Following a severe car crash, many injured drivers and passengers are unsure of the legal steps they should take. One of the most critical steps a car accident victim should take as quickly as possible is to retain skilled legal counsel to represent them. A knowledgeable car accident attorney can investigate your accident, file a personal injury claim on your behalf, negotiate with insurance company representatives, and pursue litigation in court.
If your car crash case must proceed to a deposition, civil jury trial, mediation, or binding arbitration hearing, your attorney can represent you and aggressively advocate for your legal interests.
At a court proceeding, your lawyer can present convincing arguments on your behalf, introduce favorable evidence and witness testimony, and help you secure the best possible result in your case. Your lawyer will do everything possible to make you whole again and seek justice for the injuries and losses you sustained in your accident.
Ways that a Car Accident Attorney can Help
Following a local auto accident, you should have a skilled attorney representing you at every stage of your case. The sooner you involve a personal injury lawyer in your legal matter, the higher your chances of recovering favorable monetary damages for all your injuries.
Investigating Your Auto Accident Circumstances
An accident victim or their lawyer may need to retain the services of an accident reconstructionist to investigate the circumstances leading up to their car accident.
An accident reconstructionist can piece together how the accident occurred – and determine who was responsible – by visiting the accident scene, speaking with the accident victim, reviewing police reports, and speaking with witnesses to the car crash.
In addition, an accident reconstructionist can prepare a report that details their findings. They can also testify about their conclusions supporting the accident victim's case at a discovery deposition or jury trial.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
A car accident attorney can also help you file a personal injury claim. A lawyer will most likely file this claim with the at-fault driver's motor vehicle insurance company.
This is called a third-party claim. However, if the at-fault driver did not have any motor vehicle insurance coverage, or if their coverage was insufficient to compensate the accident victim for their total losses, the accident victim's attorney can file a first-party uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. The accident victim's own insurance company handles these types of claims.
When submitting the claim documents, a personal injury attorney will typically include:
- Copies of the police report and any statements from eyewitnesses to the crash
- Medical treatment records and bills
- Body camera or regular camera footage showing the accident happening in real time
- Photographs of property damage
- Photographs of the accident victim's visible injuries
- Tax return documents from prior years
- Lost income documents from the accident victim, showing the days and hours the accident victim missed from work, as well as the total amount of compensation that they lost
Once the insurance company reviews this documentation, they may offer to resolve the car accident claim via a monetary settlement. It will then be up to the accident victim to decide whether to accept this settlement offer or negotiate with the adjuster in the case.
Negotiating a Settlement
Most car accident settlement offers are routinely low from the onset. Therefore, the accident victim's attorney usually needs to negotiate with the insurance company to pursue a higher monetary offer.
Demands and offers between personal injury attorneys and insurance company adjusters typically go back and forth until the parties either reach a favorable settlement, or the settlement discussions break down. In the latter situation, the accident victim's attorney can file a lawsuit in court, beginning the litigation process.
Litigating Your Case to a Conclusion
If the insurance company refuses to offer you fair compensation, your attorney can file a lawsuit and litigate your case in the court system. However, even after filing suit, a settlement is still possible in your case. In fact, most car accident claims settle at some point during litigation and do not proceed all the way to a civil jury trial.
During litigation, the parties will answer written questions, participate in discovery depositions, and attend one or more settlement conferences with the court. If the case still does not resolve by the end of litigation, the parties may present evidence at a civil jury trial, and the jury will determine the amount of monetary damages to award the injured accident victim. The parties may consider mediation or binding arbitration as an alternative to a jury trial.
Representing You in Court
If you decide to take your case to a jury trial or binding arbitration hearing, your attorney will represent you and aggressively introduce evidence on your behalf. Your attorney may also call witnesses to the stand and make arguments on your behalf at the appropriate times.
Answering Your Questions Along the Way
Finally, during every stage of your case, your attorney can answer all of your legal questions, address your concerns, and help you make intelligent and informed decisions during every step of the process.
Pursuing the Monetary Damages You Need
The monetary damages an accident victim receives depend on various factors, including the cost of their medical treatment, the severity of their injuries, and the amount of pain and suffering they endured in their accident.
