A car accident can turn a person’s life upside down. Victims of serious vehicular accidents face too much pain and suffering brought about by physical injuries, temporary or permanent disability, and lost wages resulting in a financial burden. They also need to endure the stress and hassle of complicated legal processes to seek justice and compensation for the damages they’ve sustained.
Because accidents can happen to anyone even though you’re too cautious when you drive, it’s essential to be abreast of the right information on how to deal with them. In this article, you’ll learn the important things victims should know to guide you in making sound decisions if you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident.
Causes And Types Of Car Accidents
Road accidents happen because of various reasons, such as drunk driving, distracted driving, drowsy driving, speeding, or reckless driving. Victims may include drivers, passengers, and even pedestrians. They can seek the help of their local legal counsel, such as a New Jersey car accident attorney to help them recover compensation from their medical bills, property repair, and other damages.
There are different types of car accidents and knowing them will give victims an idea of their possible impacts on a person’s life, most especially one’s physical well-being. They’re as follows:
- Head-on Collisions: They’re the most devastating, in which negligence often results in head-on collisions. It causes extreme physical trauma such as broken bones, severe lacerations, internal injuries, and burns.
- Highway Construction Accidents: Contractors of highway construction projects should ascertain the safety of the area by installing early warning signs. However, some drivers aren’t careful in driving and still get themselves in trouble despite the safety measures set in place in highway construction areas.
- Intersection Accidents: A driver’s error or negligence in intersections may lead to this type of accident. Victims may suffer traumatic brain injury (TBI), back injuries, neck injury, or soft tissue injuries like cuts, tears, bruises, or sprains.
- Interstate Accidents: Vehicles travel at very fast speeds on interstate highways which can result in interstate accidents.
- Rear-End Accidents: The most common type of vehicle accident resulting in whiplash is rear-ended. Back and spinal injuries are very common in rear-end vehicle accidents. The impact can cause severe back injury and compress the spine that may result in a lifetime or permanent disability.
- Rollover Accidents: High speed is a common cause of this type of accident involving one or two or more vehicles. It results in devastating impacts and serious physical injuries. A rollover can cause fractures, bruises, internal organ damage, penetrating injuries, and even loss of body parts.
- Side-Impact Accidents: A side-impact accident usually happens at intersections which causes more injuries to occupants. Standardized safety installations are usually lacking in vehicles, so the possible injuries of a side impact car accident can vary greatly, such as head injuries, neck injuries, rib injuries, back injuries, shoulder and arm injuries, and ear injuries caused by airbags and broken glass.
Important Things To Do After The Incident
All actions right after the car crash contribute to the outcome of a personal injury case. As expected, victims of vehicle collisions usually experience shock right after the incident. But it’s crucial to stay alert and ensure the following:
- Safety: You and your passengers’ safety must be your number one priority regardless if you had a car or motor accident. Park your vehicle on the safe side of the road if you can. Call 911 or the emergency response team immediately. If you can’t because your hands are stuck or you can’t reach your phone, have someone to do it.
- Contact Significant People: Call the police for immediate assistance. Also, it would help to contact your family and your lawyer to let them know about your situation.
- Gather Evidence: Victims can take photos or videos of the car crash scene if they can to gather the evidence they can use when they need to file an insurance claim.
- Don’t Provide Any Statement: Police authorities may interrogate you right after the car crash. However, you can tell them politely that you’re still in shock and can’t provide any statement yet. Giving a statement immediately can incriminate yourself which will be noted on the police report, which would be more difficult to defend later on. Call your lawyer right away to represent you in interrogations and negotiations to avoid this problem.
Types Of Car Accident Legal Damages
Victims of car crashes face different types of damages. It’s crucial for injury victims to fully understand the different types of damages. In this way, they’ll avoid committing the common mistake of immediately accepting settlement offers without determining the value of their claim, which often leaves them with lower amounts of compensation than they deserve.
Lawyers help victims determine the type of damages they have incurred, including setting a corresponding amount or monetary value for damages and filing a claim for fair compensation. Check the following types of damages and compensation victims can file in a car accident claim:
- Medical Expenses: They make up the largest part of a car accident’s economic damages, which include all the costs incurred in hospitalization. Also, medical expenses include ambulance costs, medications, prosthetic devices, in-home services, physical therapy, medical appointments, and future medical treatments due to long-term disability.
- Lost Wages: Income losses results from the victim’s inability to work because of physical injuries that need acute care or long-term medical intervention. The computation for lost hours or amounts already lost is pretty straightforward. However, the calculation for income losses in a victim with a permanent disability may be more complex, which involves using damages formulas and considering the person’s life expectancy. Experienced personal injury lawyers work with experts to compute complex future earnings losses.
- Property Losses: A victim may need to repair his vehicle or purchase a new car, so filing a claim for property losses is advised. It’s possible to have property losses settled separately from physical injury claims, while the latter is still pending.
