Can People Sue After Sideswipe Collisions?
Sideswipe collisions can cause serious injuries. Even when a sideswipe accident isn’t as forceful as a head-on collision, there are still serious forces generated, which can cause serious injuries in turn. Injury victims have the right to receive fair compensation for all the injuries and losses they suffer because of a sideswipe collision.
An experienced Florida car accident lawyer can help protect your important legal rights. Such lawyers offer free consultations, so you can get specific information about your unique circumstances. In the meantime, learn more about sideswipe accidents and what happens after your lawyer files an insurance claim.
What Is a Sideswipe Collision?
According to AAA, a sideswipe collision occurs when the sides of two vehicles make contact, often the result of one car moving into another driver’s lane due to negligence. The driver may not have checked their blind spots before changing lanes, became distracted, and let the vehicle drift, or did not slow down on a slick road.
Insurance companies look for negligence to determine who was “at fault” for causing the accident. Legal responsibility for the accident (liability) also means that you have a legal responsibility to pay for the damages and losses you cause. This responsibility is why Florida, like other states, requires drivers to carry auto insurance policies with minimum amounts of liability coverage. Doing so ensures that there are funds available to compensate injury victims for the losses caused by a negligent driver.
What Injuries Can Occur in a Sideswipe Collision?
Sideswipe accidents can cause many different types of injuries. Some are very serious or even life-threatening. Brain injuries can become very serious. Unfortunately, you might not know that you are injured right away because some brain injury symptoms take several hours to appear. This uncertainty is why it is important to see a doctor right away after a car accident, even if you do not feel injured.
The same is true with internal bleeding. Because you cannot see the blood, you might now know that you are bleeding internally until you start to show signs of low blood pressure, which could take hours. By that time, it might be too late to repair the damage. These are just two examples of the many serious medical conditions that can develop after a car accident. Only a qualified medical professional can determine whether you have sustained an injury in a car accident, so be sure to always see a doctor as soon as possible after a car accident.
Sideswipe accidents involve glancing blows (as opposed to the direct force of a head-on collision), meaning that injuries in a sideswipe accident are often less serious than those in forceful head-on collisions. Insurance companies often try to use this as an excuse to devalue your claim. They might claim that you have “only” suffered soft tissue injuries, and therefore do not deserve very much compensation for your pain and suffering. But soft tissue injuries can be incredibly painful.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, soft tissue injuries consist of damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments and include:
- Sprains – A partial tear to a ligament
- Strains – Injuries to muscles or tendons
- Contusions – Bruising
- Tendonitis – Inflammation of the tendons
- Bursitis – Inflammation of the protective sac between a bone and a muscle or tendon
- Stress injuries – A gradual build-up of damage to a muscle or tendon due to repetitive motions
As you can see, soft tissue injuries affect the body parts we need to get around every day. Even a minor soft tissue injury could prevent you from working, exercising, or holding your children, or simply living your life. You deserve fair compensation for these losses, regardless of the severity of your injuries.
How Can I Protect My Legal Rights After a Car Accident?
You have the legal right to fair compensation for all of your injuries and losses. Insurance companies are trying to pay as little as possible on as few claims as possible, which means they are working against your legal interests.
The risk of receiving inadequate compensation underlines the importance of hiring your own injury lawyer as soon as possible after an auto accident. Your injury lawyer will stand up to the insurance company’s well-trained insurance adjusters and an army of lawyers to prove the fair value of your injury claim.
Your lawyer will also help guide you on what to say and do (and more importantly, what not to say and do) while your injury case is pending. For example, it is critical that you now post anything about the accident on social media. Do not post pictures and do not make statements about what happened. Do not discuss your injuries or medical treatments. Insurance companies hire investigators who are experts at finding your information online.
Even if you have adjusted your privacy settings, it is still possible for these investigators to find your information. Insurance companies use all kinds of information from social media to try to devalue your injury claim. Even something like a gym selfie could hurt your case since the insurance company might say that if you are well enough to work out, you could not possibly be in as much pain as you say you are.
Your attorney can fight these unfair tactics, but it is much better if you simply do not have any of this information on social media in the first place. The best practice is to post nothing at all. The less information you have online, the less likely it is that the insurance company will find something to use against you.
What If the Other Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance or Leaves the Scene Before I Can Get Their Information?
