After a car accident, you may find yourself with a wide range of questions. What happens next? What should you expect from the legal process? Most people suffer through the aftermath of a car accident at some point in their lives, but not everyone knows what they should do about it. If you have questions about your car accident, these answers can help you moving forward.
What Information Should I Collect at the Scene of My Car Accident?
As soon as you have a car accident, you need to start working to protect yourself. If you need medical attention, seek it first. If you can move safely around the scene of the accident or if another person can help you, however, you should collect several pieces of vital information from the scene of your accident, such as:
- A copy of the police report.
- Contact information for the other driver, including the driver’s name, their insurance information, and their license plate number. You may also copy down their driver’s license number.
- Contact information for any witnesses at the scene of the accident.
- Photos of the accident scene.
Snapping a photo on your phone of relevant information, including the other party’s driver’s license, can help ensure that you have a record of relevant information in a place you can easily access it later.
Do I Need a Lawyer After My Car Accident?
After a car accident, many people decide to try to handle their insurance claims on their own. If you suffered severe injuries or significant property damage in your accident, however, having a lawyer can help prevent you from missing out on the funds you need after your accident. A lawyer can help you in several different ways:
- Providing a better understanding of exactly what funds you deserve for your car accident, based on your injuries, your pain and suffering, and your losses due to the accident.
- Helping to prove that you did not cause or help cause the car accident. The insurance company’s lawyer may attempt to prove that you contributed to the car accident, which will reduce the funds the company owes you for your injuries.
- Offering valuable legal advice throughout the process, from what you can post on your social media accounts about the accident and your injuries to when you should accept the settlement offered by the insurance company.
- Fighting for you if you need to go to court.
Many clients find that working with a lawyer substantially increases the compensation they acquire for their car accident and their injuries. When you have a car accident with significant injuries, you need legal support to help you throughout the difficult process.
What Compensation Can I Expect From My Car Accident?
After a car accident, many people wonder how much compensation they should expect. Should you expect the maximum payout allowed by the other driver’s insurance policy? Will the insurance company pay for all of your medical bills? Your claim has a number of unique elements. Several factors can influence the compensation you receive.
- The limits of the insurance policy. Some drivers carry much higher-value insurance policies than others. If your injuries and financial damages exceed the amount of the other driver’s policy, you may need to turn to your underinsured motorist policy to help get the funds you need.
- The severity of your injuries. Some injuries carry much more significant costs than others.
- How much your injuries limit you. Often, insurance companies calculate pain and suffering based on the limitations caused by your injuries. If you return to work soon after your accident, for example, you may receive less compensation for pain and suffering than if your injuries prevent you from going back to your everyday activities.
- The financial damages you suffered as a result of the accident. Financial damages can include property damage, lost time at work, and lost earning potential due to an inability to return to your previous job.
- Whether or not you contributed to the accident. If you contributed to the accident, it may reduce the compensation you receive by a corresponding percentage. For example, if you contributed 10 percent to the accident, your compensation may drop by 10 percent.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
Many people worry that hiring a lawyer will leave them struggling even more financially than they were before the accident. At Boohoff Law, we start with a free consultation to discuss the terms of your accident, better understand your injury, and provide valuable legal advice. Often, working with a lawyer actually increases the funds you receive as part of your settlement. Instead of asking whether you can afford to hire a lawyer, carefully consider whether you can afford not to hire a lawyer to help with your claim.
If the Insurance Company Offers Me a Check Shortly After the Accident, Should I Take It?
In many cases, the other driver’s insurance company will offer to send you a settlement check soon after the accident. Often, however, this check reflects only a percentage of the funds you deserve for your injuries. Insurance companies often hurry to issue a settlement offer after an accident with significant injuries. Before accepting the check, especially if that acceptance includes signing paperwork relieving the insurance company of future responsibility, consult with a lawyer. A lawyer can help evaluate your injuries and the financial damages associated with your accident to determine whether the check offered by the insurance company will adequately cover your financial needs after the accident.
What Happens If I Have Negative Equity in My Car?
You owe more on your car than its current value. If the insurance company totals your car after the accident, will the insurance company pay the negative equity in your vehicle?
Often, it depends. A lawyer can help you file a claim that includes the negative equity in your car; however, you do not have any guarantee that the insurance company will pay for those damages. Depending on the severity of the accident and your injuries, you may still owe the additional equity on your vehicle. In some cases, you can roll this negative equity into your new car loan.
