In the aftermath of a car accident, most victims don’t know what to do or what steps they need to follow to ensure they recover damages for their vehicle and their injuries. Life doesn’t prepare you for that. But on this page, we can try!
The truth is, the process of making sure you recover your rightful compensation begins immediately after the accident. You can make mistakes at the scene of an accident that might diminish your whole claim.
Make Sure You Take the Right Steps Immediately
As per Texas Transportation Code § 601.004, Subchapter F anyone who is involved in a car accident which results in damage in excess of $1,000 or any bodily injury must file an accident report with law enforcement. Victims can make some accidentally errors either while communicating with others in the accident, or while talking with law enforcement.
The main thing to remember is, never give any indication you are in any way responsible for the accident. This means you should not state you never saw the other driver, or something as simple as saying you are sorry. While these may seem like innocent comments, they could ultimately reduce your settlement, as insurers are looking to use any statements to diminish the value of your claim.
Some other steps you must take to preserve your rights include:
- Gather information – Obtain the name, driver’s license information, and insurance information from anyone else involved in the accident. You need this information to file a claim as well as to file the accident report. Witness information, if applicable, will also be helpful.
- Photograph evidence – Take photos at the scene if you are able. Photographs of the involved vehicles, nearby traffic signs or signals, and landmarks may also be helpful. Remember, if there are nearby businesses, they may have surveillance cameras that captured the accident. Photographs also help document the weather conditions. Photograph any obstructions to vision.
- See a doctor – One of the biggest mistakes car accident victims make is refusing medical attention. Even if you think your injuries are minor, you must see a doctor. Generally, it is best to seek care at an emergency room and follow up with your own physician afterward. Even if you suffer what only seems like aches or pains, make sure you ask the doctor to thoroughly document your condition.
- Reporting to your insurer – Even when an accident is not your fault you will likely need to inform your own insurance company about the accident. Make no mistake about it however, caution is important. Remember, stick with the facts. Provide them only the information about the accident, the name of the other driver, and the badge number of the officer who took the accident report if known.
- Contact an attorney – Regardless of the severity of the accident, call an experienced car accident lawyer for a free consultation. An attorney can help explain your rights, outline your options, and provide you with valuable information that can help you decide what steps to take going forward. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!
The last thing you want to do is make any mistake that will devalue your claim. Using common sense and seeking legal help is important when you are a victim of a car accident.
Liability Matters: Who Is at Fault and How to Get Them to Pay
State laws require every driver on the roadway to carry minimum amounts of liability insurance. When you are in a car accident, establishing liability will play a role in your reaching an agreement on compensation for your injuries. Regardless of how much insurance a driver carries, if you cannot prove they are liable for your injuries, the insurance company will not pay for your losses.
Some of the potentially liable parties after a car accident include:
- Drivers operating recklessly – When a driver fails to obey traffic signals including speed limit signs and causes an accident, they can be held liable for any injuries that occur because of their reckless behavior.
- Employer of the driver – In some instances, the driver may drive a company vehicle or work for a rideshare service. Depending on the facts surrounding the accident, the employer may bear partial liability for the losses suffered by a victim.
- Government agency – If road conditions were partially to blame for a car accident, it may be necessary to file a claim against a government entity. These claims have special requirements and may be more complicated than simply notifying an insurance agency.
- Other parties – You might hold other parties liable for injuries you suffered in a car accident. Speak with your car accident attorney to make sure you know what documents you will need to provide to show other parties may be partially liable for your injuries.
The first step in a car accident claim is establishing fault. The accident will require a full investigation, and the best way to do this is to work with a lawyer who has experience handling complicated accident cases. It’s always a good idea to choose someone who has a proven track record of successful car accident settlements. While an attorney’s track record will not always mean they can obtain a settlement on your behalf, a strong track record does indicate they advocate on behalf of their clients effectively to make sure they get the compensation they deserve for their injuries.
