Car Accident Injury Law FAQ
All car accidents are unexpected, even when all motorists sharing the roadway are driving responsibly and safely. One wrong move or traveling during adverse weather conditions can cause horrific crashes with severe injuries and wrongful death.
A personal injury attorney has answered a compilation of frequently asked questions (FAQs) concerning car accidents, negotiated settlements, and jury trial awards. If your family has additional questions unanswered, contact us today to provide your contact information at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) to schedule a free consultation to discuss your personal injury case.
- How Do I File a Car Accident Injury Claim?
- How Long After Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?
- What Do I Do After a Car Accident Injury?
- How Much is My Car Accident Injury Claim Worth?
- How Does a Victim Settle a Car Accident Personal Injury Claim?
- What Is Considered A Serious Injury In Car Accidents?
- How Does ER Personnel Respond to a Person Who Received a Head Injury in a Car Accident?
- How Long Will It Take To Get A Settlement From A Car Accident Injury?
- What Type of Attorney Do I Look for if My Car Was Involved in an Accident but No Injuries?
- Who Pays a Car Accident Insurance Company Injury Claim?
- What Is A Permanent Injury Worth In A Car Accident Case?
- How Do I Ensure I Recover All of My Lost Wages After an Auto Accident?
- Who is Determined at Fault for a Chain Reaction Auto Accident?
How Do I File a Car Accident Injury Claim?
Filing a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company is a formal request to receive financial compensation when injured or the vehicle is damaged in the crash. Injured victims could file a claim against another driver's liability insurance policy or their family's insurance if they were in a crash involving an uninsured motorist, underinsured driver, or a hit-and-run accident.
Some states have no-fault (personal injury protection) liability motorist coverage where the injured victim files a claim with the family's insurance company even if they did not cause the crash. When injuries are severe or a significant financial loss to property (damaged vehicle), the victims could file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver responsible for the accident or their insurance carrier.
How Long After Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?
Reporting the crash and filing a civil claim are two different actions. Most auto insurance companies require victims to report the crash to law enforcement within twenty-four hours and the company within thirty days.
However, calling the insurance carrier quickly is important while evidence is still available at the accident scene, and what eyewitnesses saw is still fresh in their minds. The time to file a personal injury lawsuit varies between states based on their statute of limitations.
In Illinois, for example, accident injury victims have two years to file. If the injured party waits until after the statute of limitations (time limits) expired, they give up their legal rights to sue for damages.
What Do I Do After a Car Accident Injury?
The initial steps you take after a car accident could be the difference between receiving the compensation you deserve or being denied coverage. Many insurance adjusters will offer minimal settlement amounts that are significantly inadequate to pay for the victim's hospitalization costs, medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering.
Starting from immediately after the accident, you should:
- Call 911 a possible and ask for emergency response
- Seek medical attention, even if you believe that your injuries are minor. Only a competent doctor with the best diagnostic tools can determine the severity of your injuries
- Protect evidence at the accident scene and take photographs of the area, vehicle damage, and injuries
- Gather up all contact information including the other driver, eyewitnesses, and passengers
- File a police report, preferably within twenty-four hours; the accident report will serve as valuable evidence when it is time to file your compensation claim
- Contact a reputable personal injury attorney specializing in vehicle accidents with years of experience in recovering millions of dollars in financial compensation for their clients
How Much is My Car Accident Injury Claim Worth?
The value of a car accident injury claim is based on its unique circumstances, the severity of injuries, and the extent of property damage. Every personal injury case is different, as is the amount the victim should receive when the case is resolved through a negotiated settlement or jury trial verdict.
However, four out of five automobile accident cases with minor injury and damage can settle for between 5000 and $15,000 or slightly more. These cases tend not to involve medical treatment, and no wages were lost from time away from work, and no need for repeated care, therapy, or rehabilitation.
For the remainder of personal injury cases, a car accident attorney will use a value calculator to determine how much the personal injury case is worth, based on various factors including:
The victim's physical damages – Calculate the amount of out-of-pocket expenses related to the vehicle accident that might involve hospitalization costs, medical bills, lost income, future lost earnings, car rental, and damaged vehicle repair costs.
