Knowing your rights and being able to advocate for yourself legally in the wake of an accident is no easy task. If you get into a car crash or are the surviving family member of a loved one who has recently died in a car accident, you may be entitled to collect compensation.
List Of Common Causes Of Auto Accidents
Auto accidents in the United States can be influenced by a variety of factors, ranging from personal driving behavior to factors outside our immediate control—such as poor road conditions and the behavior of other drivers.
Annual research on the nation’s leading causes of motor vehicle crashes identify several common causes underlying the numerous crashes that occur across the country, varying somewhat by state and local region.
Common causes of auto accidents in the U.S. include:
- drug or alcohol impairment (driving under the influence)
- defective vehicle parts (e.g. brakes, steering, tires)
- distracted driving
- aggressive driving
- traffic law violations
- poorly maintained roads
- malfunctioning traffic signals or worn signs
- texting while driving
Common Car Accident Injuries
Motor vehicles are large and heavy objects that can, in some cases, offer protection in the event of a crash. However, they can also wreak significant damage, causing harm to yourself, a passenger, or any property through direct or indirect contact.
People often sustain serious injuries in auto accidents depending on the nature of the incident and your surroundings.
Common injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents include:
- severe brain trauma
- road rash
- scrapes and cuts
- broken bones (i.e. arms or legs)
- broken ribs
- internal bleeding
- neck injury
In severe cases, car accidents can also result in more permanent conditions, such as the loss of limbs, eye trauma, hearing problems, paralysis, and death. Individuals can also suffer psychologically in the aftermath of an accident.
People of all ages and backgrounds can be susceptible to negative effects on mental health as a result of an accident. You may notice yourself feeling more skittish, depressed, or anxious in the presence of any sound, object, or person that reminds you of your accident.
Any injury sustained from a car accident—be it physical or psychological—is worth taking seriously, even if the accident was minor. However, not everyone sees it this way.
Even people who have previously had good experiences with their auto insurance can find themselves having a difficult time receiving coverage for personal injury and property damage in the aftermath of a crash.
If you or a loved one is having difficulty securing coverage for auto accident-related damages, you may be entitled to file a car accident claim to secure appropriate compensation.
Types Of Auto Accident Claims
The types of legal options available to you in the aftermath of a car accident may to some extent depend on state and local laws.
All drivers in the U.S. are required to carry some form of personal auto insurance, but the amount of coverage offered and the criteria you must meet in order to file an insurance claim and receive such coverage may vary depending on your insurance company and whether you are deemed at-fault in an accident.
Understanding what types of car accident claims are available, however, can give you a useful starting point in determining your next steps towards seeking compensation for accident-related damages:
Personal Injury Claim: One of the primary reasons a person might choose to file a claim after getting into an accident is to seek compensation for accident-related injuries and their associated costs.
This may include:
- medical bills
- the cost of riding in an ambulance
- medical negligence
- lost wages
- ongoing medical care
- funeral costs
Personal injury claims can, in some cases, be limited to the coverage amount detailed within your auto insurance policy. An attorney can help you determine how much compensation you are entitled to and negotiate a fair settlement amount on your behalf.
Property Damage Claim: Another type of claim you can file after getting into a car accident is a property damage claim, which can help cover costs such as vehicle repair, car part replacement, rental car costs, and the replacement of other valuable items in your vehicle that were damaged in the accident.
Factors That Affect Car Accident Claims
The process of filing a car accident claim can be influenced by several critical factors. These can affect the value of your claim as well as your likelihood of successfully securing a fair settlement offer. These factors can be explained in greater detail by an experienced auto accident attorney.
Consider how these influential factors may affect your decision to file a car accident claim:
Consideration Of Negligence
Although it can be difficult for car accident victims to recall the moments leading up to an auto accident, thinking about the causes that led to an accident can be important for determining liability and identifying a party’s negligence.
In personal injury claims, negligence refers to any behavior or action that directly led to injury, property damage, or other resulting consequences. Texting while driving, for instance, is one example of negligence, as long as it can be proven to have directly resulted in certain consequences.
