Car accidents are the Number 1 reason for personal injury lawsuits across the nation. According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, more than 38,000 people die, and 4.4 million are seriously injured in U.S. roadway crashes each year. Many of those accidents result in lawsuits, with individuals seeking compensation for the damages they have suffered.
In most cases, a settlement is agreed upon before the case goes to court. Payment comes from that settlement. For your best outcome, you need a car accident lawyer.
Was your accident in a no-fault or at-fault state?
Twelve states in the U.S. and Puerto Rico are no-fault states. As such, drivers must carry personal injury protection insurance. The amounts may vary from one state to another, but the idea is that your own insurance will pay for the care of your injuries when you are in an accident, regardless of who was at fault or responsible.
Most states, however, are at-fault states. In these states, such as Virginia, if the driver responsible for the accident is at fault, you can hold them and their insurance responsible for financial compensation for injuries and property damage.
Whether you were involved in an injury accident in an at-fault or no-fault state, you still need an attorney to represent you. Even in a no-fault state, there are cases of significant injuries, or when medical bills reach a specific dollar threshold, the at-fault driver may be held responsible for as well as property damages.
Who caused the accident?
Driver neglect or error causes most automobile accidents. Some common issues include:
- Texting or talking on a mobile phone
- Other forms of distracted driving such as looking in the mirror
- Failure to yield
- Driver fatigue
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
There are, of course, other reasons for an accident, such as inclement weather, poor visibility, and road construction. There are also incidents when two or more drivers may share fault in an accident.
Determining and proving fault is key to getting compensation in an at-fault state.
What to do following an injury car accident
Your top priority is to get proper care for your injuries. If paramedics did not take you to the emergency department, you should have someone take you to urgent care or your own physician.
After receiving medical care, you need to call your insurance agent to inform the company of your accident. Do not go into details, and do not discuss the accident with anyone but emergency personnel, your doctor, and other medical professionals.
Then it is time to call an experienced car accident lawyer.
Why do you need a car accident attorney?
You need a legal professional experienced in traffic laws within your state and the local area where your accident occurred. A knowledgeable car accident lawyer will conduct an independent investigation into the accident, confirm the fault, and work to get you compensation for the damages and injuries you have endured.
A personal injury lawyer should offer you a free consultation where you can share the information from your accident, allowing them to assess your potential case.
They will need:
- Your recollection of the accident
- Your insurance company contact and policy information
- A copy of the police report
- The name and number of the other driver(s) and their insurance information
- Photographs and videos someone may have taken of or immediately following the accident
- Witness contact information
- A copy of your medical records
- Copies of your medical bills
- Copies of estimates or repair bills for your vehicle
Share anything else you feel may be pertinent to the accident, including weather and road conditions. Any information you can provide will help your attorney decide how to proceed with your case.
What compensation you should receive from a car accident in an at-fault state
Just how much compensation you should ask for depends on your injuries and damages to your vehicle.
Examples of the types of compensation you could request include:
- Reimbursement for your medical bills, including the ambulance, emergency department visit, hospitalization, tests, therapy, medication, and follow-up visits
- Loss of income if you have been off work
- Future medical care and future loss of income
- Repairs or replacement of your car
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma and anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship and consortium
The financial amount of economic damages such as medical expenses and car repair provide a definitive cost through your bills. But non-economic damages such as pain and suffering are less definitive. You will need to rely on the expertise of your lawyer to compare similar previous cases to apply an evaluation for your non-economic damages.
When and how will you get paid?
You will either agree to a settlement figure your attorney has come to with the defendant’s attorney, or you will go to court. A court trial will last longer, but if you feel the insurance company didn't offer enough compensation, you can have a jury or bench trial.
If your case resolves in your favor, either through a pre-trial settlement or in court, the defendant and their insurance company will pay your award to your car accident lawyer. Your attorney will deposit the payment and provide you with your compensation funds minus the agreed-upon attorney’s fees.
Is there a time limit to file a lawsuit?
Yes. Each state has a different time limit, known as the statute of limitations, in which to file a car accident claim. In some states, the time limit is as short as one year. Other states have more generous standards allowing up to four or five years.
When to hire your car accident attorney
If you have suffered injuries from a car accident, you should let an experienced car accident lawyer get to work on your case as soon as possible. No matter the statute of limitations, thoroughly investigating an accident and preparing a solid case takes time.
Once you are on the road to recovery from your injuries and can collect information and discuss your accident with an attorney, contact a local, reliable car accident law firm for your free consultation.