How Can I Protect Myself After an Accident?
After a car accident, you may need to take a number of important steps to protect your rights. Some of these steps begin at the scene of the accident.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible after your accident. Many victims suffer serious injuries that do not show symptoms immediately. Even if you believe yourself uninjured, visit a doctor for evaluation as soon as possible.
- If you can, gather evidence at the scene of the accident. Photograph the vehicles, especially any damage to them, and the accident scene. Collect contact information for witnesses. All of this information can help prove who caused the accident and get you the compensation you deserve.
- Report the accident to the police and receive a police report. If you do not need to leave the scene of the accident to seek medical attention, wait for the police to arrive and issue a statement about the accident.
- Do everything your doctor requires throughout your recovery process. If you ignore doctors’ orders and make your injuries worse, it can decrease the compensation you can receive.
- Consult a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Working with a lawyer can more effectively protect your rights throughout the legal process after your accident.
- Keep track of all of your records. Start a file immediately after the accident. Put all of your medical information, photos from the accident scene, and witness statements in that file. The more information you have, the better you can protect your rights after an accident.
- Avoid discussing the accident unnecessarily. Do not allow other people’s versions of events to color your perceptions or make accusations against anyone involved in the accident. Issue a statement to the police at the accident scene if requested, then wait to discuss the accident until you can talk to your lawyer.
Do I Have to Give the Insurance Company a Statement About the Accident?
Legally, you may need to issue a statement to the other party’s insurance company about the accident. That does not, however, mean that you have to issue a statement immediately. To protect yourself, contact a lawyer before you issue your statement about the accident. A lawyer can help you more carefully word your statement, avoid admissions of fault, and provide all relevant information about the accident to the insurance company.
If possible, you should write down your own statement of events as soon as possible after the accident. The longer you wait, the more events will fade in your mind. You may find your version of events influenced by other witnesses, statements made by your doctor, and even the questions asked by the insurance company. Write down your statement as soon as possible, then go over it with your lawyer to ensure that you have an accurate version of what occurred during the accident.
Do I Have to Admit Fault?
If you aren’t sure if you contributed to the accident, or believe that you may have contributed to the accident, you should still avoid immediately admitting fault if at all possible. In the wake of an accident, it is often unclear exactly who or what caused or contributed to the accident. An admission of fault can work against you as you attempt to claim compensation for your injuries and property damage. You should also avoid any statements about your injuries or your physical status after the accident. If you believe that you contributed to the accident, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you decide how to phrase any statements you make about the accident as well as helping you determine what you should and shouldn’t say.
How Long Do I Have to File an Accident Claim?
In Washington, you have three years after your accident to file a claim. Ideally, however, you want to file your accident claim as soon as possible. The longer you wait to file an accident claim, the harder you will find it to locate evidence. Not only that, events may fade in your mind and the minds of your witnesses.
If you discovered injuries well after an accident, including traumatic brain injury or another injury that took weeks or months to show up after the accident, you may have three years after identifying that injury to file your claim.
Is Washington a No-Fault State?
In no-fault states, like Florida, each party carries a personal injury protection policy that covers the first $10,000 of injuries and lost time at work after a car accident. Washington, however, does not have a no-fault law. Instead, Washington uses comparative fault law: the fault of each party involved in the accident factors into who pays for the accident and who bears financial liability for the other party’s injuries and lost time at work after the accident.
How Does the Insurance Company Determine Fault After a Car Accident?
After a car accident, many insurance companies will carefully examine the accident to determine fault, including assigning financial liability. The insurance company will likely evaluate a number of factors, including:
- The police report from the accident. The police report may identify fault; however, if you disagree with the police report, a lawyer can help you contest it.
- Witness statements from the accident. Witness statements increase in importance if either party wishes to dispute the police report or if the police report remains unclear about the cause of the accident.
- Any video evidence from the accident scene. Video evidence may include traffic camera evidence or videos from security cameras near the scene of the accident.
- Statements from all drivers involved in the accident, including your statement about the accident.
If fault in your accident remains unclear, working with a lawyer can help ensure that you do not end up taking the fall for an accident you did not cause. By working with an attorney, you can protect your rights throughout the process.