- Pain and Suffering: This type of damage is considered non-economic or more intangible than lost wages and medical expenses. Victims can seek recovery of damages for their pain and suffering and the amount is based on the nature of their injuries and medical diagnosis. Insurance companies usually have their formula to know the value of pain and suffering, such as multiplying the actual damages (like medical expenses and lost wages) by 1 to 5 (depends on the severity of the injuries).
- Loss of Companionship or Consortium: A victim left with a disabling physical condition can result to disrupting the normal spousal relationship. So, the spouse of the victim can file a damage claim for loss of companionship or consortium. This claim is an underlying claim, which can only be recovered if the victim prevails on the claim.
- Loss of Quality of Life: Long-term or permanent disabilities can significantly reduce a victim’s quality of life, so they can also file damage claims for it.
- Disfigurement Damages: A car crash can cause body part amputation, scars, and other disfigurement damages. Victims can also file a claim for disfigurement or scar to get compensated.
- Wrongful Death: If the victim dies, his family members can recover additional damages for funeral expenses under a wrongful death claim. The claim may include medical expenses before the victim’s death, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.
The Legal Process
Car accident cases follow a legal process. And it’s in your best interest to hire an experienced lawyer handling this type of case to reduce your burden dealing with all the necessary information, talks, and documents required. In general, here’s how the legal process works:
File A Car Accident Insurance Claim
Some people choose to settle a car accident privately. However, settling a case privately isn’t advisable because medical bills can quickly add up and injuries may present after some time, leaving victims paying out of pocket to settle them.
Victims should file an insurance claim early because the statutes of limitations apply, which is two to three years from the date of the accident. Also, some insurance companies only pay the car repair costs for the year after the accident occurred. Delaying filing an insurance claim makes it harder to track down all parties involved in the accident such as witnesses needed for interviews to strengthen your case.
Here’s how a car accident insurance claim work:
- Insurance Company Assigns a Representative: After the victim filed a claim, the insurance company will send a claims adjuster to investigate the case. The responsibility of a claim adjustor includes reviewing the police report and other evidence, visiting the accident scene, and interviewing witnesses and parties involved. Based on the gathered information, the insurance company will decide if the victim will get the expected amount of settlement or the settlement amount reduced or denied.
- Victim’s Role: The insurance claims adjuster might ask the victim to sign a medical release form to gain permission to access his medical records. Victims will be interviewed as well. They should be prepared and talk to their personal injury lawyer before giving their statements to ensure they won’t say things that can reduce or deny their claim.
- Amount of Claim Settlement: The average car accident settlement is approximately US$21,000. The amount falls between US$14,000 and US$28,000. The case settlement is higher for severe and permanent injuries. Also, victims get paid more if the other driver (defendant) was driving under the influence when the incident occurred. A car accident lawyer can negotiate for the amount of the claim settlement. If negotiation fails, the next step is filing a lawsuit.
File A Lawsuit
The litigation process starts by filing a lawsuit if the claim doesn’t settle. This means that the victim should file a lawsuit in a court that has jurisdiction over the case. Summons and complaints will be served on both parties and then the discovery process takes place.
The discovery process includes servicing of written questions or interrogatories, demanding document copies, and serving deposition notices on all parties and witnesses. Involved parties can attempt to resolve the case before court trial through mediation. In mediation, a neutral party reviews the evidence of both parties. The mediator asks each side to consider their strong and weak points, and determine if a mutual agreement can be reached.
Also, arbitration is another option before a court trial. A non-binding arbitration process is suitable for a mini-trial, in which the arbitrator rules on the evidence and issues an award or non-award. Either party can reject the result and proceed to a court trial. On the other hand, binding arbitration is applicable in larger cases, so the process is more like a court trial with retired judges who are often the arbitrators.
Car Accident Case Outcomes
A car accident lawsuit can take at least one year, assuming the case goes to court trial without appeal. During the legal process, most cases usually settle before a formal court trial. A personal injury case can settle after the victim files a complaint or after a court trial.
Most often than not, the evidence presented during the trial can dictate the direction of the case. For instance, if one party denies causing the car accident but admits being drunk while driving at the time of the incident, then the legal dispute is over.
Most car accident case settlements occur after the discovery stage is finished before a court trial commences. So, it’s safe to say that most cases settle in a few months or a few years right after the lawsuit begins. A case may take time if plaintiffs insist to fight based on principle. A lawsuit may represent a chance to obtain justice. Also, some defendants already recognize they’re losing the case, but prefer to make things difficult for the plaintiff.
Victims of car accidents should fully understand the things they need to do after the incident, including the substantial evidence they need to present when filing a claim. Personal injury lawyers can help victims seek rightful compensation for their hospital expenses and other damages.
Also, victims should understand that when things get too personal, the case may resolve longer than expected. So, it’s best to have a lawyer handle all legal aspects to avoid this problem and for victims to resume their normal lives.