An auto-related accident takes place nearly every ten seconds in the United States alone. Generally, these accidents are caused by driver’s negligence. Consequently, that driver can be held legally responsible for any injuries or damage they have caused to another party.
Can I simply file a claim after an auto accident?
Unfortunately, personal injury law is not so simple. A successful claim must prove negligence on the behalf of the other party.
How is negligence proven?
Several elements may be considered in determining whether or not the driver of the other vehicle acted negligently. Some typical examples of negligence include:
* Disobeying traffic signs (such as red “stop” lights), whether intentionally or unintentionally;
* Driving without regard to road conditions – including dangerous or changing weather conditions;
* Driving above or below the posted traffic speeds;
* Failure to obey general traffic rules, for example: passing on the left or right, failing to yield in the appropriate situations, etc;
* Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving.
Besides these driver-related auto accidents, a personal injury claim may also be brought in cases where there may be non-driver-related accidents. Consider if the tire of a car explodes and causes an accident. You probably will not have a claim against the driver of the car whose tire burst. Instead, you might be able to claim against the manufacturer of the tire if that tire is found to have been defective.
What should I do in the event of an auto accident?
Directly after an auto accident in which you may either be a plaintiff (claimant) or defendant (cause of the accident), follow these guidelines:
* Leave the scene of the accident only if you require medical attention;
* Inspect yourself and others for injuries. Do not, however, try to assist in applying any medical assistance unless you are certified to do so;
* Reach the authorities – including police and medical help if needed;
* Call your insurance company;
* Take notes and gather information about the accident – talk to witnesses;
* Compile evidence of the accident – take pictures of the scene and vehicles involved;
* Contact a lawyer or law firm.
Making a Claim for Compensation Following an Auto Accident
If you would like to make any type of claim for compensation after an auto accident, it is critical that you contact a law firm or attorney. This attorney or law firm will be able to advise you on your right to make a claim.
If the attorney determines that you have a right to make a claim, they will most likely contact the other party to the accident. From this step, all parties may choose to settle the issue informally. If so, your attorney will draw up a settlement contract. On the other hand, if the other party to the accident claims that they were not at fault, your attorney or law firm will typically begin formal proceedings against them in a court of law. Generally, the case will be heard in a state court in the state in which the accident happened, or in which both parties reside. If the accident happened while you were traveling out of state, federal courts may be used (this, however, only occurs if the claim amount exceeds $75,000; such as in the case of a catastrophic injury).
Is there a limit to how much I am can claim?
In most personal injury claims, the party paying for damages will likely be an insurance company – despite the fact that you are suing the instigator of the accident. The only typical exception is that they have acted in such a way as to nullify their insurance. As a result, the amount you are entitled to claim following an auto accident will probably be determined by the insurance company of the other driver. Following your initial discussions, your appointed attorney or law firm should be in a better position to advise you on this.
Can I also claim for property damages?
Even though personal injury law is related, in principal, to bodily injury, a person may be compensated for property damages as well. Sometimes, property damages occur as a result of the same accident that caused a personal injury. If the insurance company of the driver of the car who caused the accident does not pay any compensation to you for property damage you have suffered, this can usually be included in your personal injury claim.
What if the injury causes me to miss work, and therefore lose wages?
Under the general legal principle known as “mitigating your losses” a victim of an accident is legally required to minimize any loss they may suffer as a result of that accident. So if you are unable to do your normal job as a result of the accident, you probably will not be able to claim for lost revenue due to such circumstances — rather, you would be legally required to search for work that you could do and then claim for any loss between the amount you would have been paid and the amount you are paid. The situation becomes even more complex if you are self-employed, but your lawyer will advise you regarding your particular circumstances.
This duty to minimize your losses applies to all situations after your accident. Therefore, failure to seek medical attention immediately after the accident will likely reduce the level of compensation due to your failure to minimize your losses. This is yet another reason why you should be cautious following an accident and immediately seek the advice of your attorney before agreeing to anything.HOME