You may still have insurance coverage to pay for your injuries even if the driver hits and runs, or does not have auto insurance, or has minimum coverage that is not enough to pay for all of your losses. Florida is one of the few states that require drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage on their auto insurance policies.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation explains that PIP is a no-fault auto insurance coverage that provides up to $10,000 in immediate medical coverage. This coverage is immediate because the driver does not have to prove who was at fault for the accident, so long as the covered party suffered injuries in an auto accident, the medical coverage is available, regardless of who was at fault. These factors ensure that injury victims can get medical bills paid through their own auto insurance.
PIP does not cover lost wages or pain and suffering, so it is still important to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy whenever possible. If the driver hits and runs, or does not have auto insurance, or does not have enough coverage, you may still claim these benefits.
Florida drivers can purchase optional coverage on their auto insurance policies that are called uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage pays for injuries and losses caused by a driver who has no insurance (UM) or insufficient coverage (UIM). Your injury lawyer will file an insurance claim against your own auto insurance policy to access these benefits. This type of coverage is optional, so some drivers might not have this important safety net. Talk to your insurance agent about the costs and benefits of having UM and UIM coverage on your auto insurance policy.
What Happens After I File My Claim?
It is helpful to understand the process of what will happen after you hire a lawyer, as it makes the process less overwhelming and can put you in a better position to protect your legal right. Your lawyer will open a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The insurance company will conduct its own investigation to determine who was at fault for causing the accident.
Sometimes, this is a simple process, and the insurance company accepts liability without dispute. But in many other cases, a car accident lawyer has to fight to prove fault and get the insurance company to accept liability. Sometimes the insurance company will even try to blame you for your own injuries. Do not be discouraged by this. Car accident lawyers have a lot of experience in proving who was at fault, and they know how to work with insurance companies on this issue.
Once the insurance company accepts liability, they will determine the value of your claim. Claims adjusters determine a claim’s value with a simple mathematical formula. They multiply the total cost of your medical bills by a small amount (usually between one and three, depending on your injuries) to determine the value of your pain and suffering. Adjusters then add the monetary value of your pain and suffering to the cost of your medical bills and your lost wages to arrive at a total value.
The insurance company will offer to settle your claim for this amount. Your lawyer will advise you on whether this is a fair amount, or whether you should keep negotiating, or whether the amount is so unfair that you should simply file a lawsuit right away.
If the insurance company refuses to accept liability or refuses to budge from a low settlement offer, your attorney will most likely advise you to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. Doing so enforces your right to a jury trial so that your peers can decide who was at fault and the amount of your compensation.
In some cases, the mere act of filing a lawsuit is enough to encourage the insurance company to make a fair settlement offer instead of incurring the costs of litigation. Other times the attorneys must start the discovery process to fully investigate all aspects of the case. A car accident case can settle at any point before trial, so these investigations are important to help each lawyer understand the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case. If all this fails, your case might proceed all the way to a jury trial.
Will I Have to Go to Court?
The vast majority of car accident cases in the United States settle outside of court. Very few car accident cases go to trial, so you probably will not need to testify at trial. But do not be afraid of the process if your case does get this far. Your attorney will fully prepare you for what to expect, how to dress, and what to say. You might also have to court before trial if the judge schedules pretrial conferences, evidentiary hearings, or other court matters. These can occur any time after the filing of a lawsuit on your behalf. Here, too, your attorney will prepare you for what to expect.
You might have to give testimony outside of the courtroom, as well. Attorneys are allowed to take depositions of witnesses. Depositions are a chance for the attorney to ask the witness questions under oath. While a deposition is usually taken at a lawyer’s office and not the courthouse, there is a court reporter present, and you give your answers under oath. This might sound intimidating.
In reality, though, a deposition usually amounts to nothing more than a lawyer asking you questions about the accident and your injuries in their conference room. Your lawyer will prepare you for what to expect and what to say. You may also ask for breaks, so if you become flustered or confused, you can consult your lawyer before answering any further questions.
Don’t Wait to Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
After a terrifying sideswipe accident, you have many things on your mind. You need to keep up with your medical appointments, figure out how to cover expenses if you cannot work, and navigate your daily life. You should focus on these things and allow a car accident lawyer to handle the claim process and stand up for your rights.