You already know this is an important decision. In fact, finding the right lawyer from a good shortlist of car accident attorneys may be one of the most important decisions of your entire car accident case.
We’re going to help you with that right now.
You should do careful research and select an attorney who has years of proven experience handling personal injury cases such as yours. We want to offer you some helpful tips to find that perfect attorney to get you compensated for your car accident injuries.
Top reasons why you need a personal injury attorney after your auto accident
When should you hire a personal injury attorney after a car crash, and why? What does a lawyer do for you? Do you need a lawyer for a minor car accident? We asked attorneys from all over the country these questions and here’s what they said.
Research shows that car accident victims, particularly those with perceived “minor” injuries, are reluctant to hire a personal injury attorney for a number of reasons. Perhaps they don’t think they need one, they are intimidated by the prospect of talking to a lawyer, or they don’t want to get dragged into court like they see on TV shows. Or maybe they mistakenly believe that they could never afford to hire an attorney or that their injuries aren’t that serious.
Whatever the reason, the reality is that not hiring an attorney after a car accident can have long-term negative consequences on your final settlement or award.
While it’s hard to quantify exactly how much it helps to hire an attorney since there isn’t recent data looking into this issue and cases vary widely, one commonly cited study by the Insurance Research Council from 2004 found that 85 percent of cases where the insurance company settled a car accident claim were handled by a hired attorney.In addition, auto accident injury victims who are represented by an attorney are awarded 3.5 times more compensation in settlements than those accident victims who represent themselves, according to the same study.
In this article, Enjuris developed a comprehensive list of tips and advice from reputable attorneys around the country about the benefits of hiring an attorney following a crash. Our goal is to help accident victims understand the settlement difference that having a great attorney on their side can make by providing answers to related questions like:
What are the top reasons why people should hire an attorney?
What advantages do personal injury attorneys offer in car accident cases?
When should you hire a personal injury attorney after a car crash?
Do you need a lawyer for a minor car accident?
Below you’ll find answers to these questions and more from experienced car accident attorneys based in cities all across the country, from Miami to New York to Houston to Denver.
Before you look up car accident attorneys, know what you’re looking for
Before you even start doing searches it will pay off to have a good idea of the qualities and terms you are looking for in a car accident attorney. This may differ a little according to your case, your personality, your area of the country, even.
These questions will give you a framework for a list you can check off:
Evaluate the complete team of staff, not just the partners or people who make up the public face of the law firm. Keep in mind as you research and interact with the firm that it may not be the same person you speak with initially who will be your primary contact.
Firm age, size, experience. Awards and leadership roles in organizations can also be good indicators.
Good judicial connections: Find out if they participate in the local bar association and contribute to campaigns.
Comfort with going to trial: Find out how many of their cases go to trial and the success rate of those that do. Some lawyers will have this information posted on their websites.
Have they tried or settled similar cases in your city or county? Do they have an office near you?
Look for experience with your type of case specifically.
Negotiation ability: What sort of settlements they have obtained (remember, 95% of personal injury cases are settled without trial). Again, some car accident attorneys will have this information posted on their websites.
Your personal comfort with the lawyer. This can be a big one.
Yes, you should hire a lawyer, even after a minor car accident. Here’s the thing… That question actually has nothing to do with the car accident and more to do with your injuries. If you were injured, then you need to speak to a car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
You’re sitting at the red light after a long day. You reach down to change the radio station when…BAM! You have been hit by another driver who wasn’t paying attention. You both step out of your cars to assess the damage. You both feel fine and your cars have very minor damage. It’s been a very long day so you decide not to call the police to file a report or exchange any information between the two of you. Hey, do you really need to hire a lawyer after a minor car accident?
Do you really need to make a big fuss about all this? Maybe we can just forget the whole thing and go on about our day. After all, you want to get home, the last thing you need is to wait on the side of the road, inconvenience all these other drivers, and site here frustrated and emotional… so you leave.
That was your first mistake and the biggest mistake you could have made.
In most states, failing to file a police report after a car accident, even if it’s just a fender bender, is illegal. It becomes a citable offense when you get in your car and drive away. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you were injured or if the vehicles didn’t sustain damage. An accident is still an accident, even if it’s only a minor car accident.
Also, once you leave the scene of a car accident, it becomes so much more difficult to get the facts straight. Even a minor car accident becomes murky. So whether or not you want to hire a lawyer after a minor car accident, consider this your moment right here. You should think about calling the police before leaving the scene.
Studies have shown that there are several injuries a person can sustain in minor car accidents that don’t show up for days after the incident. You get hit from behind, you’re barely jolted and you feel fine. You have no obvious injury and you would know if you were hurt — wouldn’t you?