The significance of negligence in a car accident claim can vary depending on where you live in the U.S. Florida law, for instance, follows a pure comparative fault rule that bases your awarded damages on your percentage of fault in an accident. This means that if you were even partially at fault for an accident, your percentage of fault will affect the amount of your awarded damages.
Degree Of Fault
Related to the consideration of negligence in a car accident claim is your degree of fault in causing or contributing to the cause of the accident. If you are partially or fully at fault for an accident, your ability to seek compensation for damages may be limited or potentially denied.
However, if the accident was caused by another party, such as another motorist or governmental entity (i.e. due to poorly maintained roads or traffic signs), you may have a promising advantage in recovering damages related to personal injury or property damage.
Determining your fault after an accident can best be done collaboratively with an experienced attorney who can help you review the various factors that may have contributed to your accident. Do not provide a statement to your insurance company declaring your degree of fault before you have spoken with an experienced car accident attorney.
Extent Of Injuries
The severity of a car accident, and resulting injuries, can play a major role in the amount of damages awarded in a car accident case. Major vehicle accidents can have transformative consequences, potentially resulting in serious injury, paralysis, loss of limbs, and death.
If you’ve been severely injured in an auto accident, or are the surviving family member of someone who was killed in a traffic crash, your awarded damages will ideally be reflective of the extent of your hardship.
Compared to a minor incident such as a slight fender bender, major accidents can lead to significant expenses, racking up outrageously high medical bills, ongoing care costs, funeral or burial costs, and lost income potential as a result of permanent injury.
Ways The Accident Impacted Your Life
Car accidents can have far-reaching effects that extend beyond the immediate aftermath of a serious incident. As you’re filing a claim, you’ll likely be faced with the question: how is this accident going to affect my daily life and my goals moving forward?
The most obvious effects of an accident often include injuries or car damage. However, this doesn’t often capture the full picture.
Additional ways an accident can impact your life include:
- job loss
- lost income potential
- loss of independence (i.e. due to permanent injury requiring ongoing assisted care)
- pain and suffering costs
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- loss of companionship (e.g. as a surviving spouse)
- modifications to your living space or transportation methods to accommodate severe or permanent injuries (e.g. widening hallways, ramp installation)
Should I Settle With An Insurance Company Or Consult A Car Accident Attorney
Hiring a car accident attorney to help you file a strong personal injury claim can provide you a number of benefits—including a greater likelihood of reaching a satisfactory settlement offer.
In addition, car accident attorneys can help you by:
Bringing Relevant Experience
Anyone who is not a legal expert can benefit from having an in-depth knowledge of an attorney to aid them in the process of filing a personal injury claim. Even if you have a history of filing previous claims: Do you feel completely confident in successfully navigating the car accident claims process?
If your response comes with even a hint of hesitation, consider asking yourself this: is going the process alone worth the risk of having to settle for less compensation than you deserve?
Any situation that involves serious stakes is going to bring up a lot of questions. If you’re unsure about whether you want to hire an attorney, reach out to their office to see if they can offer you an initial consultation free of charge.
Strengthening Your Personal Injury Claim
Attorneys understand the types of evidence and information that will best strengthen your case and increase your chances of securing a fair settlement.
An attorney with experience handling car accident claims will have greater insight than the average personal injury lawyer and be able to explain the process of filing a strong claim for you step-by-step.
Negotiating With Your Insurance Company And Other Companies On Your Behalf
Many people get frustrated trying to negotiate with an insurance company after getting into an accident. You’re not alone. Hiring an attorney can ease this burden by shifting the responsibility of negotiating with insurance to a legal professional who has more experience talking to the faceless individuals on the other end of a phone line and advocating for injured parties on their behalf.
