Car accidents are terrifying events. A car accident can damage your vehicle, cause physical injuries, and even kill people. In most cases, people don't realize a car accident will occur until after it happens. The shock from a collision can leave you reeling, not knowing what to do next.
The most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 38,824 people died in U.S. traffic crashes in one recent year. In 45 percent of the fatal crashes, drivers were engaged in risky behavior, including speeding, not wearing a seat belt, and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Of the 5,215,071 non-fatal crashes in that same year, 2,282,015 individuals sustained injuries. While injuries decreased compared to 2019, when over 2.74 million people reported car accident injuries, the number is still high. COVID-19 lockdowns may have partially attributed to the 2020 decline in automobile collisions.
Car accidents occur frequently, so you need to know how to handle one if it happens to you and having a car accident lawyer could be very beneficial in this situation. Reach out today!
What Should You Do if You Are in a Car Accident?
No matter whose fault the accident is, it’s crucial to take specific steps after a car accident occurs.
Check for Injuries
Following a car accident, you’ll likely be in shock. Take a moment and examine yourself and your passengers for injuries. Check the occupants of other vehicles for wounds. Anyone who has sustained severe injuries should go to a hospital. If you need an ambulance, call 911.
Call the Police
Most states require people to contact the police after a car accident. The law typically requires drivers to call the police based on a certain estimated property damage amount or if anyone sustained injuries in the wreck.
Even if your accident appears minor and the other people involved willingly provide their insurance and contact information, it’s best to report the accident to the authorities.
Feelings can change following a wreck, and the helpful person you encountered at the scene of the accident may change their tune if you pursue an insurance claim.
You can contact the police by calling 911. Most police departments have a non-emergency number you can use for minor car accidents.
Get Contact Information and Insurance Details
Ask other drivers involved in the accident for their contact information and insurance details. If anyone tries to accuse someone else of fault for the collision, it’s best to avoid confrontation.
To avoid heated arguments, tell the other drivers that you don’t want to discuss the incident or are still too shocked to talk about it. If the others in the wreck push the issue, you can get back into your car until the police arrive.
If there are witnesses to the accident, such as pedestrians or other drivers who have stopped to help, ask them for their contact information. Witness statements can corroborate the details of the collision if you decide to file a personal injury claim.
Move Your Car
If your vehicle is blocking the road, moving it out of the way is best unless someone inside the car is injured. Injured individuals may suffer further trauma if the vehicle moves. Turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers that an accident has occurred and you can’t drive away.
Ask for a Copy of the Police Report
Once the police have arrived and investigated the accident, ask them for a copy of their report. The police report will contain important information, including the drivers’ names, the facts reported by all parties, and the officer’s assessment of the wreck.
You will need a copy of the report when you file a claim with your insurance company or if you choose to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
What Should You Do in the Days Following a Car Accident?
The adrenaline rush right after a car accident often masks internal injuries sustained in the wreck. In addition, specific injuries may take a few days to be fully observable in a car accident victim. Pay close attention to changes in how you feel in the days following a collision.
Look out for:
- Recurring headaches
- Muscle pains and strains
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to move arms, legs, core, or neck normally
- Brain fog
- Abnormal fatigue
- Mood changes
- Flashbacks or anxiety
- Tingling in the arms, shoulders, neck, legs, or back
- Bruises and cuts
- Nausea or abdominal pain
- Changes in hearing
- Back pain
- Swelling or stiffness
If you experience any of these symptoms, visit a hospital, urgent care center, or your physician for further analysis. Traumatic brain injuries, back and neck injuries, and internal damage may not be immediately apparent following a car accident and usually take a few days to present.
All of these injuries can result in the need for medical treatment. Severe injuries may require surgery or physical therapy.
If your injuries are significant and you want to recover monetary damages for your medical expenses, you’ll need the assistance of a car accident lawyer.
When Should You Contact a Car Accident Attorney?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident and are receiving treatment for your wounds, contact a car accident lawyer. Personal injury attorneys are skilled in negotiating with insurance companies to obtain compensation for car accident victims.
A car accident attorney can assess the circumstances of your case and determine whether your claim has the required merits to pursue a lawsuit.
The sooner you contact a car accident lawyer, the better. It takes time to assemble the facts of a case and negotiate a settlement. In some cases, your lawsuit may require a court trial to get the compensation you deserve.
Each state has a statute of limitations that regulates the time a personal injury victim has to file a lawsuit. Statutes of limitations vary from one to 10 years. While this may sound like a long time to pursue a case following a car accident, evidence becomes less credible with time.