Not always. People often think of “injuries” as broken bones, lacerations, and even head trauma. Our minds turn to severe, life-altering conditions. We don’t often consider stained tendons, stretched ligaments, or contusions, but we should.
If your body went forward, your neck snapped back or you moved forward in a sudden manner, you may wake up with severe back pain tomorrow or the next day. The adrenaline following an accident can mask an injury. Most Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers will tell you to see a doctor as soon as possible to ensure you are not suffering from hidden injuries.
If you drive away from the scene and fail to make a report with either the police or your insurance (or both), you will have a difficult time taking your personal injury to court, even if you have a medical professional on your side.
The “Other” Guy
What if you exchanged information with the other driver, shake hands and go about your business without reporting the minor car accident to the police?
Several weeks later, you are summonsed to court because the “other” guy has filed their own claim against you. You know they were at fault and you know that the injuries they are claiming and the property damage they say you caused are exaggerated if not downright false. Remember when you chose to drive away without a report? You’ve now stepped solidly into a “you say, they say” type of situation.
In truth, most of these types of suits won’t get very far. After all, the other guy left the scene, too. But do you really want to deal with the hassle and time it’s going to take to answer the summons, potentially appear for hearings, and argue on your behalf when you know you were in the right? Chances are you have better things to do!
And here’s another great tip for you, “Do not admit fault or reveal policy limits”. That’s a direct quote from the Geico insurance website. Be careful about what you do and say!
What to Do After A Minor Car Accident
Maybe you and the other party didn’t drive away from the minor car accident. Perhaps there was some minor damage to one or both of your vehicles that made you second guess yourself, so you decide to file a police report. You file with your insurance companies and the other party is found to be at fault. Their insurance company offers you a settlement and you take it. It seems the easiest thing to do and will enable you to get your car fixed more quickly.
But wait a minute. The settlement wasn’t enough to fix your car and you think you have an injury, possibly whiplash!
An insurance company is a business and they are out for their bottom line, not your best interests. If you accept an insurance settlement, the paperwork will likely say that you are giving up your right to any future legal action. It’s not unusual for people to believe that an insurance company offers what’s fair — and it’s not unusual for that to be far from the truth.
Even in minor car accidents, you should have a personal injury attorney look at your case before agreeing to any settlement! They can help you get the most compensation possible for your case. That way you will not have to come out of pocket for your car and medical bills.
Leaving the Scene of An Accident Without Reporting It To the Police: Just as we mentioned in the notes above, leaving the scene of a minor car accident without reporting it to the police is a major mistake. The Police report will be used in a minor car accident lawsuit to help the judge award the plaintiff the appropriate damages.
Failing To Gather Evidence At the Scene: Take as many pictures as you can, collect as many phone numbers as you can, and ask for as many accounts as you can from people nearby and let your car accident attorney sort through what is valuable and what is not. Simple collect as much evidence as possible while you still can at the scene of the accident.
Admitting Fault: Never admit fault, even if you believe you are at fault for the minor car accident. The fact is, you cannot possibly know who is at fault from your vantage point and you are merely attempting to understand what may have happened to form your perspective. Never admit fault. Instead, let your attorney and the police figure out who may be at fault and how much comparative fault is at play.
Not Seeing a Doctor: You should see a medical professional as soon as you feel as if you have sustained injuries from your accident. If you do not, and you develop any injuries from the minor car accident, it may become difficult to attribute them to the accident and not to some other wear and tear and you may find it even more difficult to be compensated.
Not Taking Advantage of PIP: Remember that Florida requires that you have Personal Injury Protection and that is used to make sure that you are protected in the event of a car accident. Do not feel any obligation to avoid not claiming from this insurance policy if you have been involved in a minor car crash.
Failing to Understand Insurance Companies: Remember that insurance companies are first and foremost a business and they exist to make money and that means they want to collect and hold as much money as possible while paying out as little as possible (in theory). So when you make claims, they will try to settle for less if they can.
Not Reviewing the Police Report: You must review the police report to make sure that the facts contained on the police report are correct and that you agree with them and if you do not agree, do your best to make your voice heard right then and there and get any and all changes made as soon as possible and before signing.
Taking the First Settlement Check Offered: Just like most negotiations, the first check and the first offer will be the lowest that the insurance company thinks they can offer to satisfy you while also ensuring they are not overpaying in their estimation and saving as much money on the car accident settlement as possible.
Trying to Settle Your Own Case: Though you may think that a minor car accident may not warrant a car accident lawyer, we can confidently say that clients who hire experienced attorneys earn a settlements check that is on average 3X larger than those who do not hire an auto accident attorney.
