If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you’re likely shaken up, worried, and full of questions about what comes next. We have the answer to many common questions that people have if they’ve been injured in an accident and compensation that they may be entitled to. We also cover what to do and what to avoid right after an accident, to protect your health and to protect your possible claim.
About three million people are injured each year in motor vehicle crashes in the United States. Crash-related injuries can also be costly, with the CDC estimating medical care cost and productivity losses related to injuries and deaths from motor vehicle crashes surpassed 75 billion in 2017.
After an injury, you may rightfully decide to pursue a personal injury claim for compensation with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. At this point, the critical thing to know is how much compensation you will get from your claim.
Every case is different, however, and your circumstances are unique. Therefore, it’s important that you consult with a personal injury attorney, one that has experience seeking compensation for people who have been injured in an accident.
What Damages Can I Recover After Being Injured in a Car Accident?
Q: How Is Car Accident Compensation Calculated?
A: Each settlement is different and determining the exact dollar amount is often a negotiation process.
Ideally, the amount of car accident compensation is determined by the extent of injury that you have suffered. As such, the more severe your injury, the higher the amount of compensation you will expect to receive. For example, tissue damage may not attract the same level of compensation as severe brain damage. Notably, personal injury compensation is made up of two different types of damages:
- General damages– awarded for pain, suffering, and loss of amenity. General damages are calculated based on the type of injury or illness and severity.
- Special damages– awarded for any financial losses or costs you have incurred due to an accident. The injury compensation claim calculation will include loss of earnings, medical treatment cost, and any other expenses incurred due to the accident.
Types of Damages
Several things contribute to the final total, such as:
- The value of your car, if it’s totaled
- The amount estimated needed to repair your car if it’s not
- Your medical bills
- Medical bills of any passengers
- Ongoing medical treatment
- Lost wages from missing time at work due to your injury
- Ongoing disability compensation
- Compensation in case of a fatality
As a rule of thumb, don’t accept settlement offers before finding out how much your claims might be worth. The following are common types of damages that may be included when you’re injured in a car accident and receive compensation:
Medical expenses are the largest part of a car accident claim. The medical expenses include all the costs that you incur due to the accident and the estimated costs of future medical treatment and care.
Medical expense damage covers compensation for ambulance costs, hospital stay, prosthetic devices, medication, needed home services, surgery, rehabilitation costs, and cognitive therapy in case of brain injuries. Calculating damages based on medical expenses is fairly straightforward. When calculating compensation, your personal injury lawyer may seek a medical expert’s services to determine the amount of medical expenses that you will incur.
If you are left unable to work either temporarily or permanently due to a car accident, you may recover damages for your income losses. Calculating income amounts lost is also a fairly straightforward process. However, if you are left permanently disabled, the calculations for future expected income losses become a bit complex.
It may require the use of life expectancy formulas to arrive at fair compensation. Your personal injury lawyer may use the services of experts to calculate complex future wage and earning losses.
Pain and Suffering
The law allows you to recover damages for the pain and suffering that you experienced following a car accident and the resultant injuries. Calculating pain and suffering can be a challenge. In most cases, the value of your pain and suffering damages is calculated by multiplying the per diem by the number of days it took you to recover.
Loss of Consortium
If an accident results in a disabling condition that makes it impossible for you to enjoy the normal relationship with your spouse, you can file a damages claim for loss of consortium. However, you need to prove a valid and lawful marriage and that your spouse suffered the said damages. Since the loss of consortium is non-economic damage, your claim’s value will be decided at the discretion of the judge or jury.
Some accidents can leave you scarred or permanently disfigured. You may recover damages in an injury claim if you endure disfigurements following a car accident. These damages are typically calculated based on the severity of your injuries.
Make sure to write everything down, and ask for detailed records from your doctors and witnesses. Your employer may also be required to submit documentation to secure lost wages, or to make a statement if you are no longer able to perform your job as a result of your car accident injuries.
If there’s a fatality, it’s a bit trickier, as that person’s potential earnings are evaluated, as well as estimating compensation for pain, suffering, and loss to their loved ones.
Q: Will I Receive Compensation From the Accident?
A: No reputable attorney will 100% guarantee that you’ll receive compensation after an accident. There could be resistance from the other part’s insurance company, and even if your case goes to court, there’s no guarantee that a judge will rule in your favor, even if you have a strong case.
