Are you a car accident victim?
We have spent over 20 years helping accident victims get useful, comprehensive, and easy-to-understand legal advice. If you were recently in a car accident, you might be receiving letters in the mail from local car accident law firms urging you to “act quickly” before you lose your “right to sue.”
But what are your rights after a car accident?
Do you really need a lawyer?
If you were in a car accident and aren’t at fault, you may be entitled to compensation. Free Advice provides the resources you need to understand your rights after a car accident, and we will connect you with the best accident attorneys near you for free so you can move forward with your car accident settlement.
Take advantage of our free legal resources to learn your rights and what to do after a car accident. Speaking with an attorney will help you understand state liability laws and determine if your case qualifies for compensation.
Read the topics below to learn what to do after a car accident and how to prepare to meet with an accident lawyer regarding your car accident settlement:
What To Do After a Car Wreck
In the immediate aftermath of a car wreck, you need to focus on contacting the authorities, treating any injuries, and reporting the accident to the insurance company. It is also important to keep in mind what you need to do after a car wreck to prove the value of your claim to the insurance company.
Document with Car Accident Witnesses
Car accident witnesses can be vital in proving liability and in valuing in your claim. Therefore, make sure you get the name, address, all phone numbers of any witnesses to your car accident. If the car accident witness seems cooperative ask them if it is okay to have them speak with the adjuster or to write down what they recall about the accident and type it later to present to them for their signature. A signed statement can go along way in proving negligence in a car accident.
Document with Pictures after a Car Accident
You have heard the saying, "pictures are worth a thousand words". Well, pictures could be worth thousands of dollars. Documenting you claim in pictures could help you not only move your claim to a close faster but get a higher settlement! Most cell phones now have the capability of being able to take a picture. Pull out your phone and take a picture of the accident showing the resting position of the vehicles after the accident.Also, after the accident, take color photos of the following:
- Accident Site - Snap photos that show the road and any damage to it due to the accident.
- Bodily Injury - Take pictures of your wounds, stitches, scars. Anything to document your injury in vivid color.
- Skid Marks - Take pictures of skid marks. Make sure you measure them. Include the measurement of their length in with your documentation. This can be used to determine the speed the car was going.
- Vehicle Damage - Pictures showing all side of your vehicle but especially the impact damage.
If you do not take pictures right after the accident, start taking them! Document any and all damage from this moment forward with the camera. Try to go back to the scene of the accident and take any photos of skid marks or the surrounding area that can help support your story about how the accident happened.
Document with Records and Police Report
There are other documents you can use to help you after a car wreck. These documents could not only help you prove negligence after a car accident, but could possible help you to increase the value of your claim. An insurance adjuster will realize that not only are you organized but that you understand the process of documenting you claim to prove your value of your claim! Pull together the following:
- Newspaper articles of the accident - If there was any write up after the accident about the crash in your local paper, include it with your documentation. Make sure you clip any pictures that were in the paper.
- Policy report - Include the policy report even if it does not say who was at fault. If the insurance adjuster tries to say that the police report does not suggest that their insured was negligent, remind him that it doesn’t say he was not either. Police document what the see and also any
- Don't forget to look the at fault driver up on the internet - Google his or her name, look on Facebook. You would be surprise how many people post pictures that might show them using alcohol or drugs or in other compromising situation that could help your case. If you were rear ended by a drunk driver, obtaining pictures off the internet of the same driver heavily drinking could show a pattern as oppose to a one time incident. Along these lines, DO NOT post any pictures or information about the accident that can harm your case!
- Keep copies of all bills after the accident pertaining to your care - OTC pain relievers, medical bills, receipts for maid service to help you around the house immediately following the accident or any hired transportation.
- Keep a mileage log of trips to and from medical appointments such as the doctor or physical therapist.