Not Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer: For all the reasons stated above and more, we believe it’s in your best interests to hire a car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
When you are involved in a vehicular accident, it is essential to know your rights so you can best protect your own interests. Often times, a car accident can be a traumatizing experience, leading its victims to act upon emotion. However, it is advised for all parties to remain calm and follow standard post car accident procedures, including exchanging identification, insurance information and license numbers. Being in a vehicular accident may present many overwhelming issues, including property damage and health complications. If you understand your legal rights prior to being involved in an accident, then you have a better chance of handling the situation as a lawyer would advise you to.
Even though it may be unfair at times, the person who caused the accident isn’t always the person who is legally at fault. Without legal counsel onsite, you should be very careful with your words. Keep your interaction to a minimum. Additionally, apologizing after a car accident may seem polite or kind. However, it will only put you at further risk. By saying that you are “sorry” no matter the context, the other driver could use your apology as an admission of guilt and fault. Even when communicating with your insurance company afterwards, you should never mention that you apologized at any moment when recounting your accident details.
Understanding Fault in A Car Accident
Whoever is found at fault will affect whose insurance will have to pay for vehicle and property damage. The party at fault will also be responsible for personal injuries. For example, in most states, if a driver violates a traffic law, then the driver is mostly responsible for a resulting vehicular accident. However, determining fault isn’t always very obvious. Many states have complex systems used for determining fault. For example, sometimes, both drivers will be held liable as both failed to avoid the accident, hence requiring each driver as well as an insurance provider to accept responsibility and monetary penalties.
Gathering Evidence at the Scene
It is your legal right to build your case by collecting evidence. After a car accident, the last thing on your mind might be to gather evidence at the scene. However, it is essential to your case that you record any comments made by the other drivers and take pictures of both cars as well as the general area that impacted the accident. In addition to contact, license and insurance information, you should also record into your smartphone details of the accident, including the location, description of the road, etc. You should take pictures of the accident scene close up as well as from a distance. Do not forget to capture snapshots of the scene, including traffic signs, crosswalks, etc. All of these details may be needed later on. Moreover, if there were any witnesses, you should retrieve their contact information and record what they saw with your smartphone. You could always wait until a later day to contact the witnesses for their accounts of the accident, but their memory might not be as sharp as time passes. If you are able to record the whole post-accident scene, then that may be also very helpful to your case in the future.
Filing a Police Report
You are entitled to a police report after an accident. If you call the police, they will show up on the scene, interview both drivers and document what they see along with witness statements, etc. Before the police leave, be sure to ask them for their names so you can obtain copies of their reports without much hassle. In the event that you are not comfortable with speaking with a police officer because you are too shaken up from the accident, you can go to the station the following day and file a report. However, the officer will record your initial refusal, which might be used against you in court.
Statute of Limitations
If you live in South Carolina, you should be aware there is a state law that restricts the amount of time that you are allowed to bring a lawsuit to court. Even though the statute of limitations in South Carolina does not affect car insurance claims, insurance companies require claims to be made within a reasonable time after the accident, not exceeding a few weeks. However, this state does have a statute of limitations for a case that could result from a vehicular accident, including car damage, personal injury or wrongful death claims. The law allows you three years to approach the state courts for civil action, starting from the day of the accident. However, in this state, if there was a death as a result of the accident, then the clock starts on the date of the victim’s death. It’s imperative to be mindful of the time because your case could get thrown out of court if you file after the time limit. Unfortunately, car accident lawyers often see this happen to their clients. Ensure that this does not happen to you by prioritizing your claim and seeking legal representation within an appropriate amount of time.
The Right to an Attorney
If you believe that your case will be handled and resolved peacefully through the car insurance claim process, then you will want to file your lawsuit once you have leverage from the insurance company to use during settlement talks. However, this does not mean that you should not speak to an attorney prior to filing a lawsuit. After your accident, contact a local lawyer for a free consultation and review your rights if you have any questions about your timeline for filing a suit or other possible case complications. Once you are ready, you can hire an experienced car accident attorney who can help you throughout the process.
Finding yourself in a car accident is an unfortunate situation, but you can stop your situation from getting worse by hiring the right lawyer to be by your side. If you or someone you know has been injured from a car accident, suffered property damage, lost wages due to the accident, etc., then you should contact a local attorney who specializes in personal injury law who can help. Most lawyers offer a free consultation and only charge you if you win your case. Beforehand, they will discuss what percentage of the settlement would cover their fee. Without the right representation, your chances of obtaining justice may be slim; therefore, it is important to choose your attorney wisely as well as taking the right steps after your car accident.
Most car accident victims significantly benefit from retaining a qualified New York or New Jersey car accident lawyer as soon as possible after the collision. Consider the following reasons why it is a good idea to hire an attorney:
Advice – From the moment you find yourself the victim of a car accident, you will have questions without answers. Whose car insurance policy will cover your medical bills? Who pays for the damage to your vehicle? How can you find a doctor to treat your injuries? Are you entitled to pain and suffering damages? Having an experienced New York or New Jersey car accident attorney on your side provides you with invaluable advice from the moment the accident occurred through the resolution of your case.