However, personal injury attorneys, those that specialize in insurance claims and accidents, typically have enough experience to determine whether or not you have a strong case and what kind of documentation you need to make it stronger.
Can I Collect Pain and Suffering Compensation After Being Injured in a Car Accident?
Q: What Qualifies as Pain and Suffering?
A: Pain and suffering in legal circles describe both the physical and emotional injuries suffered by a victim after a crash. Any substantial mental anguish or physical pain that a victim suffers following an accident can qualify as pain and suffering, eligible for settlement.
Q: Will I Get Compensated For Pain and Suffering?
A: Pain and suffering are more difficult to put a dollar amount on than other types of compensation. Many insurance companies use a numerical scale, according to how serious your injury is, to determine the amount of pain and suffering you experience.
It’s important to keep notes after the accident, detailing how you feel each day, and if you’ve had any difficulty moving, or if it’s too painful to move. Many physicians use a scale of 1 to 10 to determine pain levels, and your lawyer may encourage you to keep a diary tracking your actual pain and suffering.
Q: How Long Will It Take for Me to Receive Pain and Suffering Settlement?
A: Most injured victims receive their settlement funds within six weeks from the end of negotiations. However, delays can happen depending on the severity of injuries suffered and the complexity of the claim.
Our highly experienced injury attorneys can help you recover losses resulting from a motor vehicle car accident. We care about our clients and provide exceptional help so that you focus on recovery.
What to Do After Being Injured in a Car Accident
Q: What Do I Do After an Accident?
A: After an accident, it’s important to call the police, even if the other party wants to just exchange insurance information and their name and phone number. A police report is the first step in proving your case for damages, as it’s an official record of the circumstances of the accident, who was involved, and often, who was at fault. Police officers are trained to determine what caused traffic accidents, and you’ll need this if your car was damaged or if yourself or your passengers were hurt.
You should also seek medical attention right away, as some injuries may not be visible right away.
Q: What Do I Do If I Caused the Accident?
A: In the moments immediately following a crash, you may be dazed, disoriented, and not be able to clearly recall exactly what happened. Many people, even if they weren’t at fault, may feel like they’re to blame – and that’s very natural. However, if you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or if you were speeding or otherwise engaging in risky behavior, then it’s very important that you seek legal counsel.
Remember, your car accident lawyer is on your side. They are there to represent you, and they can work best when you’re honest what them. Explain what happened, including your possible role in the situation. Then, your lawyer can help determine the right steps to take to reduce jail time or fines.
Q: Do I Need to Interview Witnesses to the Crash?
A: If you see people nearby that may have witnessed the crash, you may ask them to speak with the police, when they arrive. The police themselves will also try to find witnesses, including looking for any traffic-cam footage that can help determine fault. It’s often better to let the police speak with witnesses of a crash, rather than any parties involved, as they know the right way to ask questions, what to ask, and are unbiased.
Q: Should I Speak to the Other Driver?
A: It may feel automatic to say sorry or apologize after an accident, especially if you feel that you may have been to blame. However, any kind of apology after a wreck may be interpreted by the other party’s lawyer and insurance company as an admission of guilt on your part, and they may deny the claim because of this.
Try to avoid speaking to the other party, and instead simply say, “Let’s wait until the police arrive to sort things out.”
Q: If I Don’t Feel Hurt, Do I Need a Doctor?
A: Even if you don’t feel hurt right away, you may, in fact, have sustained an injury from the accident. Car accidents are the leading cause of neck and spine injuries, plus can contribute to “soft tissue” injuries such as overextended ligaments and tendons, or torn muscles. The violent back-and-forth motion from the impact of the car crash can cause extensive injuries, so it’s always best to have yourself and passengers checked.
Head injuries are another common result of a wreck. A mild concussion may just make you feel like you’re shaken up after the accident, but if you don’t have proper treatment, you could have lasting troubles.
Finally, the medical team right after the wreck, including any photographs and doctor’s notes, is part of the documentation for your case. Those medical bills will need to be paid, and if you weren’t at fault then the other party may be liable for them. In addition, if you need follow-up treatment and aftercare, those bills can also be included.
Q: When Do I Report the Accident to My Insurance Company?