Documenting Losses Before Filing a Claim
Another important step in getting the compensation you deserve is making sure you have kept good records. Every insurance company wants to make sure they pay as little as possible in claims because it helps keep their bottom line in the black. Insurers get income from premiums. The more premiums they collect, the better. The other side is that the less they can settle claims for, the healthier their bottom line remains. Insurers will take whatever legal steps they can to minimize the amount they pay for compensation following an accident.
Here are some of the losses you can incur, and how to document them:
- Documenting medical expenses – Your medical bills start mounting the minute you see the first doctor following a car accident. The longer it takes you to recover, the higher those bills will be. Be sure you keep track of each doctor’s visit, including visits for physical therapy and rehabilitation therapy. If you have had a surgical procedure, make sure you have copies of the bills for all the parties involved—remember this usually involves bills from the hospital where you had the surgery, the surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and laboratory for any pre- and post-operative lab work. Document any medical expenses associated with the injuries you sustained in a car accident.
- Lost wages following an accident – Do not assume the only compensation you are entitled to following an accident is your hourly wages or salary. There are other types of compensation you could be losing because you are at home recovering from your injury. This may include holiday pay, sick pay, matching deposits to your retirement fund, and more. Talk to your attorney about your true wage losses and they can explain what options you have for filing a lost wage claim.
- Other losses – If they are unable to complete daily tasks due to their injuries, some victims find it necessary to hire help. Talk to your lawyer about this. If you can document these losses, you can include them in the demand for the settlement of your accident injury claim.
You may pursue other compensation following a car accident, including damage to your vehicle and other damaged personal property. Your attorney will discuss all possible sources of compensation with you before filing a demand claim with the insurance company.
Steps to Take When an Insurance Company Offers a Settlement
Being out of work means you have less money coming in, but your bills remain the same—and in some respects, they are higher because you must now deal with other costs like prescription drugs and doctor visits. This makes it tempting to listen eagerly when an insurer contacts you and offers you a settlement.
Do not get fooled!
Insurance companies know full well you are facing mounting medical bills and a loss of income. Because of this, they make what appears to be a good offer and hope you will accept it immediately. In some cases, they will try to tell you this is the maximum amount they will offer. They may even tell you there is no need to involve a lawyer. Do not accept any settlement without first talking to an experienced attorney.
When an insurer offers a settlement, there are “hidden” strings attached. Let’s say, for example, you suffer an injury that will require future surgical procedures. You will be out of work for at least six months as you recover. While you may trust the insurance company to do the right thing, the fact is they are attempting to minimize their liability. By offering you a fast settlement, they are trying to get themselves free of the possibility of needing to pay more money later. All settlement agreements have language that states that once you accept them, the insurance company has no future liability. That could be bad for you in the long run, especially if your injury requires ongoing care or results in long-term separation from employment.
Filing a Settlement Demand for Your Losses
Once your car accident injury lawyer has determined the full amount of your losses and you are on the road to recovery, they will send a demand notice to the insurance company. Only after this step will negotiations begin. The demand to the insurer will include the reason for the claim amount and specify a time frame for them to respond. The insurer will respond with a counteroffer. Rinse and repeat.
You remain in full control of this process. Your lawyer will keep you informed of any offers made on your behalf and give you their best advice as to what options are still available to you. When a lawyer tells you they believe the insurance company is not negotiating in good faith, you will need to decide whether or not to file a car accident lawsuit.
Keep in mind, your attorney will only get paid for their legal services after they have secured a settlement or award on your behalf. The goal is always to fully compensate you for your losses, and whenever possible, to compensate you for the pain and suffering resulting from your injuries.
Car accidents turn your life upside down. Serious injuries that result in weeks or months away from your job also impact your future career development, your family, and your coworkers.
In addition to your body, a serious injury hurts your finances. In the immediate aftermath of an accident you may only notice the loss of income or reduction in your income, but the longer your recovery time, the more devastating the financial impact.
You don’t need to suffer the financial impact of an accident that was not your fault. Working with an attorney helps ensure the person responsible for your injuries is held financially accountable.
While traveling the roadways, you do everything possible to make sure you remain safe. But when another driver has shown careless disregard for the safety of others and you’ve paid the price in the form of an injury, they must be held accountable.