You’ve driven through it hundreds of times, but the intersection of 132nd Street, Industrial Road, Millard Avenue and L Street still makes your stomach jump up to your throat every time you pass it. As careful as you are during the left turn, you have a hard time keeping track of 12 lanes of traffic that could possible collide with you. Your prudence has paid off until today, when a teenager in a lifted pickup T-bones your tiny Japanese commuter car. You may be wondering what to do after a car accident in Omaha.
Preserving your legal rights and upholding your responsibilities is not rocket science, but it is a lot to remember. Here is a step-by-step guide to a typical Omaha car accident and related laws.
Step One: Pull Your Car Over to a Safe Location
Move your car to a safe location where it won’t impede traffic, if possible. Don’t drive away, or you risk being prosecuted as a hit-and-run driver. Place flashers, reflectors, or flares around the accident scene to warn oncoming traffic if you have them. If anyone was injured, call the Omaha police department (402) 444-5600 and render any first-aid with which you feel comfortable. If you called the police, don’t leave the scene until law enforcement clears you.
Step Two: Exchange Information
By law, you are required to exchange the following information with everyone involved with the accident:
- names, addresses, phone numbers;
- driver license numbers;
- license plate numbers;
- vehicle makes, models, and years;
- car insurance information.
Furthermore, leave a note secured to any unattended property that was damaged in the accident, including parked cars, buildings, fences, mailboxes, etc.
Step Three: Report the Accident
You need to report any accident that causes $1,000 or more it to the Nebraska Department of Roads. File Form DR-41 within ten days of the accident by mailing it to:
Highway Safety - Accident Records Bureau
Nebraska Department of Roads
P.O. Box 94669
Lincoln, NE 68509-4669
You can get a copy of the investigating officer’s report for $13 plus tax by sending a letter with the accident date, location (including county), drivers’ names and the money to the same address.
Step Four: File an Insurance Claim
Most Nebraska drivers must carry liability insurance in case they accidentally cause an accident. The minimum amount of coverage you must carry is:
- $25,000 for bodily injury to one person in a crash;
- $50,000 for bodily injury in a crash if more than one person is hurt; and
- $25,000 in property damage coverage.
Some drivers opt to deposit a bond with the Nebraska DMV in the amount of the minimum coverage instead, but for your situation there is no real difference.
Like most states, Nebraska follows a “fault” system for recovery after an accident. This means that the at-fault driver, and their insurance, must pay damages to other involved drivers for property damage and personal injury. Once the insurance coverage runs dry, you must collect from the at-fault driver personally.
Step Five: Consider a Lawyer
Before you embark on a journey through a confusing legal realm, you may wish to consider hiring an expert navigator to show you the way. Personal injury attorneys almost universally work on a contingency fee basis, which means they get paid a percentage of your eventual recover. This means they won’t get paid until you’ve won your case and they have every incentive to maximize your settlement.
Step Six: Prepare Initial Filing Papers
The next step in figuring out what to do after a car accident in Omaha is to consider legal action. Sometimes a lawsuit is the only way to collect damages from another party. Under the Nebraska statute of limitations you have four years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit to recover damages for property damage or personal injury.
The initial filing is fairly straightforward: it involves drafting a complaint, which is a brief description of the incident, the names of the people being sued and a request for compensation. It can be filed at the Douglas County Court Hall of Justice located at 1701 Farnam Street. This structure houses both the County Court, which handles civil cased worth less than approximately $50,000, and the District Court, which handles larger cases. The County Court also has a small claims division for cases worth less than $3,500.
The most common case involving a traffic accident asserts that the defendant operated their vehicle negligently. Negligence law governs injuries that were inflicted accidentally, so it’s a good fit for car crashes.
Additionally, surviving family members have a right to sue for wrongful death in fatal accidents. This type of lawsuit is similar to negligence, but seeks lost wages from the deceased, lost companionship and funeral expenses for the survivors.
After the case is filed, the initial court papers need to be served on all defendants. One can hire a local process server to ensure the summons is officially delivered.
Step Seven: Calculate Damages
Nebraska has adopted a modified comparative negligence doctrine for distributing damages when both drivers are partially responsible for causing an accident. Under Nebraska’s comparative negligence law, fault is assigned to each party and damages are reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s level of responsibility. For example, if you racked up $1,000 in medical bills as a result of an accident which was found to be 10% your fault, you could be able to recover up to 90%, or $900. But beware of the “50% rule.” The same law provides that a plaintiff’s negligence bars all recovery if it is equal to or greater than the total negligence of all defendants, in other words when he or she is 50% at-fault.
Contact a Nebraska Attorney for Help With Your Car Accident Claim
If you've been injured in a car accident, insurance claims are meant to cover your damages; but some cases require more assistance than others. An Omaha car accident attorney can help you understand your insurance company's reporting requirements, how to get compensated for your medical bills, and even filing a lawsuit if one is necessary.