Car Accident

Introduction

You did not anticipate getting involved in a car accident. However, that is what happened. Now, what do you do? Who is responsible for paying your medical bills and reimbursing you for your financial losses, pain, and suffering? How do you file a claim to get the compensation you deserve? Do you need a personal injury lawyer to file a claim?

It is common to feel overwhelmed and have lots of questions after being injured in an accident. We are here to help. Our injury attorney has developed this guide for winning a car accident claim. We provide the information you need to help you prepare to file an insurance claim for physical injuries, financial losses, and emotional distress.

We also give you tips for dealing with insurance adjusters and a checklist to help you know when you need to call a car accident lawyer for help.

How to Win Your Car Accident Claim for Personal Injuries?

The key to winning your auto accident claim for personal injuries is to understand the steps to take after a car crash. In this guide, you will learn more about:

  • What to do immediately after a car crash
  • How to document your injuries and damages from an accident by car
  • How to calculate the value of an injury claim
  • The deadline for filing a personal injury claim for a car accident
  • Steps in the settlement process for injury claims
  • Situations that indicate you may need an accident attorney
Male Driver take pictures of accident-damaged vehicle

Steps to Take After a Traffic Accident

Gather Evidence At the Accident Scene

The first thing to do after a collision is to report the crash to the police. Calling 911 is usually the quickest way to report the crash and request emergency medical services (EMS) compared to locating the local police station for the zip code of the accident site.

While you are waiting for EMS and police to arrive, it can be beneficial to document the accident scene and gather evidence. However, you should never place yourself or others at risk for further injuries or harm to get proof.

If you can do so safely:

  • Make photographs of the accident site. Make sure to include the positions of each vehicle, property damage, and the surrounding area.
  • Make a video of the accident scene. Videos can capture additional evidence that you might miss with a photograph.
  • Ask witnesses and bystanders for their contact information. Some people may leave the accident scene before the police arrive. These individuals could provide crucial evidence to prove fault, which is necessary for winning a personal injury claim. Therefore, it is a good idea to get their information, if possible.
  • Ask the other drivers involved in the crash for their names, contact information, and insurance information.
  • Never admit fault. Don’t say you are sorry because that could be construed as admitting guilt. Even if you believe you might have contributed to the cause of the crash, don’t admit fault. Tell the officer what you remember without embellishing, offering your opinion, or lying.
  • Request a copy of the police report as soon as possible.

A person seriously injured in a crash typically cannot gather evidence at the crash scene. In some cases, a bystander or another person in the vehicle might help gather proof for you.

If you were unable to gather evidence at the scene of the accident, don’t worry. That doesn’t mean you cannot win your personal injury claim and recover compensation for your injuries. However, it could be a reason for contacting an accident attorney.

Man having medical treatment after car accident

Medical Treatment is Very Important

Medical treatment after a car accident is vital for two reasons. First, you need to take care of yourself.

Car accidents can result in severe injuries, which may not always be immediately known after a collision. For example, the symptoms and signs of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may not be noticeable for several hours or days after a crash. Delays in medical care could result in more severe conditions and complications. Additionally, delays in medical care could also hurt your insurance claim.

Insurance companies search for ways to deny injury claims or pay as little as possible to resolve complaints. A delay in medical care can give the insurance company a reason to deny or undervalue your injury claim.

The insurance adjuster may argue that the delay in medical care caused your injury to worsen. The claims adjuster may allege that your delay in medical care means that you were not injured in the crash, or your injuries are not as severe as you claim.

You don’t want to give the insurance company any reason to dispute your injury claim. Therefore, see a doctor as soon as possible after the crash.

Notify the Insurance Companies

As soon as possible, notify your car insurance company that you were involved in a traffic accident. Your insurance agent can help you identify any coverage under your insurance policy that might help you pay for expenses related to the accident while you are working to settle a claim against the other driver.

Also, notify the other driver’s insurance company that you want to start a claim. However, avoid providing a written or recorded statement. You don’t need to give a detailed report to file insurance claims.

Make sure you read our “Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Insurance Adjusters” below before you discuss your accident with a claims adjuster. Knowing what to expect from an insurance professional can increase your chance of winning your personal injury claim.

Stressed Driver Sitting At Roadside After Traffic Accident

Documenting Your Injuries and Damages

Gathering evidence at the accident scene helps to prove fault for the car crash. You must prove fault to receive compensation for your damages. However, you must also prove that you were injured and incurred losses to get money for a car accident claim.

Therefore, documenting your injuries and damages is as crucial as gathering evidence to prove fault.

What Types Of Damages Can I Receive For A Car Accident Claim?

Most accident victims sustain physical, financial, and emotional damages because of an auto accident.