The victim's non-economic damages – Place a value on non-physical damages, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental trauma of dealing with the accident.
Punitive damages – The jury may decide to punish the defendant for egregious behavior leading to your accident injury or wrongful death. Punitive damages are hardly ever awarded in typical vehicle accident cases.
The defendant's insurance policy limits – Nearly all personal injury cases involving vehicle accidents are resolved through the defendant's car insurance policy and not paid from the defendant's assets. If the driver at fault carried minimal car insurance coverage or has no substantial assets or income, the case's value will likely not exceed the defendant's liability coverage limits.
The strength of the victim's case – To receive the financial compensation the victim deserves, they will need to establish that the other driver's actions caused the accident that led to the victim's injury. The case's strength will also be built on witness statements, police reports, medical records, dashcam footage, surveillance videos, and other evidence.
Whether the case is settled or goes to trial – The plaintiff (injured party) and the defendant (motorists at fault) can reach a negotiated settlement where there are no surprises for either side, ensuring that the case is entirely resolved. If the case goes to trial, the plaintiff or the defendant could benefit from the jury's verdict, which is significantly less sure than negotiating a settlement.
It is best to use a personal injury attorney who can accurately assess a claim's value before deciding how to move forward on filing a compensation case.
How Does a Victim Settle a Car Accident Personal Injury Claim?
During the initial stages of filing a car accident claim, you will be asked to submit documentation, including hospital and medical records, car repair estimates, and other out-of-pocket expenses like rental car bills.
At some point, the insurance carrier claims adjuster will likely make a final settlement offer to resolve your claim. However, the amount offered rarely compensates the victim to ensure all of their bills related to the accident, now and in the future, are paid.
It is often best to use a personal injury attorney specializing in car accidents to craft a demand letter with the insurance company explaining why their settlement offer is too low. A car accident attorney working on your behalf can explain the severity of your injury, the extent of your losses, and the amount of time you are missing from work.
After insurance carriers receive the demand letter from the auto accident attorney, they typically submit a counter-offer in response to the negotiation process. At this point, your personal injury law firm will likely begin negotiating with the insurance company's lawyers to determine if the case will go to trial.
If you accept the insurance company offer, the case is over, and you can move on with your life. However, there will be court costs, expert witness expenses, and other bills if the case goes to trial.
If you lose the case, the court may order you to pay the other motorist's attorney fees. You may not be happy with the jury's verdict, or the defendant may choose to appeal the case, which could take significantly longer than just accepting an adequate settlement amount when offered during negotiations.
What Is Considered A Serious Injury In Car Accidents?
The civil justice system recognizes serious injuries that severely alter the victim's life or leads to wrongful death.
Serious injuries include:
- Significant disfigurement
- Organ damage from seat belts
- Fractures and broken bones
- The loss of the fetus
- Significant limitations on using body systems and functions
- Permanent loss of body systems, functions, organs, and appendages
- Temporary injuries that prevent the victim from performing daily activities for at least three months and not more than six months after the accident
Many injury cases are built on severe injuries that are easy to identify. However, other injuries require expert testimony and medical opinion based on diagnostic tests.
How Does ER Personnel Respond to a Person Who Received a Head Injury in a Car Accident?
In the first few moments when the injured victim arrives in the emergency room, the medical team will begin diagnosing their patient to identify any traumatic brain injury to the brain, skull, or scalp. The injury might involve mild, moderate, or severe trauma that might be closed, open, or penetrate through the skull.
While there may be damage to the head, the medical team will also check the victim's breathing, airway, and blood flow circulation and begin CPR and rescue breathing. The team will stop any bleeding and reposition the victim's body if vomiting to prevent choking.
The ER personnel may identify a concussion, contusion, fracture, bleeding, or shear injury (diffuse axonal injury, and recommend immediate emergent care to maximize their survival chance.
How Long Will It Take To Get A Settlement From A Car Accident Injury?
