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Car Accident Injuries

Many of us will get into a motor vehicle accident at some point. Thankfully, most accidents are minor. You may experience some bumps and bruises. However, some accident victims suffer serious injuries. This is true whether you're a driver, passenger, or pedestrian. Statistics in the U.S. today show fatalities continue to be significant.

There are certain things you must do immediately after your car crash. This will help protect your legal rights. It will also give you a better chance of winning your personal injury case.

Here, we'll explain the steps you must take after the collision. We will also discuss the types of personal injuries you may suffer. Finally, we'll discuss the basics of personal injury and what your personal injury lawyer must do to help you recover damages.

Steps To Take Immediately After Your Car Accident

When you learn how to drive, you might not learn what to do if you get into an auto accident. However, if you don't take specific steps, you could lose your right to sue the other driver in civil court for damages.

There are several essential steps to take immediately after a car crash to protect your legal rights. You can:

  • Call 911 if There Are Serious Injuries: The police and/or firefighters will come to the scene and thoroughly investigate the accident scene. They may also check if the other driver is under the influence. Your personal injury attorney will need a copy of the final police report and/or fire department report. This is necessary to prove your personal injury claim in a civil lawsuit. (Disclaimer: Police may not arrive to the scene in nonemergency situations, so take photos and notes if you can.)
  • Seek Medical Attention: You must seek medical treatment regardless of how minor your injuries are. You could have internal injuries. You may be bleeding internally and have no idea. The emergency room doctors will run the necessary tests to determine your injuries. Your personal injury law attorney will need a copy of your medical records to prove your tort damages.
  • Contact Your Car Insurance Company: You must report the crash to your insurance carrier. You may also need to file a claim against the other driver's policy.

Once you do all this, you should contact a car accident lawyer for an attorney-client consultation. They'll review your claim and determine if it's worth pursuing.

Common Car Accident Injuries

Most people experience significant property damage after a car crash. For example, if you're in a rear-end collision, you may need a new bumper. If someone hits you head-on, it may destroy your vehicle.

Regardless of the cosmetic damage to your car, the more serious concern is your physical injuries. Car accident victims can suffer severe injuries. However, the most devastating accidents may involve motorcycles and tractor-trailers.

The most common auto accident injuries include:

  • Head and Back Injuries: Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), concussions, spinal cord injuries, and herniated discs are common.
  • Neck and Chest Injuries: You may suffer traumatic cardiac arrest or whiplash.
  • Broken Bones: Injuries to arms, legs, feet, and hands are pretty common, particularly for motorcyclists.
  • Emotional DistressEven a minor accident can have a severe impact on your mental health.

Your damages will depend on the nature and extent of your injuries.

Filing Your Insurance Claim

If you're lucky, the insurance company will pay your claim without issue. Despite what many people think, insurance companies pay most legitimate car accident claims. There are times, however, when the insurance adjuster denies your claim. This can be frustrating and scary.

While you're waiting for your insurance check, the bills pile up. Learning that the insurance carrier has denied your claim means you'll wait even longer for your money. This is when you should consult a personal injury lawyer.

The insurance carrier may deny your accident claim for several reasons. Some of these include:

  • The policy is invalid, or the insurance company canceled it for nonpayment.
  • The insurance adjuster believes you caused the crash.
  • The insurance company doesn't believe your injuries are legitimate.
  • You have an unfavorable history of filing auto accident claims.
  • You didn't file your claim in a timely fashion.

Regardless of the reason, you have the right to appeal your claim. The problem is that the same person who initially denied your claim may be the one who handles the appeal. If the amount of compensation you demand is low, your appeal may be successful. If it's bigger, the insurance adjuster may delay payment, hoping they can settle for less later.

A Car Accident Lawyer Can Help

You don't have to hire an auto accident lawyer. You have every right to handle your claim yourself. However, there are advantages to having an attorney-client relationship. An attorney deals with the insurance carrier. Not only do they know the law, but they also know how to fight the big insurance companies.

Once the insurance company learns you hired a lawyer, they may take your claim more seriously. They'll also be more likely to settle your claim. Nobody wants to go to trial on an accident claim. Unless your claim is for hundreds of thousands of dollars, there's a good chance it will settle.