Direction – Because New York and New Jersey are no-fault insurance states, a car accident claim could be handled in one of two ways. Accidents that involve only minor injuries are usually handled through the no-fault system, meaning your own car insurance policy compensates you for out-of-pocket losses. Accident victims who suffered “serious injuries” are entitled to pursue additional compensation through a traditional personal injury lawsuit.
Communication – A car accident victim should not discuss the case with anyone without the advice of a car accident lawyer. From the moment you retain the services of an attorney, your lawyer will become your voice and handle all communication with your insurance company, the other driver’s insurance company and anyone else involved in the collision.
Investigation— Sometimes an accident reconstruction expert is needed to determine how an accident occurred and who was at fault. A car accident lawyer has the resources and experience required to properly investigate your accident to ensure that you are compensated fully and fairly for your injuries.
Evaluation – How much compensation you are entitled to depend to a large extent on the type and severity of your injuries. Often, the insurance company responsible for compensating a victim will contest the amount of an accident victim’s medical expenses, pain and suffering and other damages. Attorneys understand how to properly evaluate all of the medical documentation and other evidence to ensure that you receive proper compensation.
Negotiation— Most car accident cases settle through pre-trial negotiations. Most accident victims have no experience negotiating a settlement of this type, which could lead to either overvaluation or undervaluation of the claim. This can result in the victim being under-compensated or the case not settling. With an experienced attorney on your side, you can rest assured that you have a skilled negotiator fighting for your interests.
Advocacy— While most car accident cases are settled out of court, some do end up going to trial. If this occurs, you need a lawyer by your side to advocate for you in front of a judge and jury. You can be certain that the insurance companies will have lawyers representing their interests. You need an attorney who is on your side in the courtroom.
Get Help from a Car Accident Lawyer at the Ginarte Law Firm Today
Put the Ginarte law firm to work for you. With over 150 years of combined experience, our personal injury lawyers have protected the rights of car accident victims in New York and New Jersey. The claim evaluation and consultation are free. We receive compensation only if you win your case.
Get in touch with an experienced Tampa car accident lawyer
On the busy roads and highways of the Tampa area, car accidents are a common occurrence. While some crashes are minor fender-benders, many other accidents can leave a victim with life-altering injuries and put them in a bad financial position. In these cases, it is essential for people injured in Tampa car accidents to speak with a lawyer who can help seek the maximum compensation available under the law.
The car accident attorneys in Tampa of Brooks Law Group are ready to help you understand your rights and legal options, and we’ll help you seek justice. We know that you did nothing to deserve the pain you’ve endured, nor should you struggle financially in the aftermath of this crash.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you during a free case evaluation.
How Our Car Accident Lawyer in Tampa Can Help You
If you’ve been hurt in a car accident in Tampa, Brooks Law Group can help you navigate the minefield of dealing with insurance companies and filing a claim.
Unfortunately, insurance companies work hard to limit the amount of money they pay out for car accident claims. They are not looking out for your best interests.
Our car accident lawyers have experience dealing with insurance companies. We know the tactics they will likely use to avoid making a fair payout on your claim. We will work to negotiate a settlement to fully compensate you for your medical expenses, repairs or replacement of damaged property, pain and suffering, and any future expenses you’ll incur.
If the insurer won’t agree to a fair settlement, we will be ready to take your case to court and vigorously advocate on your behalf to pursue a verdict in your favor.
Compensation for Car Accident Victims in Tampa
If you are the victim of a car accident, you may be entitled to several types of compensation for losses you’ve suffered. Compensation for personal injuries sustained in a car accident fall in two categories of damages: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages may include:
Medical expenses – Medical expenses can include emergency room visits and hospital stays, doctor’s office visits, physical and occupational therapy, surgery, durable medical equipment, prescription medication, and more.
Lost income and wages – You may be entitled to recover income you lose out on due to work missed as a result of your injuries. If your injuries prevent you from returning to work at the same pay as before, you may also collect compensation for future lost earning capacity.
Non-economic damages include:
Pain and suffering – Pain and suffering damages are intended to compensate a car accident victim for the physical and emotional or mental anguish caused by their injuries. It also compensates for the loss of quality of life caused by injuries, such as if an injured party is unable to do activities they enjoyed before their accident.
Loss of consortium and companionship – Your spouse and family may be entitled to claim damages for the loss of your companionship, society, and services to the family.
In addition to personal injury compensation, you may also be entitled to compensation to repair or replace personal property damaged or destroyed in the crash, such as your vehicle or any contents of your vehicle.
