Car accidents can happen just about anywhere where motor vehicles are present. Crashes happen daily around the United States, often leaving innocent victims with serious injuries that can change their lives for the worse. Fortunately, when people suffer injuries because of other people’s negligence, state law typically entitles them to compensation for their accident-related losses.
Notably, most car accident claims resolve when victims and at-fault drivers’ insurance companies come to a settlement agreement. When a case settles, the victim agrees to release the other party and their insurance company from any further liability in return for compensation. Settlements can involve ongoing regular payments or one lump sum payment and ideally should compensate victims for all of their accident-related losses.
The amount of money you get from a car accident settlement depends on:
- The severity of your injuries
- Whether you have to miss work
- Your prognosis
- Your age
- Whether you will have any ongoing medical issues
Car accident injuries can also lead to various complications, including the need for medical treatment, rehabilitation, surgeries, and other serious procedures. When a car accident victim has to undergo medical treatment, their medical bills can quickly pile up.
In addition, injuries that result from car accidents may lead to a tremendous amount of pain and suffering that accident victims have to endure-sometimes for the remainder of their lives. These damages are compensable under the law when an accident results from someone else’s negligence.
Working with an Attorney Can Maximize Your Settlement
Insurance companies want to settle your case for as little as possible. In addition, they are entirely within their rights to take advantage of victims’ inexperience to settle a claim for pennies on the dollar. For this reason, you should retain a lawyer to represent you after a car accident.
When a lawyer represents you, you even the playing field between you and the insurance company handling your claim.
The insurance company may try to get you to take a settlement for less than you deserve by:
- Making a meager initial offer to make subsequent offers look better
- Asking to dig through your medical records so they can find anything that may allow them to characterize your injuries as pre-existing
- Making false statements about your legal rights – for example, suggesting that you are not entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced
- Pressuring you to provide a recorded statement during which they will ask you questions intended to confuse you into saying something that will hurt your case
- Waiting until your bills are piling up to make a settlement offer
Car accident lawyers are familiar with these tactics and can take steps to ensure that you do not hurt your claim. As a result, you should retain a lawyer to represent you as soon as possible after an accident. Once you have a lawyer, the insurance company will need to communicate with them instead of you. As a result, having an attorney will prevent you from saying or doing things that could hurt your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.
Common Injuries in Car Crashes
Victims of car crashes can endure significant injuries, many of which require immediate medical treatment and ongoing rehabilitation. The extent of a car accident victim’s injuries will depend on the type of accident, the speeds of the respective vehicles, the force of the impact, and how the impact moves the accident victim’s body.
In addition, if a part of the accident victim’s body strikes something in the vehicle at the time of impact, such as the steering wheel, headrest, door frame, window, roof, or console, that might worsen the accident victim’s injuries in the collision.
Some of the most common injuries that car accident victims suffer include traumatic head and brain injuries, soft tissue injuries, internal injuries, broken bones, and spinal cord injuries. Many of these injuries can result in significant medical expenses and ongoing problems. A skilled car accident lawyer can review the circumstances of your case with you and determine if you are eligible to pursue monetary compensation for your losses.
Who has the Burden of Proof in Car Accident Claims?
In a personal injury case that arises from a car accident, the accident victim has the legal burden of proof and is responsible for satisfying all of the legal elements of the claim. Specifically, the accident victim must demonstrate that the at-fault driver violated their duty of care.
In many cases, showing that a driver violated their duty of care involves showing that the driver broke the law, engaged in distracted driving, or operated their vehicle while intoxicated. This violation of the standard of care must have resulted in the accident. In addition, the accident victim must show that they suffered at least one personal injury in the collision and that their injury directly resulted from the collision.
To a reasonable degree of medical certainty, a healthcare provider must also state that the accident victim’s injuries directly resulted from the accident. Although the accident does not need to be the sole cause of the accident victim’s injuries, it must be a cause of their injuries.
When an accident victim can demonstrate all of the legal elements of their claim, they might be entitled to recover various forms of monetary compensation, depending upon the severity of their injuries and the cost of their medical treatment.
Importantly, you will not likely have to prove the elements of negligence to obtain a settlement. Most car accident claims do not involve liability disputes, which means that you only need to prove your damages.
Types of Car Accident Negligence
It is sometimes hard to tell which driver caused a motor vehicle collision. However, in most cases, one driver is more at fault than the other involved driver(s). Motor vehicle driver negligence can take on several different forms.
