According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, over 38,000 deaths and another 4.4 million serious injuries are caused yearly in the United States from car accidents. In addition, over $380 million in medical costs are associated with these situations.
Driver Knowledge expands on these facts, sharing that more than nine people are killed in an accident associated with distracted driving daily. Additionally, 33% of accidents are due to reckless driving, 30% are from speeding, and despite plenty of information regarding the risks, 40% are still due to alcohol.
Data from a decade-old article in Forbes suggest a person can expect to be in a car accident every 18 years. However, this average is likely on the light side, as the pandemic brought an increase of 8% in traffic accidents compared with previous years and a shocking 24% increase in deaths associated with car accidents. An increase that high had not been recorded since 1923.
Numbers speak, and these unquestionably state the likelihood of getting in an accident is nearly unavoidable. Knowing how to handle a car accident claim is as frivolous as wearing a raincoat in a spring shower. In other words, it’s not mandated, but unless you love being drenched, you’ll be thankful for it.
What is a car accident claim?
A car accident claim is when a driver files for financial compensation from an insurance company for the damage to his car or himself due to a car accident. Like most insurance claims, each state has its own innuendos, as well as statutes of limitations. To navigate your state’s car insurance claim laws, seek an expert or lawyer in this field. If your accident is severe, you will want legal representation.
Insurance companies often convince car accident victims representation is unnecessary. However, these companies are doing what is best for them, not for you, and have their own lawyers working for them.
Car accident lawyers understand the tactics of insurance companies and work to get the most from your claim. They are skilled in exploring potential impacts such as future medical bills and lost wages.
What type of claim is a car accident
A car accident claim is generally filed in one of two ways: personal injury or property damage. If the accident led to death, the claim could be categorized under wrongful death.
Property Damage Claim
With a property damage claim, the focus is repairing or replacing the vehicle. Do not assume just because it looks like a fender bender, the damage is mild. A qualified mechanic can identify issues which may cause further problems down the road.
During a property damage claim, a mechanic estimates the damage and cost to repair the car. Depending on this number, the insurance company either pays out the damages or declares the vehicle totaled and adjusts the amount to the car’s worth.
Aside from the car itself, there are additional costs tied to a property damage claim. If a rental car is needed, you could receive compensation for your car rental. This option is beneficial if the repair will take some time and you have no other method to keep up with your daily life expectations, such as child care or daily work commute. Keep in mind such allowances are typically short-lived so ensure you understand the limitations of your rental.
Additional items such as car seats, cell phones, or laptops may be damaged during the accident. With car seats, many brands require a replacement after even a minor accident and can be paid out in your claim. Electronics are nearly always with us in our day-to-day life, meaning the impact of a car wreck could break them. With expensive equipment, the chances are higher you will receive some compensation should this happen.
Personal Injury Claim
A personal injury claim is filed when the damage happens to you and not just your vehicle. In this type of claim, you must show the accident itself caused your injury.
Imagine you were in a car accident and transported to the hospital where they performed surgery. During surgery, the doctors injure you unintentionally. This injury was caused by medical negligence and not by the car accident. Some of the following are examples of personal injury claims arising due to car accidents:
- Ambulance/transportation expenses – a ride to a hospital can add an exorbitant amount to your medical bills.
- Medical expenses at the hospital – when you arrive at the hospital, you may be met with x-rays, scans, or other tests, as well as treatment options.
- Continued medical treatment – with certain conditions, you may need continued medical care, long term stays, physical therapy, or surgery.
- Long-term care – permanent or significant injuries may require long-term care, nursing care, or a caregiver for help with daily tasks and medical assistance
- Medical equipment and house renovations – in extreme cases, your injury may involve changes in housing layouts to allow for ramps, mobility assists, safety bars, or other necessary features.
- Lost wages or earning potential – major injuries will often temporarily prevent people from completing previous work tasks such as desk jobs with brain injury or manual labor jobs with bodily injury. These lost wages are included in personal injury claims.
- Funeral and burial expenses – when a car accident causes a death, the family may file a claim to recover funeral and burial expenses, as well as funds for loss of companionship or an individual’s support.
What should I do after a car accident?
As soon as you are in a car accident, determine if you are in a dangerous location. If so, move your car to a safe spot. If someone needs emergency assistance, call 911 immediately. Stay on the scene and ensure everyone is medically sound.
After you have determined the scene and everyone involved is safe, gather information. It is easy to forget details later on or be confused about what happened. Writing down information now will ensure that it will be easier to recall when you work with your lawyer and insurance company.