After a car accident, immediately start keeping documentation and records. Documentation after a car accident can be invaluable to prove your claim. Make sure you start gather your documentation as soon as possible--especially car accident witness statements while they are still fresh. It is always possible to consult with a car accident attorney on the value of your claim. A car accident attorney will be able to determine your claim value by reviewing all your documentation. Most initial consultations are free, so speak with an attorney if you have any questions
Auto Accident Law
One of the most common ways that most people have to deal with the legal system is through the unfortunate side effects of being involved in an auto accident. Accident law is a general term that encompasses car insurance law and accident-related personal injury law, primarily.
Auto accident law firms specialize in those areas of the law connected to car accidents. Given the number of cars and drivers on the road, it's no surprise that car accident law firms can specialize.
If you have been in a car accident, finding a car accident law firm to take on your case rather than a general practice attorneyis in your best interest.
You can find a car accident attorney near you with our FREE search tool right now.
Who is at fault in an accident?
One of the most important considerations in how accident cases resolve is determining who is at fault. Most states have fault-based insurance rules and some have no-fault insurance rules.
No-fault states typically let each driver's insurance cover their damages. In fault-based states, fault is determined based on the negligence rules in each state:
- Pure comparative negligence states make each driver pay the percent they are at fault.
- Modified comparative negligence states will not let a driver be compensated who is more than half responsible for the accident.
- The few states that use contributory negligence will not allow a driver to get money from another driver (or their insurance) if the first driver contributed to the accident happening at all.
If these terms seem confusing, you can follow our links to learn more. However, if you've been in a car accident you should definitely find an experienced accident attorney to explain your state's rules and your best course of action. You can begin your search for an accident lawyer near you with our FREE search tool.
How Insurance Companies Determine Car Accident Settlements
You were just in a car wreck. You call in the accident claim and a few days later, you receive a settlement letter from the insurance company. The amount of the settlement is far less than you expected, and certainly, less than you need for a replacement vehicle. Your next thought is, "How are auto accident settlements calculated?"
When it comes to calculating settlements, the insurance industry does not have a precise mathematical formula about how insurance companies calculate car accident settlements, because each case is different. They do, however, use a variety of factors to determine the amount of compensation they are willing to pay on a certain automobile accident claim. These factors include the nature of the property damage in a car accident, whether the claim involves a personal injury and the policy limits of the applicable insurance policies.
If you are concerned about how insurance companies determine settlement amounts, or how much to expect from a car insurance settlement, ask for insurance help. Just enter your ZIP code.
Settlement Factors for Damaged Vehicles
If your claim only involves damage to your car, your settlement compensation will generally be the cost of repairs or replacement of the damaged item. For example, if only your bumper is damaged, then your settlement compensation will be the reasonable cost to have the bumper repaired or replaced. The exception to this general rule is when the replacement or repair cost exceeds the value of the car. In this situation, the insurance company may decide that your vehicle is a “total loss” and pay you for the loss of the vehicle. Unfortunately, the replacement cost is usually based on depreciation and not the cost of a new vehicle. This means the amount you receive will probably not be enough to purchase a replacement vehicle.
Settlement Factors for Injuries
If you have been injured in an auto accident, the personal injury portion of your case is negotiated separately from your property damage. For example, if you had a bone fracture, you would receive additional settlement compensation as compared to an accident where an injury did not occur. The compensation you receive from the insurance company will be determined by your total medical bills, documented wage loss, and the nature and extent of your injuries as documented in the medical reports. The medical reports will strongly influence the amount of compensation you receive for pain and suffering.
Settlement for Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is an amount in addition to your medical bills to compensate you for your past and future discomfort associated with your injury. You need to complete your medical treatment and be released by the doctor or be declared “permanent and stationary” by the doctor prior to submitting your personal injury claim to the insurance company. Permanent and stationary means you have reached a point in treatment where no further improvement is anticipated.
Alternatively, if your doctor anticipates future treatment, your settlement should include an estimate, discounted to present value, to compensate you for future medical treatment. Other factors will influence the amount of your settlement. For example, if you have a scar from the accident, permanent disfigurement can result in additional compensation. Generally, the more serious injury will result in higher settlement compensation. If you have residual problems, such as pain after completing your medical treatment, that factor would also warrant additional compensation. Before you accept a settlement offer, consult with an attorney who specializes in personal injury law so that you do no waive your settlement options regarding future medical care.