Time Limit for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in Florida
The law imposes a time limit for filing a lawsuit for compensation for a car accident. This time limit is called the statute of limitations.
Under Florida law, the statute of limitations for a lawsuit for personal injuries or property damage suffered in a car accident is four years from the date of the accident. If your loved one was killed in a car accident, you have two years from the date of their death to file a lawsuit for compensation.
Failure to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations means the court will dismiss your case in virtually all situations.
Under limited circumstances, a court will pause or extend the statute of limitations, known as “tolling”. One of the most common circumstances for tolling the statute of limitations is called the discovery rule, which says that the limitations period does not begin running until a claimant knows or reasonably should know of the facts giving rise to their claim.
What to Do If You’ve Been Hurt in a Car Crash
If you have been hurt in a car accident, there are steps you can take to protect your legal claim to compensation, including:
Seek medical attention – You should visit an emergency room, urgent care center, or your doctor as soon as possible after the accident. Symptoms can worsen days or weeks after your accident. Prompt medical attention may make your recovery quicker and improve your prognosis.
Contact the police – If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you should call the police to investigate the accident, even if the other drivers insist on not getting the police involved. A police accident report may provide important information about who is responsible for the accident.
Take photos – Use your cell phone to fully photograph the accident scene. Waiting too long to take pictures may mean that you lose evidence of critical details about the crash. Details you should photograph include the lighting and weather conditions, skid marks, damage to the vehicles, injuries you have suffered, and anything else that seems relevant.
Collect insurance information and eyewitness contact information – You should exchange insurance information with other drivers involved in the accident. If they decline to give their insurance information, the police will collect it. If there were eyewitnesses to the crash who are still on the scene, try to get their contact information.
Get help from a lawyer – Most importantly, you should also speak with a Tampa car accident attorney who can advise you as to your legal rights and options and what kind of compensation you may be entitled to for your injuries and damages.
How Will Florida’s No-Fault Law Affect My Case?
Florida is known as a “no-fault” state. Under the no-fault car insurance system, if you are involved in a car accident, your own insurance coverage initially pays (up to your policy limits) for your medical bills and other economic damages under what is known as personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, regardless of who was responsible for the accident.
If you wish to file a lawsuit against the driver or other party responsible for the accident, your injuries must be deemed “serious” under state law. Florida law considers an injury to be serious if it involves one of the following characteristics:
Permanent limitation of organ or member
A significant limitation of a bodily function or system
Substantial full disability for at least 90 days
If your injuries meet one of these criteria, you are not limited to obtaining compensation solely from your own insurance company. Instead, you may also file a lawsuit against the responsible parties for not only economic damages but also for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
Common Car Accident Injuries in Tampa
Some of the most common car accident injuries include:
Injuries to muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft-tissue injuries
Joint damage, especially in the legs, caused by crushing injuries or hyperextension
Broken bones, including ribs, ankles, legs, hips, shoulders, arms, and wrists
Internal bleeding or perforation of internal organs
Herniated discs and other back injuries
Lacerations (scrapes and cuts)
In addition to physical injuries, a car accident can also inflict psychological trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), development of phobias, and survivor’s guilt.
Common Causes of Accidents in Tampa
Car accidents are unfortunately all-too-common, especially in a densely-populated region such as the Tampa area. The majority of car crashes are caused by some form of human error, such as:
Distracted driving, usually caused by cell phone use, eating, self-grooming, or turning to talk to other occupants of the vehicle
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Speeding or driving too fast for conditions
Reckless driving, including excessive speeding, changing lanes without signaling, and other aggressive, non-defensive driving styles
Running red lights or otherwise failing to heed stop or yield signs or lights
Poor lighting condition, especially at night
Design or manufacturing defects in the vehicle
Potholes or other defective road conditions
Your car accident attorney in Tampa will be able to investigate your accident to determine the precise cause. From there, they will be able to identify the liable party, which may be another driver, vehicle manufacturer, or government responsible for maintaining the roadway.
Talk to our Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney in Tampa, FL Now
If you have been involved in a car accident in Tampa that was not your fault, you may have the rights to compensation.
When you get into a car accident, there are certain steps you may want to take in order to help make sure everyone is safe, to follow the law and to get the insurance claim process started.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the following steps may help guide you through important decisions you need to make if you’ve been in a car accident, whether you were at fault for the accident or not.
1. CHECK YOURSELF FOR INJURIES
If you’re injured, call 911 or ask someone else to do so. If you’re seriously injured, try not to move, and wait for emergency personnel.
2. CHECK ON THE WELL-BEING OF YOUR PASSENGERS
If you’re not too hurt to move, check on the other passengers in your car. If anyone’s injured, get on the phone with emergency services or ask a bystander to call for help.
