After a car crash, the last thing you want to worry about is what you should do next, how the insurance company may try to withhold money from you, or what other legal options you can pursue. You may not know what to expect or what steps you should take next.
Common Motor Vehicle Accident Injuries
Motor vehicle accidents can injure virtually any part of the body.
While the severity of these injuries depends on the circumstances of the collision, some common injuries include:
- Broken bones or amputations
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage, back and neck injuries
- Internal injuries and bleeding
- Facial trauma and eye injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Crushing injuries
- Emotional Trauma
These injuries can turn your life upside down, forever impacting your ability to work, form relationships, and take care of your family. Medical expenses can also permanently hinder you financially. Following a motor vehicle accident, working with an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney provides you with crucial support. A lawyer can help you identify your legal options after a devastating crash and assist you as you pursue the compensation you need.
How Does Insurance Work After a Motor Vehicle Accident?
Because California is an at-fault state, those injured in a car crash must file an accident claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to get the compensation they need. Therefore, victims must first figure out who was responsible for the accident and prove that the party was at fault for the crash and their injuries.
However, because the state only requires that vehicles carry a minimum of 15/30/5 insurance, the maximum coverage this insurance will provide includes:
- $15,000 for the injury or death to one individual
- $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
- $5,000 for property damage
Unfortunately, these limits are relatively modest compared to the costs that victims often incur following a severe car collision. If the liable party’s insurance does not cover all of your losses, you may be able to file a lawsuit against them to seek the money you need.
Other Types of Motorist Insurance Coverage
California also requires insurance companies to offer uninsured motorist bodily injury and underinsured motorist coverage. These plans often cover injuries and property damages caused by a motorist who did not have insurance or did not have sufficient insurance.
In general, uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage provides compensation up to the amount of the insured’s liability coverage. In contrast, underinsured motorist coverage pays the difference between the amount the underinsured driver’s insurance covers and your damages. However, not every motorist has this additional coverage as it is optional.
What Types of Monetary Damages Can You Pursue Following a Car Accident?
If you sustained serious injuries in a car accident due to another person’s wrongful actions, you could seek the compensation you need by filing a lawsuit. In California, there are three main types of damage awards:
These damages refer to the actual and verifiable losses that result from an accident.
They include losses such as:
- Past and current medical bills related to doctor visits, hospital stay, ambulance rides, emergency room visits, surgeries, and prescription medications
- Lost wages and reduced earning capacity
- Personal property damages, including replacement services and repair costs
- At-home nursing care
- Domestic replacement services such as grocery shopping or child care services
- Rehabilitative therapy
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
These damages refer to the subjective losses from an accident. Because these losses are not easily quantifiable, they are also hard to prove.
These losses often include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of companionship, consortium, enjoyment, and quality of life
- Limb loss, scarring, or disfigurement
While the other damages give victims the compensation they need to pay for their losses, punitive damages penalize the defendant for their egregious actions and deter other individuals from committing similar acts.
However, in California, for a court to award these damages, the victim’s lawyer must show that the defendant acted with malice, oppression, fraud, extreme recklessness, or intentionally tried to harm the victim.
Should You Accept the First Settlement Offer You Receive From the Insurance Company?
Depending on the circumstances of your collision, the insurance company may offer you a settlement amount shortly after your motor vehicle accident. Although this may seem like great news, it is often wise to be cautious about insurance companies and the money they offer you.
Remember that the insurance company is a business, and like other businesses, they exist to make money. They make more profit by denying your claim or offering you less than you deserve. After a car crash, insurance adjusters may make a meager settlement offer when you are most vulnerable, hoping you will accept the money without verifying whether it covers all your losses and future expenses. Unfortunately, you cannot renegotiate the settlement if you accept the offer and later determine that you need additional compensation for your losses.
Before accepting anything from an insurer, contact an experienced car accident law firm, to review the insurance company’s offer and determine if it is fair to you. If it is not, your lawyer can take the bad offer back and ask for an appropriate one.
Filing a Legal Claim After a Motor Vehicle Accident Before Time Runs Out
Time is of the essence after a car accident, especially when filing an injury claim. A statute of limitations dictates how long a person has to file a lawsuit following an alleged offense. If you do not file your claim within this period, you may not be able to pursue legal action. This time is often dependent on the alleged offense and the jurisdiction where the offense occurred, so speak with a lawyer about when you need to file your case.
For instance, in California, the statute of limitations to file an injury claim following a car crash is two years from the crash date. Exceptions may apply that shorten or extend the filing period. If someone injured you in a car accident, reach out to an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer as soon as possible.
A car accident attorney can review your case and determine how much time you have to file your legal claim. They can also correctly prepare and file all of your documents with the appropriate court before time runs out.
In addition, just because you have years to file a legal case, it may be unwise to wait that long. The longer you wait to pursue legal action, the higher the likelihood of evidence disappearing, witnesses no longer being able to testify, and memories of the incident fading. All these issues can hinder your case and your chance of recovering the money you need.You can contact us for free consultation.