Seeking compensation from a Minor Car Accident

Aftermath of a Minor Car Accident: Seeking Compensation

Tarun Sridharan Legal Editor & Attorney Contributor Read Time: 9 minutes

Aftermath of a Minor Car Accident: Seeking Compensation

Injured in a minor car accident?  Not every car accident is severe and shocking — but even minor accidents or a low-speed collision could lead to a cascade of issues.  Whether or not you think the accident led to significant losses, it’s crucial to promptly contact your insurance carrier to report the accident for documentation and claims purposes. It’s worth talking to an experienced accident attorney for an evaluation of your case and a better understanding of your legal options.

If you’d like to learn more about minor car accidents, and the basic legal issues associated with these sorts of disputes, read on!  We’ll briefly explore and explain these issues so that you have clarity as you move forward with your case.

Minor car accidents can lead to major injuries — don’t make assumptions about your case too early

Minor car accidents are not always as straightforward or as simple as one might assume.  A minor car accident can very well give rise to severe injuries/conditions, including traumatic brain injuries, even if it is not immediately apparent or obvious at first glance.

For example, suppose that you’re in a low-speed rear-end collision with another driver, at a red light.  It’s a minor collision and — beyond some light neck stiffness — you don’t believe you’ve suffered any serious injuries.  Two years later, you suddenly start to experience severe stiffness and pain in your neck.

Your doctor runs a battery of tests and discovers that the low-speed collision accelerated the development of a condition that you already had: spinal degeneration.  This has led to daily, severe neck stiffness and pain, now.  Under these circumstances, you would be able to potentially sue and recover substantial damages from the insurance company and defendant-driver, even though they were going relatively slow when they hit you.

Cases like this are quite common in the personal or bodily injury claim context.  That’s why it’s so important that you don’t assume too much about your case.  A comprehensive investigation — including a medical assessment — has to be done before you “decide” that your car accident was not severe.

What to do in the aftermath of an accident

In the aftermath of an auto accident, there are several steps you should take to ensure that you maximize your case potential — if you want to pursue compensation for your losses.

  • Seek medical attention, if necessary.  If you require emergency care, and you delay in obtaining such care, then the defendant may later argue that your injuries were worsened by the delay — they may therefore try and undermine your claims and avoid having to pay out more damages.
  • Take photos and video at the scene of the accident.  If you do not require emergency care, then you can take photos and video.  This will serve as useful evidence of the accident scene in the immediate aftermath of the collision and can be used to reconstruct the accident.  This can be particularly valuable when you and the defendant have different narratives about how the accident occurred.
  • Obtain the contact information of any eyewitnesses.  Eyewitness accounts will be invaluable for supporting your claims.
  • Obtain the contact information of the other driver involved in the accident.
  • Call law enforcement officers to the accident scene, if they haven’t already arrived.  This will ensure that a police report is written about the accident, giving you important documentary evidence for use later.
  • It is crucial to have a police officer at the scene to write up an accident report for insurance and legal purposes.
  • Avoid speaking to your insurer until you have consulted an attorney.  Insurance adjusters will use the opportunity to try and get you to disclose information that could undermine your claims.  Don’t give an insurance company that opportunity.  Your attorney can speak to insurance adjusters on your behalf.

Potential compensation in a car accident

After a car accident in which someone else caused you to have bodily injuries or suffer losses, you may be entitled to take legal action in order to secure compensation for those losses.  Claimable losses from auto accidents include, but are not limited to:

  • Wage loss
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Medical expenses
  • Property loss
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of companionship
  • And more

In a minor accident, you may not have substantial pain and suffering, or other lifestyle impacts, and your wage loss, medical bills, and other expenses might also be limited.  That being said, it’s best not to assume or speculate about your losses too early — sometimes, these losses may be more severe than you anticipated.

And even if those losses are not significant, you are likely to have sustained property loss (i.e., damage to your vehicle) that is also claimable as compensation.

Consulting a car accident lawyer is crucial to protect your rights during the insurance claim process, ensuring a fair outcome by negotiating with the insurance company, investigating the accident, and working towards a fair settlement or filing a lawsuit if necessary.

Statute of limitations deadlines: you don’t have an infinite amount of time

Every case — even those involving minor injuries or car accidents — has a procedural deadline for bringing a legal action.  If you don’t file your claims before the applicable deadline period has passed, then courts will dismiss your claims and you won’t have an opportunity to recover compensation under the law.  These deadlines are established by statute of limitations laws in various jurisdictions.

Statute of limitations deadlines are different from state to state.  In California, for example, you have just two years (from the date of the accident) to bring an action.  That’s not much time, especially if you’ve been focusing on your physical and financial recovery and have not properly considered your legal options.  Time flies when you’re attempting to reconfigure your life after an accident, after all.

Given the high-stakes nature of a lawsuit, and just how important it is that you have the opportunity to pursue compensation after the accident, we encourage you to get in touch with a qualified accident attorney who can help evaluate your insurance claims and push them forward in a timely manner — before the deadlines have passed.

That being said, if you waited too long, don’t give up!  Depending on the circumstances of your accident report your case and medical treatment, there may be legal exceptions you can call upon to extend the normal statute of limitations deadline (for example, your injuries may not have been “discovered” until a later date and require medical treatment).

Does your insurance go up after a claim that is not your fault?

In most states, insurers are prohibited from increasing your insurance rates if you’re involved in an accident that is not your fault.  This is meant to encourage injury victims to seek compensation from their own insurance company or carrier when they are entitled to do so.

That being said, insurers are NOT your allies.

They will do whatever they can to undermine your claims so that they don’t have to pay, or so that they can lowball you cash payment.  Alternatively, they may pay out but then attempt to raise your insurance rates.  How?  The insurer may try to get insurance information to paint you as partially at-fault for the accident, thus getting around the rates-increase prohibition implemented by the states.

For this (and many other reasons), it’s crucial that you consult an attorney who can communicate to insurers on your behalf and advocate for your interests.

It is worth working with an attorney, even in a minor car accident case

As the accident victim, you do not necessarily have a perfect understanding of your own personal injuries, property damage, and losses.  After all, what may have seemed (at first) like a minor car accident could reveal much more severe injuries and more substantial losses.

Given the uncertainty and opportunity inherent to legal compensation for minor car accidents, it’s worth consulting an attorney for strategic assistance in the claims process.  Attorneys work to maximize your compensation — even in a minor car accident dispute.  The potential “increase” in recoverable compensation would likely offset whatever contingency fee percentage they take.

Point of note: most plaintiffs’ injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis.  They only get paid if you secure compensation.  If you don’t get paid, you don’t have to pay the attorney for their services.  Convenient, right?  And when you do get paid, they take a percentage cut of your compensation.  That means you can bring legal action without paying anything upfront or out-of-pocket, making a lawsuit very accessible for those who do not have the funds to expend.

If you’ve been injured and/or sustained damage to your vehicle in a minor car accident, then you could be entitled to compensation.  This may be through submitting a claim with your own auto insurer, pursuing legal action against the driver who hit you, or by suing other potentially liable defendants.  And while your case may appear “simple” at first, further investigation may reveal more severe injuries, and a more complex liability web of vehicles involved — giving you an opportunity to recover substantial compensation to cover your losses.

Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 to get connected to an experienced car accident attorney in our legal network.  Our network attorneys provide free legal consultations, during which you’ll have an opportunity to discuss your case in detail and get professional advice on your strategic options and how best to proceed.  If you decide not to move forward, you are under no obligation to do so!  As such, there’s really no downside to picking up the phone and calling in for a free consultation.

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so we can assist you no matter when your accident occurs.

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