Damages are typically divided into three categories:

Financial Damages

Financial or economic damages include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Medications, including prescription medications and over-the-counter medications
  • Medical equipment and supplies
  • Personal care costs
  • Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as house cleaning, child care, and lawn care provided by a third party other than a family member
  • Loss of income, including wages, commissions, bonuses, salaries, and business income
  • Cost of physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, and other forms of therapy
  • Travel expenses and additional out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident, your injuries, and your recovery
Man holding his head

Noneconomic Losses

Noneconomic losses or “pain and suffering” damages include the physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish you experience because of your injuries or the automobile accident. Pain and suffering damages include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional and mental distress, including depression, PTSD, anxiety, and other psychological or mental disorders or conditions
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Permanent disabilities and impairments
  • Loss of quality of life or enjoyment of life
  • Loss of physical and emotional relationships and intimacy

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are a particular type of car accident compensation that is only available in particular cases. In many traffic accident cases, punitive damages don’t apply. Punitive damages are considered “punishment” for actions that constitute a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others. An example of an accident that might fit into this category would be a DUI accident.

Worried disabled woman sitting on a couch in the living room at home

How Do You Document Injuries And Damages?

Documenting Physical Injuries and Pain & Suffering Damages

Seeking immediate medical treatment and following your doctor’s treatment plan is the first step in documenting your physical injuries. Medical records are the best way to prove that you were injured in a car accident. However, records are only words on a page.

If a lawsuit must be filed, having photographs of your injuries can help a jury understand the severity of your car accident injuries. Photos can also help convince a claims adjuster that you suffered significant injuries, pain, and suffering because of the auto accident. Therefore, take photographs of your injuries throughout your recovery.

Also, create a pain and suffering journal. In your pain and suffering journal, write down information that documents your pain and suffering caused in the accident, such as:

  • Your daily pain level;
  • Activities of daily living (ADLs) that you cannot do for yourself because of your injuries;
  • Notes about how your injuries impact your relationships with family members and friends; and,
  • Whether you experience emotional distress, such as nightmares, night terrors, flashbacks, PTSD, anxiety, fear, or depression, as part of your recovery.

A pain and suffering journal can help you maximize the value of your pain and suffering damages.

Documenting Financial Losses

To recover compensation for financial losses, you need documentation for the expenses and costs related to the accident. You must have proof of payment or evidence of the financial loss for financial damages you want to include in your auto accident claim. Examples of evidence of financial losses include invoices, bills, receipts, tax returns, statements from your employer, etc.

Two cars hit each other on american dollar background

What is the Average Settlement for a Car Accident Claim?

There is not a standard formula for calculating the value of a traffic accident claim. The amount your car accident claim is worth depends on many factors, such as:

  • The type and severity of your accident injuries;
  • The number of financial losses incurred because of the accident;
  • Whether you had any responsibility for the cause of the crash;
  • The amount of insurance coverage available for your claim; and,
  • Whether you sustained a disability or permanent impairment.

The amount of economic damages is easier to determine than the value of your pain and suffering. To calculate the value of economic damages, you add together all financial losses related to the accident, your injuries, and your recovery. That total is the value of your economic damages.

Noneconomic or “pain and suffering” damages are more difficult to value. Everyone suffers in their own unique way. You don’t have an invoice or bill for pain and suffering. Therefore, some people use a multiplier to calculate pain and suffering damages. For example, you might calculate pain and suffering damages by multiplying the total of economic loss by two, three, or four.

Using a multiplier to calculate pain and suffering may work in cases that don’t involve serious injuries or permanent impairments. If you sustained a serious injury or cannot return to work, you might want to consult with a personal injury lawyer instead of trying to settle your injury claim without an attorney.

Deadline Illustration on a clock

Is There a Deadline for Filing a Claim After an Auto Accident?

Yes, there is a deadline for filing a claim after an auto accident. Each state has a Statute of Limitations for filing injury lawsuits. If you do not file a lawsuit before the deadline, you lose your right to hold the other party legally liable for your injuries and damages.

The deadlines for filing a claim vary by state. For example, the deadline to file a car accident lawsuit in Ohio is generally two years from the date of the car crash. However, the deadline to file a car accident lawsuit in Michigan is three years from the date of the car wreck.

BEWARE! The deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit could be shorter! If the claim involves a government entity, you could have just a few months to file a notice of claim. In some cases, the deadline to file a claim could be extended, but that only happens in very few cases.

If you sustained injuries that require months or years to recover or the insurance company is dragging the case out for a long time, you should find an accident lawyer immediately to review your case.

Accident report form on brown envelope

How Do I Settle a Car Accident Claim?

The process of settling a car accident claim begins with filing an injury claim with the insurance provider for the driver who caused the crash. Make sure to ask for a claim number and the name of the claims adjuster assigned to your case.

Each injury claim is unique. The general steps for a typical insurance claim include:

1. An investigation by the insurance adjuster.

The claims adjuster contacts you to discuss your claim. The adjuster investigates the claim to determine the extent of the victim’s injuries and the value of the claim. The adjuster may answer questions you have about the claim. Keep in mind that the adjuster may answer your questions in ways that protect the company instead of protecting your best interests.

