Car accidents are an all-too-common occurrence. These accidents can happen on busy roads in urban areas, rural state highways, or interstate freeways. No matter where a crash occurs, it can be traumatic and derail your life in many costly ways.
Many car accidents happen when you drive safely and another driver makes a mistake or uses poor judgment. Most states are fault-based regarding car accident liability, which means if you suffer injuries in a collision, you will turn to the at-fault driver’s insurance company for compensation.
The losses from a car crash can be substantial, and you want the best chance of total financial recovery from the liable parties. To protect your rights to compensation, you should take specific steps after a crash – the most important of which are seeking medical attention and contacting a car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Get Medical Treatment for Your Injuries
Car accident victims can suffer severe injuries, and some might impact them for the rest of their lives. Everyone should assess themselves for signs of injuries – if possible – right after a crash occurs.
Car accidents can range from minor fender benders to head-on collisions at high speeds. While you might expect a rollover or head-on crash to cause life-threatening injuries, never underestimate what can result from a rear-end collision. While many people think these are minor accidents, victims can still suffer serious and costly injuries.
No matter what type of crash occurs, always determine whether you have injuries.
Some common injuries from collisions include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Broken bones
- Traumatic head and brain injuries
- Internal organ damage
Some of these will be immediately obvious, and you know you need emergency medical care. However, even if you are unsure, allow medical professionals to assess your condition. This might happen at the scene and result in an ambulance ride. If not, go to the emergency room right away for an evaluation even if you don’t feel anything out of the ordinary.
Some people might feel pain, aches, or stiffness following an accident. You might disregard this as normal for such a traumatic event, and you go home, expecting it to resolve. In reality, these can be symptoms of a severe soft tissue injury, which can worsen if you do not receive treatment.
Similarly, some people experience confusion, disorientation, memory lapses, headaches, sleep problems, and other effects of a car accident. Never write these off as expected following a crash, as these are often signs of a concussion. Without proper treatment, concussions can cause lasting and even life-threatening problems.
The bottom line is: Always get medical help if you experience or feel anything unusual after a car accident. Do not self-diagnose your injuries – or lack thereof.
Getting a prompt and official diagnosis from a medical professional serves two critical purposes:
- Ensuring that you start proper treatment of all your injuries, which can often improve your overall recovery time and prognosis
- Creating an official record of the injuries resulting from the car accident, which you will need as evidence for an injury claim
Not getting medical treatment will derail your life further and your chances of obtaining total compensation for your losses.
Hire a Car Accident Attorney
As soon as your physical condition is stable enough, you should consider your legal rights. Seek help from an experienced car accident lawyer in your area who can evaluate your case. You do not want to begin the insurance process alone, because doing so can be detrimental to your compensation. Instead, let a lawyer handle the process for you.
While you focus on your health and physical recovery, your lawyer can address the following issues to focus on your financial recovery.
Determining Liability for Your Accident
To recover financially from your losses, you will need to know what caused the car accident and who should be responsible. This is something an experienced car accident knows how to do while you focus on your medical treatment.
Car accidents in the Fresno region can happen for many different reasons. In most cases, car accidents occur when a driver is negligent. Negligence refers to violating the appropriate standard of care or acting unreasonably under specific circumstances. Some common examples of driver negligence included intoxicated driving, violating road rules, and distracted driving.
Alcohol can significantly affect how a driver operates a motor vehicle. Specifically, alcohol impairment or intoxication can delay a driver’s reaction time, impair their vision, and prevent them from stopping to avoid a collision. Drunk driving accidents often occur at high rates of speed, increasing the chances of injuries for all involved parties.
In addition to incurring criminal penalties for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence, a driver can also be civilly liable if they cause an accident that leads to injuries. When that happens, their insurance company should step in and provide the necessary coverage to injured victims.
Violating traffic laws
Traffic laws keep drivers and their passengers safe. When motor vehicle operators violate road rules, they might cause a serious collision with a pedestrian or another vehicle. Some of the most common road rule violations that lead to serious accidents include failing to yield the right-of-way when appropriate, speeding, tailgating other vehicles, weaving in and out traffic, and failing to use turn signals appropriately.
Someone engages in distracted driving when they divert their attention away from the roadway, even for a fraction of a second. For example, a driver might be programming a GPS device in their vehicle, listening to loud music, arguing with passengers, texting, and more. These actions can divert a driver’s attention away from the road, causing them to collide with another motor vehicle or pedestrian.