A: The time frame to report an accident to your insurance company should be stated in your policy. It’s important to note this and any other deadlines about an auto accident, so you don’t miss any. If you don’t report the accident within the time specified by your insurance company, you may not be covered.
How Does Insurance Affect Car Accident Compensation?
Q: How Does the Insurance Calculate the Value of My Claim?
A: Insurance companies have proprietary algorithms that try to estimate the amount of each settlement. They’ll take into consideration all of the aspects of a settlement that we mentioned above, and come up with a dollar amount they’re willing to pay. However, insurance companies prefer to settle for as little as possible, or not at all, so your attorney may be able to negotiate a higher settlement on your behalf.
If your car is totaled in an accident, for example, then the insurance company will pay the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of the car. This is the value of your car prior to the collision, not how much money you still owe for the loan. This value is determined by the insurance company.
If it’s a single-vehicle accident, and you simply need your car repaired or medical bills paid for, then the insurance company will typically cover that, as per your policy. Again, though, every policy is different, so it’s best to read yours and ask questions of the insurance company’s customer care team.
Q: Will I Be Able to Get Insurance After an Accident?
A: In most cases, you should be able to get insurance after you’ve been involved in a car accident. However, there may be extenuating circumstances of the accident that can cause insurance companies to deny your application. Or, you may pay a higher premium than you were before, as a result of the accident.
Also, if you weren’t covered by an insurance policy at the time of an accident, then the policy will not respectively cover the accident. In fact, you may also receive a ticket or fine from the state if you are driving uninsured.
Q: What if I’m Hit By a Driver Without Insurance?
A: If you’re hit by an uninsured driver, your own insurance policy may cover the damages. Many insurance companies offer uninsured driver coverage, or it may come as part of your standard policy. Again, if you’re unsure, read your insurance policy or check with their customer service department about your coverage.
If you retain a lawyer after the crash, they may be able to file a claim for damages against the uninsured motorist, also, and be able to get the compensation you in that manner.
What Types of Accidents Can I Collect Compensation for?
Q: What if I’ve Been in a Commercial Vehicle Accident?
A: If you’ve been in a collision involving a commercial car, truck, or van, then the company itself becomes involved, as well as the person operating the vehicle. In fact, they’re often notified within minutes of a wreck, either by their driver or by information dispatched from the vehicle itself, including dashcam footage or sensors that send a signal if the vehicle crashes. Company representatives may be on the scene as fast as the police, doing their own investigations.
At no point should you speak with a company representative? Their only concern is protecting the company – not – protecting your interests or compensating you. If you’re the driver of a company vehicle involved in a collision, it’s important that you retain your own counsel for the matter. The company’s lawyers are there for the company, and their interests may not necessarily be the same as yours. You need an advocate that’s completely on your side.
Q: Is the Rear Driver Always At-Fault for a Rear-End Accident?
A: While many times rear-end accidents can be avoided by not following too closely, other times, they may actually be caused by the driver in front of you, and not you. However, many states have laws that presume the fault as that of the rear-ending driver, unless the driver can prove otherwise. For example, if the driver in front fails to signal their turn, slams on their breaks suddenly, or has faulty brake lights that didn’t display that they were slowing or stopping, then the rear-ending driver may not be at fault.
Do I Need a Lawyer After a Car Accident Injury?
Q: Do I Need Legal Help? Is It Worth It?
A: Insurance companies prefer to settle claims for as little as possible, or even deny them outright. Plus, insurance companies have their own teams of lawyers that specialize in finding problems with settlement cases. If you are entitled to compensation from an accident, it’s always better to consult with a lawyer, as they’re very familiar with accident laws in your area, plus they understand the types of documentation that you need to successfully prove your case.
Even if it seems like a minor accident, it’s definitely worth it to talk to a lawyer about your case.
Q: How Do I Hire an Accident Attorney?
A: It’s important to interview a couple of prospective attorneys before you settle on one to represent you. Ask about their experience handling car accident cases, and how they handle negotiating with insurance companies.
Q: Can I Afford a Lawyer?
A: Many personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. That is. They don’t get paid until they settle your case, and then will keep a percentage of the total. Or, they may charge an hourly rate for part of the work, and then make up the rest of their fee on a contingency. Depending on the situation, and especially if you’ve sustained severe injuries or become disabled, not hiring an attorney may end up costing you a lot more.