So, you've been in a car accident. After composing yourself from the shock and dealing with any injuries, now what are you supposed to do? Your thoughts might turn to how to get the car accident compensation you think you could be entitled to. Keep in mind that compensation will depend on many factors, but if you're looking for a better understanding of how car accident compensation works, here are some FAQ to help you get started.
In this article:
- What Steps Should I Take After My Accident?
- Will My Insurance Cover My Damages?
- Do I Need To Sue After A Car Accident?
- How Much Compensation Can I Expect From A Car Accident?
- What Are Some Car Accident Settlement Examples?
- How Long Will It Take To Get My Settlement?
- Should I Get An Attorney For A Car Accident?
- Will Hiring An Attorney Help Me Get My Car Accident Compensation?
Q: What Steps Should I Take After My Accident?
A: After your accident, there are several actions you can take to help you start the recovery process. It all starts at the scene of the accident, where you should take the following recommended steps:
- Move your car to a place away from traffic, if it's safe to do so. Your health and safety come first.
- Report the accident. You'll usually want to inform your insurance company and you may need to file a police report.
- Obtain a police or accident report. If you call police to the scene, they will fill out a written summary of the accident. If the accident is minor, police may not fill out a report. However, you can ask for one to be completed for insurance purposes.
- Talk with witnesses. Gather their contact information in case you need the information for a disputed insurance claim or even a lawsuit.
- Document the scene. Take notes of what you see and remember and be sure to take pictures of the accident scene. Specifically, you'll want to capture images of:
- Damage to the car
- Debris on the road
- Traffic signs or lights that were ignored
- Position of the cars involved in the accident
- Bodily injuries
As you begin to process what took place, one more step to consider is whether you should hire a lawyer. Were there injuries, loss of life, or a driving while impaired charge? Was it unclear who was at fault? Even if the accident seems fairly straightforward, reaching out to an experienced car accident attorney could make all the difference in your case.
Q: Will My Insurance Cover My Damages?
A: The term "damages" refers to the money an injured person gets in a car accident claim due to the actions of the party at fault. Depending on insurance coverage, your damages might not be fully covered. Your first step should be to check your insurance policy to see what is and is not covered.
Q: Do I Need To Sue After A Car Accident?
A: If the party at fault in your accident or their insurance company won't cooperate or compensate you fairly for your damages, you may need to bring a lawsuit.
A car accident attorney can help establish whether the at-fault party was negligent and therefore potentially "liable" – or responsible – for the accident. For instance, if you were hit by a truck, the truck driver may be found negligent if they were looking at their cell phone instead of the road when they hit you. In this scenario, a car accident attorney might bring a claim against the driver and the driver's employer (the trucking company).
An attorney may also help you negotiate a better settlement with the insurance company. Insurance companies often try to pay out as little as possible. If an attorney determines the settlement is not appropriate based on the facts of the event, they may suggest you go to trial where a court may provide you with a verdict for more damages.
Q: How Much Compensation Can I Expect From A Car Accident?
A: The amount of money you recover from a car accident will largely depend on the type of accident you had. A head-on collision or a rollover will often result in more injuries and more property damage than a rear-end bump. Insurance companies often use formulas to determine the amount of damages they will pay out.
The car accident compensation you receive also depends on the amount of your liability and where you reside. Counties, cities, and states follow different laws regarding liability. The four types of laws that states follow when determining liability after a car accident are:
- Joint And Several Liability: This occurs when you or another party can be held entirely responsible for damages regardless of your percentage of fault.
- Contributory Negligence: Contributory negligence means that if you were at fault at all, even only one percent, you are barred from recovering any damages.
- Pure Comparative Fault: Pure comparative fault means that you can recover damages from the at-fault party minus your percentage of responsibility. For example, if your damages total $100,000 and you are 40 percent at fault, you can recover $60,000 of the damages and you will be responsible for $40,000.
- Modified Comparative Fault: Modified comparative fault means that the damages you recover are reduced by the percentage of your fault and in some states, you will be barred from recovering anything if you are found to be 50 percent or 51 percent at fault.
Q: What Are Some Car Accident Settlement Examples?
A: After a car accident, the type of compensation you will receive for your settlement depends on the circumstances of your accident. Most likely you will be entitled to economic or special damages, and non-economic or general damages.
Economic or special damages are those that are quantifiable and based on financial losses. These can include:
- Lost wages
- Money to replace a damaged vehicle or property
- Current and future medical expenses
Non-economic or general damages are not easily quantifiable and are usually harder to calculate. These can include:
- Physical impairment
- Mental anguish
- Physical pain and suffering
In the horrible cases where death occurs as a result of a car accident, a person or family member might be entitled to wrongful death compensation.
Q: How Long Will It Take To Get My Settlement?
A: Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be challenging and mentally exhausting. Depending on the extent of the accident, you may need to have car accident compensation quickly. However, dealing with insurance companies, other parties, and possibly the court system means obtaining your settlement will take time.
It may take a couple of months to even a year to finalize your settlement. If you need to start the legal process, gathering information for discovery will probably take the longest amount of time depending on the severity of your accident.
If you go to trial, the amount of time your case takes will depend on the court calendar and the attorneys' schedules. If you can settle your case through the insurance company, it might not take as long, but the insurance company will still take time to gather the necessary information. The key thing to remember is to be patient and communicate with those involved.
Q: Should I Get An Attorney For A Car Accident?
A: If your injuries are serious, or you find it difficult to deal with the at-fault party or insurance company, it's probably a good idea to get an attorney to help you obtain car accident compensation. An attorney can help you gather the evidence you will need to be successful and can help navigate an otherwise stressful legal process. A car accident attorney can also negotiate with the insurance company if it becomes necessary.
Most car accident attorneys take cases based on contingency fees which means they will only get paid if you recover damages by settlement, or by winning your case at trial. Keep in mind that you may not get all of the damages you want, even if you win your case. Many lawyers offer free consultations so you can get an idea of the challenges of your specific case. A consultation would be a good place to discuss how much compensation you think you could expect.
Q: Will Hiring An Attorney Help Me Get My Car Accident Compensation?
A: If you have injuries, extensive damage to property, or just need guidance dealing with the legal issues from your car accident, hiring an attorney after a car accident might be the best thing to do. Get legal help today starting with a free estimate of your case.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.