Keep in mind that you only receive one settlement or award from the insurance company. Submitting and settling your claim before all treatment has been completed waives your right to any future compensation. After you have agreed to a settlement, you can't go to the insurance company later and request more money.
Insurance Policies, Policy Limits, and Settlements
Even though the nature of the damage or injury will influence the amount of your settlement, a major controlling factor is policy limits. The policy limit is a cap set by a contractual agreement between the insurance company and the insured. An insurance company will not pay more than this cap. For example, you are injured in an auto accident and the other party was at fault. You file a claim and discover that even though they had insurance coverage, it had a policy limit of $20,000.00. Even if you verify and confirm that your total damages are $30,000.00, the other person’s insurance company will not pay you more than $20,000.00. If you still want compensation for your additional $10,000.00, you will have to hire a private attorney to sue the other driver individually for the remaining $10,000.00. Or, if you have under-insured motorist coverage, you can file a claim for the balance on your policy.
If the other party had no insurance coverage, your options are similar. You can hire a person to sue the other driver individually. Or, if your personal policy includes uninsured motorist coverage, you could file an uninsured motorist claim with your insurance company. Uninsured and under-insured coverage are usually addendums, or added products, to your basic insurance package where your company agrees to cover your expenses if you are hit by a motorist who does not have coverage or has insufficient coverage to make you whole.
Even if your claim is not capped by a policy limit, an insurance company may offer to pay less than policy limits because they feel that your injury doesn't warrant a higher amount of compensation. If you are dissatisfied with a settlement offer from the insurance company, you can file a lawsuit against the other driver for negligence. Your lawsuit must be filed prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter. The fact that you are still in the process of trying to settle your claim will not extend a statute of limitations. If you feel like a settlement offer is not fair and you are getting close to your deadline to file a lawsuit, talk to a personal injury attorney about filing the appropriate petitions to preserve all of your legal options.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Settlement Offer from a Car Accident?
No case is exactly the same. Based on your facts and circumstances, the time of disbursement from a car accident claim depends on a number of factors. Such factors may include: insurance adjusters, out-of-state banks, medical bills, etc. So, even when an insurance adjuster requests the check, it can take up to a few days to be issued. In most cases, the time period for clearing the bank is seven business days or even ten. Medical bills can also delay the final settlement check because insurance companies want to pay medical providers directly.
Our content is curated by our network of highly credentialed attorneys and legal professionals to guarantee you fully understand your rights.
How can a lawyer help me?
Whether you’re entitled to a car accident settlement or facing a formal indictment, a lawyer knows the ins and outs of your state’s legal system and can ensure you get fully compensated for your time, injuries, and other bills.
They know how to find and challenge evidence and have access to experts you may not.
Hiring a lawyer can actually help SAVE you money.
Between court fees and what you may have to pay after losing a case, it could end up costing you more than the lawyer’s contingency fee. In fact, most lawyers won’t charge you anything unless they win, which means you have everything to gain from calling a lawyer and getting a free consultation.
Should I hire a lawyer?
Yes. If you’re injured in an accident or at work, being sued after a car accident, or accused of a crime, hiring a lawyer is in your best interest.
We are proud to partner with legal teams and consumer legal advice sites across the web to bring you the most relevant information and reliable lawyers who will work for you.
Use our free search tool above to get in touch with local attorneys in your area.
What if I can’t afford an attorney?
FreeAdvice is a completely FREE tool you can use to understand your rights and connect with the lawyers near you. After you learn from our free, in-depth resources you’ll be glad to know that most attorneys will give you a free consultation to find out if you have a case.
If you do have a case, you’ll be happy to know that most personal injury and accident lawyers work on a contingency basis.
How do contingency fee arrangements work? A contingent fee agreement means you don’t pay anything until your case is resolved, and your lawyer will be paid out of the money they win for you.
It may seem like a 25-40% contingency fee is a lot, but remember that getting the most of a large settlement is better than getting all of a small one.