3. GET TO SAFETY
If you’re able to, move to the side of the road or a sidewalk. If your car is safe to drive and is causing a hazard where it is, pull it to the side of the road. Otherwise, leave it where it is and get yourself to safety.
4. CALL 911
Whether an accident is considered a minor fender-bender or a major collision, calling the police is important — and in some states, it’s legally required. The responding officers will fill out an accident report and document the scene. If the police can’t come to the scene of the accident, you can go to the nearest police station and complete a report yourself, according to the III. When you file a claim with your insurer, they may ask for a copy of the police report to help with the claims process.
5. WAIT FOR HELP
Turn off your engine, turn on your hazard lights and use the road flares in your emergency car kit to warn other vehicles to slow down.
6. EXCHANGE INFORMATION
After making sure you and any passengers are uninjured, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. According to the III, here’s the most important information drivers should exchange after an accident:
Full name and contact information
Insurance company and policy number
Driver’s license and license plate number
Type, color and model of vehicle
Location of accident
The III recommends that you avoid discussing fault when going over the facts with the other driver. When you file an insurance claim, the adjuster reviewing your claim will determine who’s at fault based on an inspection of the vehicles/property damaged, information provided by you and the other parties involved in the accident, and any supporting documentation, like the police report or photographs from the scene.
7. DOCUMENT THE ACCIDENT
In order to help protect yourself, the III recommends taking the following steps:
Identify the officers. Once the police arrive, get the name and badge number of all responding officers.
Get a copy. Ask the police officers present where you can obtain a copy of the accident report. Your insurer may ask for a copy of the report when you file a car insurance claim.
Take pictures. Document the accident thoroughly by taking pictures of your vehicle from different angles, showing the damage done to both cars. It might also be a good idea to take pictures of the other car’s license plate. You may be able to share photos with your insurer during the claims process to help support your claim.
Take down names. Write down the names and addresses of all parties involved, including any passengers in the other vehicle.
Talk to witnesses. If there were any witnesses to the accident, take down their names and their contact information, as well.
8. NOTIFY YOUR INSURER AND START THE CLAIMS PROCESS
You may want to call your insurance agent while you’re at the scene. That way, they can tell you exactly what they will need to in order to process your claim and what to expect during the claims process.
An accident can leave even the most seasoned driver frazzled, but following these steps may help protect you from unnecessary worries. That way, you can focus on working with your insurance company to get your vehicle repaired as smoothly and as quickly as possible. Contact us for more information.
Several different factors, not all of them obvious, determine who is liable for damages or injuries resulting from an automobile accident. For instance, a motorist is seriously injured when another motorist cuts in front of her after turning onto the street. However, she may be found liable if she was speeding or made an illegal lane change prior to the collision. The decision of who pays for damages or injuries in car accidents rests primarily on motor vehicle statutes, rather than the traditional, common law definition of “fault.”
This article explains the meaning of fault in car accidents with respect to common law and motor vehicle codes, since it differs from other types of claims.
Statutory Guidance for Car Accident Liability
The automobile insurance industry lobbied state legislatures to base car accident liability more on motor vehicle statutes than on common law notions of fault. This has made it easier for insurers to challenge fault and liability when the other party in an accident has violated a traffic law, especially since liability insurance is required in all states.
For example, a motorist lacking liability insurance may not be able to collect for damages even if the other motorist was at least partially negligent for a traffic accident.
Car Accident Liability and Common Law
In its purest form, “fault” for causing an accident is either created by law or defined by common law. Common law recognizes four basic levels of fault:
Negligence generally means careless or inadvertent conduct that results in harm or damage, which is quite common in automobile accidents. One can be negligent by failing to do something, such as not yielding the right-of-way to avoid an accident, as well as by actively doing something (such as running a red light).
Reckless or wanton conduct refers to a willful disregard for the safety and welfare of others. Strict liability may be imposed, even in the absence of fault, for accidents involving certain defective products or extra hazardous activities (such as the transporting of explosive chemicals).
Under common law, individuals who have caused a car accident have committed a “tort,” a private wrong against another (but not rising to the level of an intentional tort or crime). Those who have committed torts are referred to as “tortfeasors” under the law. Many automobile insurance policies use the word “tortfeasor” to refer to people who are at least partly at fault for an accident.
There’s rarely a question of fault when a motorist has engaged in intentional or reckless misconduct, such as drunk driving. But when it comes to general negligence, as in fender-benders or other routine accidents, establishing fault becomes more complex. More than one motorist may be found at least partially responsible. When this is the case (and there are multiple tortfeasors involved), state law dictates who must pay for damage to property and injuries to the involved parties.