What To Do After A Car Accident Before Contacting Your Insurance Company
Having a step-by-step guide for actions to take after getting into an accident can be an important resource and offer crucial guidance for gathering evidence to support your claim.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, follow these steps:
1. Seek Medical Care
The most important thing you can do for yourself and any other passengers in your vehicle in the event of an accident is to first attend to your safety. Assess yourself and any other individuals involved in the accident for injuries.
If you or anyone else has been injured, call 9-1-1 right away. Even minor injuries should be properly assessed by a medical professional to prevent more severe consequences and ensure appropriate medical treatment is received.
2. Collect Contact Information
Make sure to collect the contact information of all other motorists involved in the accident. This includes personal information such as names, phone numbers, license plate numbers, as well as their insurance information. This will be important later on as you seek compensation for resulting damages.
3. Call The Police
Reporting an accident to the police will get you an official police report that you can use later on as official documentation of the incident.
Police and medical reports can serve as useful evidence to support your claim, and having a police officer on-scene may also be helpful as a mediating party between yourself and any other motorists experiencing significant distress.
4. Get Photographic Evidence
It’s to begin taking down notes of the accident as soon as you are in a safe location away from any dangerous traffic or debris. Note the time of the collision and your location.
If you have a working phone, take photos of your injuries, car damage, vehicle positioning, and the license plates of all other vehicles. These can be helpful to support your claim as far as reporting the extent of your injuries and other damages.
5. Contact A Car Accident Lawyer
If you’re in an auto accident, one of your first instincts will probably be to call your insurance company and report the incident. While this is an important step, most people who get into an accident are also under a great deal of stress and may not be able to provide a clear and accurate report of the accident at the time it takes place.
Before calling your auto insurance, it may be helpful to contact a car accident attorney who can provide you with guidance on how to report your accident to your insurance company without unintentionally hurting your chances of securing coverage.
How Much Is Your Car Accident Claim Worth?
The value of your car accident claim will depend on several factors, including the extent of your damages and the nature of the incident. When it comes to car accidents, it’s difficult to name an average settlement amount without first discussing the details of the case with an attorney.
Once you have shared your story with an attorney, they should be able to provide a range for the amount of coverage you are entitled to.
Accident Claims Vs. Insurance Company Payouts: The Difference In Compensation
In personal injury law, the term damages refers to tangible and intangible losses experienced as a result of an accident. Damages from a car accident claim may include medical expenses, lost wages, car damage, as well as less quantifiable costs such as pain and suffering.
However, an insurance claim may only be able to pay you for your property damage and medical expenses, and only up to a certain amount, depending on your car accident injuries and individual car insurance policy.
Additional damages that may be awarded for car accident claims include:
- projected medical expenses (for chronic or serious injury)
- mental anguish
- loss of companionship (due to loss of a loved one)
- property damage
Car Accident Rates In The U.S.
Despite experiencing a slight decline in traffic deaths for the second year in a row, 2018 was the third-deadliest year of the decade in the United States for vehicle crash fatalities.
Check out these auto accident statistics:
- According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), the United States saw 36,750 crash deaths in 2018, with early 2019 estimates trailing close behind.
- U.S. pedestrian deaths, on the other hand, reportedly reached a 28-year high in 2018—attributed in part to the nation’s “SUV boom”. However, not all accidents on the road result in deadly consequences.
- About three million people in the United States are non-fatally injured in car accidents each year, potentially leading to devastating consequences on individuals’ physical and psychological health, and significant property damage.
How To Choose A Car Accident Attorney
After getting into an auto accident, the most important factor to consider when choosing an attorney is their experience securing compensation for your type of case. Personal injury law spans several areas of law, from medical malpractice to domestic violence and workplace injury.
Even accidents involving other types of vehicles—such as motorcycles—can be subject to regulatory processes that differ from accidents primarily involving a standard passenger car. Effectively handling these types of cases requires a very specific set of skills and knowledge.
Choose a car accident attorney with confidence by inquiring after the attorney’s track record, their success rates, and consider asking for references if you’d like to get more personal insight into what it’s like to work with them from former clients who have been in a similar position.