Despite what the other driver is saying, avoid giving or taking blame. Instead, pull out a camera or your phone and take pictures of the scene, the car, license plates, other drivers, all damage to vehicles – yours and theirs. Make sure your pictures show all traffic signs, perspectives of directions the cars were going or are now facing, and anything else that may be important later in your case.
Most importantly, make sure to exchange information. Record names, phone numbers, and insurance information. Write down the year, make, model, and color of the car.
Finally, take notes on what happened. Describe the speed you were traveling, the location, what the weather and road conditions were during the wreck when the police arrived, and the names and badge numbers of the police. If any witnesses saw what happened, gather their names and contact information for later.
You may hesitate to call the police. However, this is an essential step in the process and most states require you to do so. Some even attach penalties for not doing so. The police report is one of the critical details insurance companies use in assessing the case.
Is a claim filed under my insurance or theirs?
When claims are straightforward, it seems logical to call the insurance company. For example, if you are sitting at a stoplight and someone rear-ends you after they reached down to grab their cell phone, it is pretty cut and dry. You call their insurance company, right? Think again.
Insurance companies deliver a false sense of security to callers. They paint a picture of promised help while taking a recorded statement and asking questions leading to a confession of negligence. Often they convince the caller that soliciting the help of a lawyer will actually hurt them, slow down the process, and return less compensation than if they just work with the insurance company. This is often not true but is delivered well by a well-trained voice on the other end of the line.
Some states are “no-fault” states meaning despite if it was your fault or someone else’s, your insurance company covers you up to a certain dollar amount. This insurance payout includes your property damages, loss of income, medical expenses, and other related costs to the degree of your coverage.
Knowing where the line falls for coverage and how to navigate the law is confusing and overwhelming, especially if you are in pain or dealing with an angry individual claiming innocence. An experienced lawyer knows what you need to do to file your claim, the statutes of limitations, and whose insurance company to file.
How do I file a car accident claim against an uninsured driver?
Being hit by a driver without insurance is the most unideal situation. Not just is your car a mess, and you may be in pain, but above that, you are left wondering how you will be able to fix the damage done to you and your car. Now what? Are you expected to pay the bill?
Despite every state requiring drivers carry insurance, many drive without it. Luckily insurance companies supply drivers with underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage provides liability insurance, while your collision coverage pays for your car’s damage.
Those without insurance who cause a wreck put themselves at risk for paying out of pocket for damages and medical expenses. Further, they could be personally sued, ticketed, or even face jail time. When the time comes for them to purchase insurance, they could face a higher premium due to their choice of driving without insurance.
What is the process for a car accident lawsuit?
After working with an attorney for a car accident claim, determine if you will pursue a lawsuit. If this is the route you decide to take, it helps to know the basics of car accident lawsuits.
Pre-litigation is the opportunity to reach an agreement before a lawsuit is filed. Your legal representative meets with their insurer to determine fair compensation for the accident. If this can be agreed upon, no lawsuit needs to follow. This option may avoid a lengthy process.
No-Fault Insurance States
For states with no-fault insurance laws, a driver’s personal insurance company pays out for damages. Insurance companies can refuse to pay. In fact, they almost never payout for personal damages except for uninsured motorists situations. When this happens, an individual may need to sue the insurance company.
There are a few ways a lawsuit can be stopped from being filed against the insurance company. One way is if the medical expenses associated with an accident do not pass a threshold. The other is if the injury was not severe enough. Some states require both thresholds to be met.
When your state is a no-fault state, showing negligence is one of the top ways car accident lawsuits proceed. Essentially, when operating a vehicle, the driver has a responsibility to act appropriately, abstain from driving under the influence or distracted, and maintain other reasonable expectations of a driver. Any injury resulting from their lack of such actions is negligence.
Some states counter this with what is called contributory and comparative negligence. In other words, when both parties act negligent, it could reduce or limit the amount owed by the responsible party. There are only a couple of contributory negligence states in the country. With contributory negligence, even 1% of negligence on the part of the plaintiff bars all claims other than those allowed via the no-fault statute of that state. Comparative negligence is a percentage to be determined; however, the party with greater than 50% of the negligence is barred from all third-party claims.
Contact The Hayes Firm for Car Accident Claims
Fighting a legal battle is not on anyone’s list of fun summer activities. When in pain and dealing with the loss of transportation, taking on insurance companies can quickly turn into a nightmare.
The Hayes Firm is here to help. Our team matches your case with lawyers experienced in fighting insurance companies. A car accident is terrifying in and of itself, let alone adding the stress of car accident claims. Let us get you the compensation you need so you can get back in the driver’s seat.