Motor Vehicle Statutory Violations
Every state has passed multiple laws regulating the manner in which drivers must operate their vehicles upon public roads. Many of these statutes are actually codified versions of the common law, while others are the result of legislative initiative.
The important point to remember is that a violation of any of these statutes generally creates a presumption of negligence as a matter of law. For instance, most states require motorcyclists to wear helmets. Failure to do so is an act of negligence, which may affect liability in an accident.
Thus, fault in an accident may be established merely by citing a statute that has been violated. A motorist presumed to have caused an accident by virtue of a statutory violation bears the burden of proving that this act of negligence was not a proximate cause of the injuries.
For example, the motorcyclist who fails to wear a helmet suffers a serious brain injury after a motorist driving a car accidentally sideswipes him. The motorist may have been negligent, but so was the motorcyclist who didn’t wear a helmet.
The simplest way to apply the concept of proximate cause to an automobile accident is to ask whether it would be true that, “but for” the violation, the accident would not have occurred. With respect to the motorcyclist example, the helmet would not have prevented the accident but most likely would have limited the motorcyclist’s injuries. Therefore, the motorist may not be held liable for the motorcyclist’s brain injury.
Get Legal Help with Your Car Accident Fault and Liability Questions
If you think that someone was at fault in an accident you were involved in, you should have the facts of your claim reviewed by an attorney as soon as possible. Contact an experienced car accident lawyer today to learn if you may be able to collect damages to cover your losses.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you might be wondering exactly how an attorney can help you. In this article we’ll cover what a car accident lawyer brings to the table, including:Related Products
organization and analysis of key evidence and records
a network of investigators and experts who can help strengthen your case, and
negotiation taking that will get the best outcome for your car accident claim.
What Will My Car Accident Lawyer Do?
While much depends on the specifics and the complexity of your car accident case, in general a lawyer can:
communicate with the other driver’s insurer
obtain the necessary evidence with respect to fault for the accident
organize your medical records and bills
communicate with your health care providers to obtain missing records
work with your doctors to make sure they provide the medical information you need so that you can prove damages in your claim
organize and present the evidence in order to prove liability and damages
negotiate with lien holders on your claim (such as health, disability, or workers’ compensation insurers) to potentially reduce the amount of those liens, and
negotiate a satisfactory settlement with the insurance adjuster or defense attorney.
Let’s look at a couple of these things in-depth.
Communicating with the Other Driver’s Insurer
In any personal injury case, your lawyer will open up a line of communication with the insurance adjuster for the other party (or parties) involved. The adjuster has the pocketbook, and so it is critical for a plaintiff’s lawyer to have good communications and a good relationship with the adjuster.
Obtaining Necessary Evidence of Liability
A good lawyer can help obtain all of the evidence that you will need to prove liability in a car accident claim. Although you may have already taken photographs of the accident scene, your lawyer will probably go back to the scene him/herself to see what it looks like. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, actually seeing the scene can be worth a thousand pictures.
The lawyer will make sure to get all of the accident or police reports in the case and will often speak with the investigating police officers and witnesses. A good lawyer will leave no stone unturned when it comes to obtaining evidence of liability. Learn more about proving fault for a car accident.
Obtaining Necessary Evidence of Damages
This is where a good lawyer can be essential to your case, especially when you’ve suffered significant car accident injuries.
It is critical to obtain all documentation related to your injuries, but it isn’t always easy to get your hands on those records and bills from health care providers. Although the records are technically yours, and you have an absolute right to them, sending medical records to patients and lawyers is just not a health care provider’s first priority.
Small doctors’ offices may not have the staffing or the time to respond to medical record requests on a timely basis. Large hospitals may have specific procedures that must be followed in order to respond to medical record requests. If you don’t follow their procedures (which they often don’t publicize very well), they simply won’t respond to your request.
Then, when the health care provider does respond to the request, the records may be incomplete. Any lawyer’s secretary or paralegal will tell you that they often have to request the same records more than once and that they have to follow up endlessly with the provider’s office.
Finally, it may turn out that the doctor did not use the “magic words” as to causation, prognosis, and disability in his or her notes. In order to successfully prosecute any type of personal injury claim, you must be able to prove, through medical evidence,
exactly what your injury, disability, or physical limitation is, and
Doctors often don’t mention causation and extent of the injury or disability in their medical records. If this happens in your case, your lawyer will write the doctor and ask for a special letter in which the doctor gives his/her opinion that the accident caused your injury or disability and that, as a result of the accident, you will be hindered or disabled for a specific period of time.
Negotiating With Lien Holders
If you received benefits from a health, disability, or workers’ compensation insurer, that insurer will have a lien on your claim. A lien means that the lien holder gets paid before you do, out of any settlement or judgment you receive. A good lawyer will work with the lien holder to try to get the lien holder to reduce its lien. This is important work. Every dollar less that the lien holder takes is one more dollar that goes into your pocket. Learn more about health care provider liens on personal injury settlements.