If you have suffered injuries in a motor vehicle collision resulting from one or more of these types of negligence, you have legal options available to you. A car accident lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your accident to identify negligence and liable parties.
Calculating Your Damages
The monetary recovery that a car accident victim can recover will depend on many factors. These factors include the severity of the injuries, the cost of the medical treatments the accident victim has undergone, and whether or not the accident victim suffered a permanent injury in the collision.
Generally speaking, the more severe your injuries, the more you can collect for compensation. However, even seemingly minor injuries can be surprisingly costly, and you never want to underestimate your losses. This is why you want a car accident lawyer to identify and calculate your losses so you seek the total financial recovery you need and deserve.
First of all, victims of car accidents may recover economic damages. These damages compensate accident victims for their out-of-pocket costs, lost wages, and medical expenses stemming from the accident.
A lawyer should consider any future economic losses, such as the costs of future surgeries or medical care you may need. Many severe injuries do not finish treatment before your claim resolves, so future medical expenses and lost wages should factor into your damages.
In addition, victims might have a claim for non-economic damages. These damages compensate car accident victims for all of their inconvenience, pain, suffering, and emotional distress. If they suffer a permanent injury in their accident, they can file a claim for loss of life enjoyment and the loss of use of a body part.
Finally, some victims of car accidents might seek punitive damages. A punitive damage award punishes the at-fault driver for extremely egregious or reckless conduct. For example, a jury might offer a car accident victim punitive damages if the at-fault driver was intentionally street racing, highly intoxicated with prior DUI convictions, or under the influence of unlawful drugs at the time of the collision.
The right legal team will play up the strengths of your case while downplaying any weaknesses, such as prior injuries or degenerative findings. If the insurance company does not offer you the compensation you need to recover, your lawyer should welcome the opportunity to file a lawsuit and litigate your case in court.
Proving Your Claim
In a car accident claim, the accident victim shoulders the legal burden of proof in the case. The at-fault driver does not need to prove anything as part of a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Specifically, to recover compensation for their losses, the car accident victim must establish several legal elements, and a car accident lawyer will handle this.
First, the accident victim must demonstrate that the at-fault driver violated the standard of care and acted unreasonably under the circumstances. This usually means that the driver somehow behaved negligently while they were behind the wheel. In addition, the accident victim must demonstrate that the at-fault driver’s negligence resulted in a collision.
Finally, the accident victim must show they suffered injuries in a car accident, and these injuries directly resulted from the car accident. If the accident victim can satisfy these legal elements, they can pursue and recover monetary compensation for injuries resulting from the accident.
In some instances, such as where the at-fault driver was intoxicated at the time of the collision, the insurance company might agree—or stipulate—to fault for the accident. When that happens, the accident victim will still need to demonstrate they suffered one or more injuries and that these injuries resulted from the accident.
Prepare for the Process
Most car accident claims settle directly with insurance companies, but this does not mean the process is quick. Your lawyer might want to wait until you complete medical treatment (if possible) to file your claim. Your lawyer might have to go through several rounds of negotiation before you receive a fair settlement offer. All of this takes time.
If your car accident claim does not settle with the insurer, your lawyer can initiate the next stage of your case: litigation. Litigation is a complex process involving many steps, including a possible trial.
Most personal injury car accident cases settle out of court long before they ever go to trial. After your lawyer files a lawsuit in court, they can still work to negotiate a favorable settlement offer on your behalf. However, once the court becomes involved, it will set deadlines for various milestones in the case, including the completion of discovery, settlement conferences, and trial dates. As the accident victim, you are the final decision maker on whether or not to accept a pending settlement offer or take your case to trial.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you decide whether to accept an insurance company’s settlement offer or take your case to court. They also might pursue alternative dispute resolution options on your behalf, like arbitration or mediation. The strategy will vary from case to case, and your lawyer can provide the guidance you need throughout the process.
Though it might seem like you have to wait a long time for your settlement, trust your legal representation. It is far better to wait longer for total compensation than to accept a quick offer that hardly covers a fraction of your losses. If you are ever unsure whether to accept a settlement or go to trial, you can discuss your options and their implications in detail with your car accident attorney.
Always Contact a Skilled Car Accident Lawyer About Your Legal Matter
If you have suffered injuries in a car crash, one of your first steps after seeking prompt medical treatment should be to contact a knowledgeable car accident lawyer for representation. You can be sure that the at-fault driver’s insurance company will not do you any favors. Therefore, you want to contact a car accident attorney on your side who has experience not only with settling personal injury cases favorably but also with litigating these cases in court when necessary.