If you have finally reached a negotiated settlement with your attorney and the defense team, your case is finally resolved. But, how long will it take to get the money from your settlement agreement?
On average, car accident settlements can take six weeks or longer for processing. The length of time is based on contributing factors that differ between cases.
Once the check arrives from the defendants' insurance company, your lawyer will ensure that all vehicle repair bills and medical bills are paid if necessary. Likely, the attorney already has the statements and invoices to ensure there will be no further billing.
Next, your lawyer will receive reimbursement for the legal costs that the law firm paid upfront to avoid your need to pay for the cost of filing a claim or lawsuit. These costs might include travel, copying, postage, court costs, filing fees, and other expenses.
Finally, the lawyer will take their attorney fees which might represent thirty-three (33.33%) of the total settlement amount, which is significantly less than the 40% taken if the case had gone to trial. You will then receive one lump sum or a series of checks if the negotiation involves a structured settlement.
What Type of Attorney Do I Look for if My Car Was Involved in an Accident but No Injuries?
Not every vehicle accident requires a personal injury lawyer to handle a compensation claim. You could file a claim directly with the other driver's insurance company or contact your insurer to begin the process.
If your accident involved no injuries, or your injury was minor, you likely do not need to seek legal representation. However, many vehicle accident cases are complex where the insured motorist coverage is subject to varying laws depending on the jurisdiction of where the accident occurred.
Nearly every insurance adjuster working for insurance companies is trained to offer low settlements to resolve the case. However, these offers are typically significantly lower than what the victim could have received had they negotiated an agreement.
Experienced personal injury lawyers specializing in vehicle accidents handle all types of crashes, including those without injuries. A car accident lawyer working on your behalf can ensure that you are fully compensated for all of your damages, losses, and expenses.
Who Pays a Car Accident Insurance Company Injury Claim?
Who resolves a personal injury claim is typically based on where the accident occurred and who was found at fault for causing the car crash. There are a handful of "no-fault" states like Michigan (mandatory) and Wisconsin (optional) that provide no-fault insurance coverage (PIP coverage), where everyone files claims against their policy no matter who was responsible for causing the crash.
Other states, like Illinois, require the driver causing the accident to pay for all damages out of pocket or through their insurance collision coverage. Typically, the victim involved in a car accident will receive compensation up to the policy's liability limits, especially if the defendant (the driver who caused the accident) has no other assets or income available for additional compensation.
What Is A Permanent Injury Worth In A Car Accident Case?
Victims Injured in a car accident with permanent disabilities can receive up to 100% of their lost wages and funds for other damages. An attorney working on behalf of the victim will help identify residual and permanent injuries, including those who require ongoing medical treatment or assistance.
Common injuries that help determine the case's value will include disfigurement, dismemberment, scarring, joint and back injuries, traumatic brain injury, or severe spinal cord damage.
The victim's attorney will likely hire an expert witness to review medical records before providing testimony on how much the permanent injury is worth.
The negotiated settlement or jury trial award will likely involve all previous expenses in the future cost of additional surgeries, rehabilitation, therapy, DME (durable medical equipment) like wheelchairs and ramps, and the need for round-the-clock care and assistance.
How Do I Ensure I Recover All of My Lost Wages After an Auto Accident?
A personal injury attorney representing your case will include your lost wages and any future lost earnings until you have healed completely. If you were working at the time of the accident, you are likely entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits through your employer's workers' comp insurance coverage.
Your lawyer can help you identify the extent of your wage losses from tax returns and pay stubs that will be used during the negotiation process with the insurance information provided by the company claims adjuster or the defendant's car accident attorneys.
Who is Determined at Fault for a Chain Reaction Auto Accident?
Multi-car pile ups are often challenging to determine which driver was responsible for causing the crash. If the victim's injuries are severe and property damage is substantial, their lawyer will likely hire an accident reconstructionist to identify the primary crash in all secondary collisions.
Typically, a single driver has lost control of their vehicle, beginning the chain-reaction collision. Other times, the crash might result from adverse weather conditions like icy roadways or improper lane change that could have been prevented had the driver remained alert.
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