Negotiating With Insurers/Defendants
Negotiation is a very specific skill (some might even call it an art). A personal injury lawyer is always going to be far better at settling a car accident case than a layperson would be. A good lawyer knows how much the case is worth and knows how to work the case and conduct the negotiations in order to arrive at the best outcome for the client.
When Can I Handle a Car Accident Claim Myself?
If you weren’t hurt all that badly, if you’re comfortable gathering necessary evidence and documents, and (most importantly) you’re ready and willing to engage in the settlement negotiation process, you can certainly handle your car accident claim yourself. But there’s really no substitute for a skilled legal professional’s help. Learn more about the advantage of legal representation in our personal injury reader survey results.
If anyone has been involved in a car accident, he or she can need to hire acar accident lawyer. A skilled lawyer may assist them in obtaining damages arising from an accident in a vehicle or reduce the heavy amount of paperwork, red tape, and trouble often associated with claims for auto accident insurance. It may make the difference between a justly settled dispute and owing or losing substantial monetary damages to know when individuals need competent legal assistance.
Why people need to employ a lawyer for road accidents
Sadly, car accidents are regular occurrences. Many of the collisions, in the form of a fender bender, result in minor vehicle damage and can usually be managed alone by direct communication with an insurance agent. A skilled lawyer may assist persons to obtain compensation to cover any damages suffered due to the crash, such as medical costs, missed income, and repairs to the vehicle.
When hiring a car accident lawyer, what to look for
Car accident lawyers handle a variety of concerns resulting from personal injuries, unintentional death, loss of property, and determinations of liability. People should reflect on their expertise, skill level, involvement, venue, and fee structure when searching for a lawyer. The attorney should, for instance, be well versed in state and national transport regulations, know how to negotiate with insurance and health care providers, and know-how to plan and settle a case effectively. It is also important that they review the history, references, and track record of the attorney. Finally, if the car accident lawyer thinks their case has any merit, a successful lawyer would usually take the case on a contingency or no win-no fee basis, so it’s necessary to verify the standard fee arrangement of the lawyer.
When to Hire a Lawyer for car accidents
To prevent any expensive errors, it is best to employ a lawyer early. The period for making lawsuits for personal injuries varies from state to state. Because people can have to pay medical bills and cover missed jobs, the sooner they contact a car accident lawyer, the better. In general, within a week or two of the accident, but before making a settlement with the insurance provider, a person can contact an attorney shortly after the accident happens.
Moving forward, individuals should provide as many accurate details and data about the car crash and any accidents or financial damages as possible before speaking with a lawyer. The insurance policy, details shared at the crash scene, and medical reports, among other items, might include documentation they may want to show their lawyer after a motor vehicle accident. On a contingency or no win-no payment basis, most vehicle accident cases are treated. This ensures that they do not receive a fee if the solicitor does not win or settle the case on their behalf. On the other side, they would get a share of the personal injury settlement if the attorney wins the case.
If you are a young driver in New York, you can gain the experience you need to be safe on the road with a junior license. Learner’s permits, junior licenses, and senior licenses allow drivers who are under the age of 18 to get practical experience on the road.
The main difference between a junior license and a learner’s permit is that the latter requires the supervision of a licensed driver who is over 21 at all times. A junior license only requires such supervision at certain times.
The Rules for a Junior Driver’s License
The following conditions apply to anyone with a junior license NY in upstate New York:
You can drive without a supervising driver between 5am and 9pm
None of the passengers in the car can be under the age of 21 unless they are members of your immediate family
All your passengers must wear their seat belts
All children under the age of 4 must ride in a federally-approved child safety seat
Violating any of these rules can lead to fines, points on your license, and insurance price hikes. If you commit a serious infraction or have two other violations, you can have your license suspended for 60 days. If you are a junior license holder who lives in the Long Island area, there are exceptions to these restrictions. You can drive unsupervised in the following instances:
If you are going to or coming from work
You are in a work-study program approved by the state
You are undergoing college, high school or other post-secondary schooling or training
Senior Driver’s License
Once you have completed a state-approved high school or college driver education course, you will be eligible for a senior driver’s license. To obtain a senior license, you will need to take the former and your certificate of completion to any DMV office. With a senior license, you become a teen driver with proven experience. Under the Graduated License Law, you can drive throughout New York state and in any other state in the country.
Receiving a ticket for violating any of the restrictions mentioned above can slow your progression from junior to senior driver. If you believe you were unfairly ticketed, you can challenge it in court. You should hire a NY traffic tickets attorney to do so. Traffic police are not infallible. They can make mistakes and violate their own procedures. You have the right to defend your driving record.