2. Initial settlement offer.

In most cases, the claims adjuster offers an amount to settle the injury claim. If the claims adjuster doesn’t offer a settlement, you may need to send a demand settlement letter to the insurance company. A demand letter provides the details related to:

  • Why the other driver is responsible for the cause of the accident;
  • How the accident caused your injuries;
  • The nature and extent of your injuries;
  • The necessary medical care required to treat your injuries.
  • The financial losses incurred because of the accident and your injuries;
  • How you have suffered emotionally because of the accident; and,
  • The amount of money you demand to settle the injury claim.

You may also need to send copies of the police report, medical records, and proof of financial losses with the demand letter.

Insurer giving advice application form document

3. Counteroffer or Acceptance.

If you accept an offer to settle the claim from the insurance company or the company accepts your demand for settlement, the company prepares a release form. The release form is signed before payment is made to the victim. The release form ends the claim. Once you sign a release form, you cannot claim additional damages, even if you forgot to include financial damages or realize your injury is more severe than previously thought.

4. Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit.

If the insurance company and the accident victim cannot agree to a settlement, a lawsuit may be filed. The lawsuit allows the matter to be settled by a judge or jury.

Insurance Agent examine Damaged Car and customer filing signature on Report Claim Form

Do’s and Don’ts for Dealing with Insurance Adjusters

The claims adjuster assigned to your case doesn’t work for you. The adjuster works for the insurance company. Therefore, the adjuster protects the best interest of the insurance company.

The adjuster’s goal is to pay as little as possible to settle insurance claims. If possible, the adjuster prefers to deny your claim so that the insurance company doesn’t incur any liability for the accident.

Most insurance adjusters are honest people, but they have a job to do. They use a variety of tactics to accomplish their goal. If you are dealing directly with an insurance company, you need to understand these tactics and how to avoid making errors that can hurt your case.

Things to know about insurance companies and adjusters include:

Watch What You Say

An adjuster may try to get you to say something that could be used to deny your claim or undervalue your claim. Avoid making any recorded or written statements.

Also, be aware that most telephone calls with the insurance company are recorded, even if the person doesn’t tell you the call is being recorded.

Insurance Agent examine Damaged Car

Trying to Blame the Victim

A common tactic used by insurance companies is blaming the victim for the cause of the crash or the victim’s injuries. For instance, if you say that you were rushing the day of the accident because you overslept, the insurance company might say you were speeding at the time of the crash. Because you were speeding, you contributed to the cause of the crash.

If the insurance company can place partial blame for the cause of the accident on you, the value of your claim goes down. The compensation you receive is reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you for causing the accident under your state’s comparative fault or contributory fault laws.

Protect Your Medical Records

Don’t sign a medical release authorization for the insurance company. You don’t have to do this, even if the adjuster tells you that it is necessary to verify your injuries. The insurance company may want to search your medical history for previous injuries or accidents it can use to decrease the value of your injury claim. Instead of allowing the company access to your entire medical history, a release must be limited by date and only medical records related to accident injuries.

Don’t Accept the First Settlement Offer

The insurance adjuster typically offers a very low amount to entice you to settle the claim. The first offer is usually much lower than the actual value of the claim, especially when the offer is made before you complete medical treatment. The adjuster may want you to settle your claim before you realize the severity of your injuries.

Delay Tactics

The adjuster may use various tactics to delay settling your case. If the claim is delayed long enough, you could run out of time to file a lawsuit, thereby losing your right to recover compensation for your injuries.

Personal Injury Law

When Do I Need a Personal Injury Attorney for My Accident Claim?

Even though you aren’t required by law to hire an attorney to file a car accident claim, we recommend that you talk to an attorney before accepting a settlement offer. Once you sign the release, you cannot get any more money for the claim.

Talking to a personal injury lawyer is a wise choice in any case. However, we strongly recommend that you call a car accident attorney if any of the following situations apply in your case:

  • The other driver denies that he or she caused a car accident.
  • You are being blamed for the cause of the accident, or a party alleges you contributed to the cause of the crash.
  • You sustained severe injuries, including catastrophic or life-threatening injuries.
  • The car accident resulted in a disability or permanent impairment.
  • You sustained a substantial amount of financial losses related to the car crash.
  • The claims adjuster is attempting to settle your claim before you complete medical treatment.
  • The accident involves a government vehicle, employee, or entity.
  • It is approaching a year since the date of the accident, and the claim is not settled.
  • The insurance company denied your insurance claim.
  • The auto accident involves multiple vehicles, a commercial vehicle, or a large truck.

A personal injury lawyer understands the laws related to proving fault for the crash and liability for damages. An attorney also understands the tactics used by insurance companies to avoid paying valid injury claims.

Don’t allow an insurance adjuster to tell you that you don’t need a car accident lawyer. You have the right to legal counsel before talking to a claims adjuster or other insurance professional. Protect yourself and your family by exercising your legal rights. You can talk to a lawyer with the Herman Legal Group free of charge.

If you have questions about a car accident claim, contact the Herman Legal Group for a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer. Call 1-800-808-4013 or contact us online. We answer your questions about car accidents, filing injury claims, and maximizing the value of your claim to receive full compensation for all damages.

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