Some of the most common types of driver negligence that result in a car crash include violating rules of the road, engaging in distracted driving, and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These violations are deviations from a driver’s duty to operate their car or truck reasonably and safely under the circumstances.
Road rule violations – Every state in the country has various roadway laws and regulations to ensure safe driving. However, when drivers violate these rules, they increase the chances of causing serious accidents.
Common violations that can lead to car accidents include:
- Tailgating other vehicles.
- Weaving in and out of traffic.
- Failing to use turn signals.
- Failing to yield the right-of-way at the appropriate time.
These reckless driving maneuvers can lead to accidents that result in serious injuries. Fortunately, people hurt by reckless drivers can typically recover compensation for their accident-related losses.
Distracted Driving – A driver engages in distracted motor vehicle operation when they turn their attention away from the road, even for a second or two. Given the prevalent use of electronic devices, many potential distractions in a motor vehicle can divert a driver’s attention away from the road. Those devices include entertainment systems, cellular devices, tablets, and GPS systems.
A driver might also turn their head to discipline young children sitting in the back seat or roughhousing with other individuals in the car. These distractions can divert a driver’s attention away from the road, preventing the driver from seeing an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian.
Drunk and drugged driving – Many motor vehicle collisions happen when people drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol, in particular, has serious effects on the brain that can impact a driver’s ability to operate their vehicle safely.
Alcohol slows down a person’s central nervous system and can delay a driver’s reaction time, preventing them from stopping their vehicle before a collision occurs. Alcohol intoxication also has various physical manifestations, including blurred vision, which might prevent a driver from seeing another vehicle or a pedestrian in the vicinity. In addition to criminal penalties that a drunk driver might sustain upon conviction, a driver can incur civil liability if they cause an accident that leads to someone else’s injuries or premature death.
If you have suffered injuries in a car accident that resulted from one or more of these types of negligence, you may be able to pursue compensation through a claim. An experienced car accident attorney can help you file your claim and pursue the monetary recovery you deserve for your injuries.
Statute of Limitations in Car Accident Claims
Victims of car accidents and other motor vehicle collisions have a limited time to file a lawsuit. Car accidents fall under the umbrella of personal injury cases. For example, in California, an accident victim only has two years after their accident to bring a claim or file a lawsuit in the court system for damages.
If an accident victim delays and does not file a lawsuit on time, they cannot recover monetary compensation for their injuries, medical treatment, or other damages. Consequently, it is in your best interest to retain a knowledgeable car accident lawyer as soon as possible in your case.
Your lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your accident right away and can file a claim or lawsuit on your behalf as soon as possible. This action will prevent the statute of limitations from running out and ensure that you remain eligible to recover monetary compensation for your accident-related injuries.
What Types of Compensation Can Be Part of Your Settlement?
Victims of car accidents are often eligible to recover various types of monetary compensation. First of all, they can pursue damages for all of their related medical expenses, including the costs of medical procedures, doctor visits, and physical therapy or chiropractic sessions.
If they miss time away from work due to their car accident injuries, they can likely bring a claim for lost wages or loss of earning capacity. Accident victims might also be eligible to recover any out-of-pocket costs incurred.
In addition to these economic damages, victims of car accidents can pursue non-economic compensation. For example, the accident victim might be in a position to make a claim for mental distress, emotional anguish, pain and suffering, inconvenience, and loss of spousal companionship. Suppose the car accident victim suffered a permanent injury, such as a spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis. In that case, they can bring a claim for loss of the ability to use a body part and loss of enjoyment of life.
Some car accidents happen because a driver behaves particularly recklessly or egregiously, such as when they operate their vehicle while intoxicated. In those instances, a car accident victim can often seek punitive damages.
A punitive damage award punishes the at-fault driver for their extremely reckless conduct. These damages also discourage other drivers from engaging in similar wrongful activities when behind the wheel of a car or truck.
An experienced car accident attorney can help you pursue the money damages you deserve for all of your car-accident-related injuries. As a victim, you should keep in mind that you can meet with a car accident lawyer at no cost to find out if you have a claim.
In addition, since the overwhelming majority of personal injury lawyers work on contingency, you will not have to pay for legal help unless you recover compensation.
To Maximize Your Settlement, Call an Attorney as Soon as You Can
Auto insurance companies want to maximize their profits-regardless of how friendly their mascot may seem. The best way to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve after a wreck is to contact a car accident lawyer near you as soon as you can.