
- Be sure to gather insurance information for all vehicles involved. Remember that the people driving the cars for which you collected personal contact information may not be the vehicle’s registered owners. For this reason, be sure to try to collect the names of the registered owners of all the vehicles involved.
- Take photos and videos of the scene, call the police and start a police report with your statement. Such evidence can support a potential personal injury case against the other driver and determine liability. You can photograph your visible injuries, conditions on the road, street, or highway signs that show the location of the accident, and damage to the vehicle(s).
- Seek medical treatment for your injuries, which you should never delay. This is important for healing from your injuries. Additionally, it helps to begin a paper trail to document that your injuries occurred, their severity, and treatment plan-which can all help assess damages and demonstrate liability against the other driver.
Importance of Legal Representation:
Being in a car accident can be stressful and challenging. The good news is that you do not have to figure this part out all on your own. Instead, an experienced car accident attorney can help you determine whether you have a legal claim and help you to navigate the legal process while you recover from your injuries.
For example, an attorney can support you by:
#1. Gathering Critical Evidence:
It is critical to gather basic information and evidence about the car crash so you can accurately understand what occurred before, during, and after the accident. Providing the attorney with a full picture of the accident is essential so the attorney can have the facts they need to effectively advocate on your behalf and hold responsible parties accountable for their actions and your damages.
#2. Filing a Case on Time
A car accident attorney will know how much time you have to sue someone. When deciding to pursue a lawsuit, do not lose your chance for compensation because you missed important filing deadlines.
An experienced car accident attorney can ensure you timely file a claim as they will have a strong understanding of your state’s statute of limitations-the deadline for bringing a lawsuit in your state.
For example, New York State enforces a two-year statute of limitations for filing a personal injury case in court. If you have missed the deadline, an attorney can assess whether any state-specific exceptions apply, such as a delayed injury, according to your circumstances, including knowledge of temporary rules.
For example, due to Covid-19, your state may have paused the limitations period on personal injury cases. An attorney will also ensure that you stay within your state’s limitations period for negotiating a personal injury settlement.
#3. Assess Fault
An experienced attorney can help you assess who is at fault for the accident and help you hold the other drivers accountable for your damages. As previously discussed, your state will determine the approach for calculating damages, and an attorney can help you gather the necessary information to make an accurate determination.
#4. Know Insurance Options
A personal injury attorney can guide you as to whether you will need extra protection to cover car accident injuries. Depending on your state, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) may or may not be available to cover certain expenses, including medical, when a car accident strikes.
If your state does not have PIP, then there may be an alternative option in place, such as Med-Pay, which can cover or reimburse policyholders for medical expenses. The benefit of such supplemental insurance is that they operate like no-fault coverage, which is available to you regardless of fault.
You must know how your state approaches PIP or alternative insurances like Med-Pay.
An attorney will understand the specific PIP or Med-Pay provisions of your auto insurance policy and state; determine the cost of your coverage and the amount you need; submit medical bills to your insurance company for payment or reimbursement, and even negotiate where possible.
For example, California state makes PIP optional for insurance policyholders. If PIP is optional for you, an attorney can help you understand the benefits of having this additional coverage for peace of mind while driving on the road. Importantly, depending on what options are available to you, an attorney can help you understand how these various insurances differ.
For example, Med-Pay does not pay for loss of income, property damage, and injuries not related to the accident. However, Med-Pay covers or reimburses for health services related to the accident, such as doctor visits, hospital visits and stays, and surgery and X-rays.
The aftermath of a car accident can be undoubtedly overwhelming, especially if you suffer injuries. If you suffered a personal injury from a car accident, you have resources you can turn to for guidance on your next best steps.
A manageable step that you can take to get started is to schedule a consultation with an attorney. This will offer you an opportunity to learn more about the attorney’s experience with car accident cases and your legal options.