It’s also relatively easy to forget facts about a car accident as the months and years go by. Documenting the circumstances of your case with a lawyer in the immediate weeks following a car accident often leads to better results.
Does Fault for the Accident Matter?
You may need to establish fault after a serious traffic accident, especially since different state laws protect insurance companies and other defendants from car accident lawsuits.
Each state has its own rules concerning fault in auto accidents. However, every state's laws fall into two categories: at-fault or no-fault.
At-fault laws may require the person responsible for a car accident (or their insurance company) to pay for the other party’s medical expenses, property damage, and other losses related to a car accident. Your insurance policy will cover the costs for the other driver, but they may not pay for yours, depending on the coverage you’ve purchased.
At-fault states vary in how they allow injured parties to pursue at-fault drivers for damages. Pure contributory, pure comparative, modified comparative, and slight/gross comparative are the four legal rules associated with at-fault states. Each state’s rules determine whether a victim can file a lawsuit against a negligent driver.
Consult a car accident lawyer in your state to learn if your negligence will play a role in the claim. If you are not at fault, you can generally pursue a lawsuit against another driver or insurance company. Restrictions may apply to drivers who are partially responsible for an accident.
In a no-fault state, parties involved in a car accident recover damages through their insurance policies and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, regardless of who caused the accident. However, the at-fault driver’s insurance policy usually pays for property damage caused by the person responsible for the accident.
Additionally, some states allow injury victims to circumvent the no-fault rules if their injuries are severe or permanent.
Which States Are No-Fault States?
The 12 no-fault insurance states are Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah. The other 38 states are at-fault states.
A car accident attorney can help you navigate the laws in a no-fault state if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim.
Should You Give a Recorded Statement to an Insurance Company?
If you’re considering filing a lawsuit related to injuries you’ve sustained in a car accident, don’t give any recorded statements to an insurance company.
Insurance companies deal with car accidents daily, seeking to minimize the amount they pay to people injured in collisions. Insurance companies can use a recorded statement against you if you pursue a lawsuit against an insurance company or driver.
Instead, contact a car accident lawyer for assistance with navigating the insurance claim process. Car accident attorneys are skilled in negotiating with insurance companies and can ensure that you don’t make a mistake that could hurt you in the settlement process.
Who Is Responsible for a Car Accident?
Responsibility for car accidents depends on numerous factors. Insurance companies, police, and the court all play a role in determining who caused a collision. Aspects such as speed, road conditions, seat belts, intoxication, evidence of distracted driving, and failure to obey road signs can all impact your case.
Car accident lawyers prepare documentation and evidence to present your case in the most favorable light. An attorney can eliminate questions of your negligence in a case that isn’t clear-cut.
What Type of Damages Can You Recover in a Car Accident Lawsuit?
The most common compensation awarded in a car accident lawsuit includes economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include:
- Repairs or replacement of your vehicle
- Money to cover past and future medical bills
- Lost income from being unable to work
- Cost of household services like cleaning and childcare
- Other compensation for expenses related to the car accident
Non-economic damages include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Disability and disfigurement
In the most egregious of cases, a court may decide to award punitive damages. Punitive damages punish the defendant for especially negligent acts and discourage further similar actions.
Will Your Case Succeed?
There are no guarantees that a case will be successful. However, working with a car accident attorney can optimize your chances of receiving adequate compensation for physical injuries sustained in a car accident.
Car accident lawyers are familiar with state laws governing personal injuries and have the negotiation skills needed for working with insurance companies.
An attorney can’t promise you favorable results, but they can do everything in their power to present the facts of your case in a manner that’s advantageous to you. Working with an attorney gives you the best chance for a fair outcome, particularly if you have incurred severe injuries in a car accident.
How Do You Decide on an Attorney?
The attorney you choose should know car accident laws. Successful attorneys can share information about settlements and verdicts they have achieved for their clients.
When searching for an attorney, pay attention to reviews given by past clients. Checking with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) can show whether a law firm is well-regarded by past clients. Use your instincts as well. During your initial consultation, trust your gut to determine whether an attorney is a good fit for you.
Paying for Legal Services
Car accident lawyers typically work on a contingency fee basis. Under a contingency fee arrangement, attorneys receive payment only if they obtain an award on your behalf. The payment is an agreed-upon percentage of any damages you receive. You will not be required to pay upfront fees to your attorney.
If a car accident lawyer decides to take your case, they believe it has merit and is likely to succeed. Once they have obtained a settlement or court verdict for you, they will deduct their fees before providing you with the remaining balance of your award.