Common damages include monetary compensation for:
- Past and anticipated medical costs
- Loss of earnings
- Loss of earning capacity
- Mental anguish
- Loss of the ability to use a body part
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Loss of spousal companionship or consortium
- Permanent disfigurement
- Embarrassment from scarring
- Lifetime care costs
Common Auto Accident Causes
Auto accidents are an unfortunate result of driver carelessness and negligence. Drivers have a duty to follow all applicable traffic laws, to drive safely and carefully, and to refrain from distracted and inattentive driving. However, drivers routinely disregard traffic laws – usually to arrive at their final destination ahead of schedule. When people drive unreasonably, they are more likely to cause serious accidents that lead to injuries and property damage.
One of the most common causes of auto accidents is drinking and driving. Despite the education that drivers receive, far too many drivers continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
These substances can severely alter a driver's mindset, affect their concentration, and limit their reflexes. As a result, an intoxicated driver is far less likely than a sober driver to maintain control over their vehicle and stop in time to avoid an accident.
Many drunk drivers also experience blurred vision, dizziness, and other physical symptoms that prevent them from driving in a safe manner. Whenever a drunk driver causes an accident, they and their insurance company may be responsible for paying an accident victim's damages – particularly those resulting from injuries and medical treatment.
Auto accidents can also happen when people drive in a distracted or careless manner.
Common examples of distracted driving include:
- Listening to loud music in a vehicle
- Programming a GPS navigation system while driving
- Roughhousing with vehicle passengers in the backseat
- Disciplining young children who misbehave in the car
- Adjusting the volume on a stereo system
- Searching for music on a cellular device
- Using a cellular device to send text messages or read emails while driving
- Making a phone call on a cellular device that does not have Bluetooth connectivity
When a driver carelessly diverts their attention away from the road and onto something or someone else in their vehicle, they may lose sight of the road and fail to see an approaching vehicle or pedestrian, causing an accident.
Accidents can also happen when drivers violate traffic laws that are common knowledge. For example, a driver might routinely exceed posted speed limits, fail to yield the right-of-way to other vehicles at traffic intersections (and while switching lanes), or fail to use turn signals when executing a turn.
Drivers may also forget to use the safety features and technology of their vehicles. For example, they might fail to look at their mirrors when backing out of parking spaces or switching lanes – or fail to use their vehicle cameras, including backup cameras, while pulling out of parking spaces.
Finally, some car accidents are a result of aggressive driving or road rage.
Aggressive driving maneuvers that may cause accidents include:
- Cutting other cars and trucks off in heavy traffic
- Aggressively weaving in and out of multi-lane highway traffic
- Failing to use turn signals at the appropriate times
- Aggressively tailgating other vehicles
When an angry driver exhibits one or more of these road rage maneuvers, they may inadvertently cause a single collision or a multi-vehicle pile-up that involves numerous collisions and vehicles.
Elements of Proof in a Car Accident Claim
In every car accident claim or lawsuit, the injured driver or passenger has the sole legal burden of proof.
Therefore, to recover monetary compensation, the accident victim must establish several legal elements:
- First, the accident victim must show that the other driver owed them a duty of reasonable care. This duty includes following all applicable safety laws and traffic regulations while driving.
- Next, the accident victim must demonstrate that the other driver deviated from the appropriate standard of care by violating one or more road rules or engaging in aggressive driving maneuvers.
- In addition, the injured accident victim must demonstrate that accidents and injuries occurred as a direct, proximate, and foreseeable result of the other driver's reckless behavior.
A medical expert can help an accident victim prove the causation and damage elements of their car accident claim or lawsuit. For example, the expert – usually a treating medical provider – can causally relate the subject injuries to the motor vehicle accident. A qualified medical expert may also demonstrate, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, that the accident victim suffered one or more permanent injuries in the crash.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney in Your Area Right Away
Car accident victims who suffer physical injuries due to another driver's negligence are eligible for monetary compensation. However, if the insurance company does not take your case seriously, your personal injury attorney can aggressively litigate your case in the court system for an efficient and favorable resolution.
Your lawyer will represent you during all courtroom proceedings, advocate for your legal rights, and pursue the maximum monetary compensation you deserve to recover.