Following a car crash, many accident victims don’t know what steps they should take to pursue and recover monetary damages. Hire experienced legal counsel on board in your case as early as possible so you don’t make any mistakes.
An experienced car accident attorney can investigate your accident and determine your eligibility for filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit. If you can proceed, your lawyer can file your claim and negotiate with insurance company representatives on your behalf.
Following settlement negotiations, if the insurance company does not increase their offer significantly, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court and, if necessary, take your case to a civil jury trial or binding arbitration proceeding. At one of these proceedings, your lawyer will aggressively advocate for you and maximize the total monetary damages you receive for your injuries.
How an Attorney can Help
Retaining legal counsel as early on in the process as possible is one of the most important steps you can take in your car accident claim or lawsuit. The sooner you retain legal counsel to represent you, the higher your chances of obtaining a favorable monetary award in your case through either settlement or litigation.
Gathering the Necessary Documents
First, a skilled car accident lawyer can help you obtain the necessary documentation to prove the legal elements of your claim or lawsuit.
Necessary documentation may include:
- Related medical records and bills
- Photographs of your visible injuries
- Pictures of the area where the accident happened
- Property damage photographs
- Lost income documentation
- Prior income tax returns
- Police reports
- Statements from witnesses who observed the accident firsthand
Your attorney can gather these necessary documents even as you complete your medical treatment following the accident.
Preparing a Demand Letter and Filing a Claim for You
Next, your car accident attorney can help you prepare a settlement demand letter and assemble a demand package for your claim. A demand letter discusses the accident and your injuries and makes a monetary demand for settlement within the available insurance policy limits.
In addition to this demand letter, your attorney will include all the above-referenced documents supporting your claim. The insurance company adjuster will then review the records and may make an initial offer to resolve the case via settlement.
Negotiating with Insurance Company Representatives
After filing a personal injury claim on your behalf, your attorney can begin the settlement negotiation process with the insurance company adjuster handling your claim.
Often, insurance companies make this process an uphill battle. They refuse to offer favorable monetary damages to resolve a case during the initial stages. Insurance companies hope accident victims will settle their cases quickly and for as little money as possible. After all, the insurance company loses a lot of money by paying out a large personal injury settlement, jury verdict, or binding arbitration award. Therefore, adjusters will do everything they can to undermine the value of a car accident claim and pay as little as possible.
However, a skilled car accident attorney can combat these aggressive insurance company tactics and work to obtain a higher settlement offer on your behalf. Specifically, your lawyer may point to the relevant medical documentation and other evidence in your case and work to convince the adjuster to increase their offer. If that does not happen, your lawyer can threaten the adjuster with a lawsuit and, if necessary, actually file the suit in court.
Litigating Your Case in Court
In addition to engaging in settlement negotiations with adjusters, a skilled car accident lawyer can litigate your case in court.
Litigation begins when your attorney files a lawsuit in the court system on your behalf. However, just because your lawyer files a suit does not necessarily mean your case will proceed to a jury trial.
Most car accident claims settle out of court at some point. If every single auto accident case proceeded to a jury trial, it would place an unreasonable burden on the court system.
Moreover, court litigation can be extremely expensive – especially when experts are involved. Therefore, both sides of a legal dispute have a strong incentive to settle before trial.
After filing a lawsuit and serving it on the at-fault driver, the insurance company will appoint a legal representative for the at-fault driver in the case. At that time, the parties will exchange answers to written questions, called Interrogatories, regarding the accident and the victim's claimed injuries.
The parties may also engage in discovery depositions, where the accident victim will answer questions about:
- How the auto accident happened
- The injuries they sustained in the crash
- The medical treatment that they underwent
- The lingering effects of the accident and injuries on their life and well-being
Taking Your Case to Trial or Pursuing Alternative Dispute Resolution
Post-deposition, the insurance company adjuster may increase their offer. However, if that does not happen, the parties have the option of taking their case to a civil jury trial.
During the trial, the jury will decide the outcome of all disputed issues, including monetary compensation and damages. If the parties elect to pursue alternative dispute resolution (ADR), they may take their case to either mediation or binding arbitration.
A knowledgeable car accident attorney can answer all your questions and help you make informed decisions throughout the process.
Recovering Damages for Your Auto Accident Injuries
The total damages that you may recover in your car accident claim or lawsuit depend upon various factors, including the nature and extent of your injuries, the medical treatment you undergo, the total sum of your medical expenses, and the permanent effects of the accident on your life.