Some of the benefits of hiring an attorney include:

  • The insurance adjuster may take your claim more seriously.
  • Your attorney knows how to negotiate with the insurance company.
  • You'll be at a legal disadvantage if you don't have a lawyer who knows the law.
  • The judge won't go easy on you just because you represent yourself.
  • Your personal injury attorney knows which insurance carriers and cases are more likely to settle.

You should hire an attorney because they'll fight to get you the financial compensation you deserve. They'll ensure the insurance company (or driver) covers your economic and noneconomic damages. In the worst case, they can file a civil lawsuit against the other driver if necessary.

You May Have To Sue the Other Driver

If the insurance company refuses to pay your claim, you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. Most states don't allow accident victims to sue an insurance company directly, absent their bad faith. This means you must usually pursue the driver directly in court.

Once you file your lawsuit, your attorney must prove your case. In most car accident cases, your attorney must prove that the other driver was negligent. There are some cases in which the driver was drunk or driving recklessly. You'll succeed in your claim if you can prove either of these things.

To prove negligence, your auto accident attorney must demonstrate the following four things:

  • The Driver Owed You a Duty of Care: The first thing you must prove in a negligence case is that the other driver owed you a duty of reasonable care. They must behave the way another driver would have, given the circumstances. With a car accident claim, it isn't hard to prove this. All drivers owe other motorists a duty of care. At a minimum, drivers must follow the rules of the road and all traffic laws.
  • The Defendant Breached Their Duty of Care: You must show that the driver did something to breach their duty of reasonable care. For example, if the other driver ran a red light immediately before the crash, they would have violated this duty. The same is true if they were speeding during the collision.
  • You Suffered an Injury: It's not enough that you were in an accident. Your attorney must prove that you suffered an injury. This includes financial losses, physical injuries, and mental anguish.
  • The Defendant's Behavior Caused Your Injuries: You must show that the defendant's breach of duty caused your injuries. For example, if someone were suffering from a disease and died a few weeks after a car accident, it will be harder to prove that the crash alone caused their injuries. The defendant will argue that their illness caused the death, not their negligent behavior. Of course, the plaintiff can still argue that the accident made their illness worse.

You'll probably win your case if you can demonstrate these four things. Usually, it doesn't get to this point. Less than 5% of all personal injury cases go to trial, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. This is because it's in most parties' best interest to settle out of court to minimize costs.

Damages for Car Accident Injury Claims

If you're the injured party in a car crash, you may have a claim for damages. Your attorney must first prove your claim. If they're able to do that, they'll make a demand for damages.

You can demand several types of damages in your car accident claim. These include:

  • Medical bills and future medical expenses
  • Loss of consortium (family member relations)
  • Lost wages and lost future income
  • Pain and suffering/emotional distress
  • Disfigurement
  • Punitive damages

The court may hold the at-fault driver liable for initial medical expenses and future medical bills. Your attorney must prove what these future expenses will be. You can also demand damages for pain and suffering. These are damages for any mental and physical anguish you experience after the accident.

While you can demand punitive damages, the courts rarely award them. They reserve punitive damages for cases where they want to punish the defendant. If you expect to collect punitive damages, your personal injury lawyer must prove that the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly.

How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit?

You must file your claim as soon as possible after the accident. You only have a specific amount of time to file suit against the other driver. This is because of the statute of limitations. Every state has rules dictating how long an injured person has to file a civil action. If you miss this deadline, the judge will dismiss your claim.

There are very few exceptions to this rule. The only time a judge will consider extending the statute of limitations period is in the following situations:

  • The victim is under the age of 18
  • The courts have declared either party mentally incompetent
  • The other driver uses fraud to evade service

Barring these conditions, you must file your lawsuit in time. This is why you don't want to wait until the last minute to hire an attorney. They'll need several months to prepare your case and work on negotiating a settlement.

If you're within this statute of limitations period, you may be able to pursue additional damages above what your insurance company offers. Always get legal advice from a personal injury lawyer to determine your options.

Hiring an Attorney To Help After Your Car Accident

You have options if you or a loved one are in a car accident. The best way to protect your legal rights is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Visit FindLaw's personal injury attorney directory to find the phone number for a lawyer near you.

Learn About Car Accident Injuries

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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