Accident victims may recover monetary damages for all of their:
- Related past and future medical expenses
- Lost earnings
- Loss of earning potential
- Mental distress
- Loss of spousal companionship and consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of the ability to use a body part, such as from permanent paralysis
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Long-term care costs
- Embarrassment and humiliation for visible scarring
Why do Auto Accidents Frequently Happen?
Unfortunately, auto accidents are common when people drive carelessly and recklessly. One unfortunate cause of car accidents is distracted driving. Distracted driving can take many forms, but it usually occurs when a driver pays more attention to electronic devices in their vehicle than the road.
For example, a driver may become distracted by a cell phone or other electronics. Vehicle passengers may distract drivers from watching the road if they argue, engage in horseplay, or need help in the back seat. All of these activities may turn a driver's attention away from the road and bring about an accident.
Car collisions can also happen when drivers are under the illegal influence of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol intoxication is particularly problematic because it slows down a driver's brain functioning and brings about physical symptoms, including dizziness and vision impairment. An intoxicated driver may also have trouble with their reflexes, and they may be unable to hit their brakes in time to avoid a crash.
Passenger vehicle drivers are legally under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) meets or exceeds 0.08 percent. However, much more stringent standards apply to minor drivers who are under 21 years old, as well as commercial vehicle drivers – including commercial truck drivers.
A car accident may also occur when another driver commits one or more traffic law violations. For example, the driver might exceed the speed limit, fail to yield the right-of-way to another vehicle at the appropriate time, or fail to use their turn signal when executing a turn or switching lanes in heavy traffic.
Drivers may also forget to use their side view and rearview mirrors, along with their backup cameras and other vehicle devices. As a result, they may fail to see another vehicle or a pedestrian in the vicinity and bring about a severe crash.
Finally, some traffic accidents result from road rage. Many drivers hurry to get ahead of other vehicles and, as a result, resort to aggressive and careless driving maneuvers. For example, an aggressive driver might negligently tailgate another vehicle, fail to use their turn signal, weave in and out of traffic, or cut other cars off in traffic. As a result, they may inadvertently bring about a severe car crash.
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a recent auto accident that resulted from one of these types of driver negligence, you are not alone. A compassionate motor vehicle attorney can speak with you about your accident and explore your legal options for moving forward. Your attorney can negotiate with settlement adjusters or litigate your case in the court system.
Injuries that Car Crash Victims May Suffer
The injuries that a car crash victim suffers are often debilitating and may lead to months of ongoing medical treatment, physical therapy, and medical procedures. Many treatments can also lead to high medical bills and missed work time.
Injuries can vary widely. For example, the impact of an auto crash may cause the accident victim's knee or elbow to hit something in their vehicle, causing a broken bone. The front of an accident victim's body may also strike the steering wheel abruptly, resulting in a rib fracture or traumatic head and brain injury, such as a concussion.
Other common injuries that accident victims frequently suffer include open lacerations, bruises, soft tissue neck and back injuries (such as whiplash), internal organ injuries, and internal bleeding.
If you sustained one or more of these injuries in a recent auto accident, a skilled personal injury attorney in your area can explore all of your legal options while you focus your attention on attending medical appointments and getting better. One of the most critical steps a car crash victim can take after their accident is to follow through with their prescribed treatment regimen.
A primary care doctor or hospital emergency room physician may prescribe follow-up medical treatment for the accident victim, including consulting with a medical specialist, such as a neurologist or orthopedic doctor, or attending physical therapy sessions.
Car crash victims must follow through with their treatment regimen because taking this step increases their chances of making a full recovery.
In addition, accident victims should refrain from significant gaps in their medical treatment. When an insurance company settlement adjuster notices significant treatment gaps, they may become skeptical of the accident victim's injuries. Specifically, they may believe that the accident victim's injuries are not all that serious and do not warrant significant monetary compensation.
A car accident lawyer can begin gathering the necessary medical documentation and other evidence to prove your case. During that time, you can focus your attention on getting better.
Speak With a Car Accident Lawyer Near You Today
If you sustained injuries in a recent car accident, you should take the necessary legal steps immediately to secure your right to favorable monetary recovery. Otherwise, the statute of limitations may bar you from recovering the monetary award you deserve.
A personal injury attorney can immediately begin investigating your accident circumstances, filing a claim on your behalf, and pursuing a favorable result in your case. Moreover, if your case must go to trial or another court proceeding, your lawyer can represent you and aggressively fight for your legal rights and interests.