How Do I Start a Personal Injury Claim after a Car Wreck?November 15, 2021
If you are involved in a car wreck that was not your fault, you generally have two options:
- Accept the at-fault driver’s insurer’s immediate offer, which is usually low and unfair to you.
- File a legal claim for full and fair compensation for your actual losses, whether that happens through negotiation or litigation.
The critical thing to remember is that insurance companies are not in the business of compensating you for your losses. They are in the business of minimizing their own losses or payouts. As such, they will prey on your fears by offering a quick settlement amount that, in the end, will not cover your total losses.
Filing a legal claim allows you to prove the value of your claim and recover fair compensation for your property damages, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. A car wreck legal claim is called a personal injury claim, and it starts at the scene of the accident.
Initial Steps in a Personal Injury Claim
The following steps should be taken after the accident:
Call authorities. If you or a passenger is able, call 911 immediately after a car wreck. This is important because you will want medical treatment even if you do not believe you are seriously injured and will need an official police report. Do not let another driver talk you out of calling authorities. An official police report is essential for insurance and legal purposes, as it contains detailed information about the other driver, witnesses, weather conditions, accident diagrams, insurance information, and other important details.
Accept medical treatment. Some injuries, such as soft tissue issues or brain injuries, may not show up until hours or days after an accident. Accept medical treatment on the scene and see your primary doctor right after an accident. Seek medical treatments as time goes on and new symptoms appear. They could be related to your accident. Refusing or delaying medical treatment could weaken a future legal claim.
Do not admit guilt. Cooperate and be honest with authorities, but do not overshare information. Do not apologize to anyone or admit responsibility for any part of the accident. Anything that you say at the scene could be used against you in a later legal claim.
Get the at-fault driver’s information. Although police on the scene will generally help with the exchange of driver and insurance information, be sure to leave with it as well: the driver’s name, contact information, vehicle make and model, and their insurance information at the very least. The official accident report should contain this information.
Capture images at the scene. If you are physically able, use your cellphone to take pictures and videos of the accident scene. These images will be instrumental in building a legal claim. Capture vehicle damages, debris, physical injuries, location of vehicles, road conditions, weather conditions, the background of the accident scenes, and anything else that could be relevant in proving your innocence and losses in a legal claim.
Get witness information. Although police will talk to witnesses in most cases, you have the right to do so as well. If you were clearly the victim in an accident, people are often more than willing to help you by making a statement. Get as many comments as you can, by video if possible, along with the person’s name and contact information.
Contact your insurer. Even if the accident was not your fault, you need to contact your own insurance company. Provide the same information you provided the police. Your insurer will get the official police report and will contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company as well.
Do not accept or sign anything. As stated above, insurers are not in the business of making sure you are compensated for every economic and non-economic loss you suffer. They work hard to minimize how much they must pay out to a victim. One of their usual tactics is to contact you with a quick and modest offer. They hope to take advantage of your fears of impending medical bills, lost wages, and your damaged or totaled car. Although you have every right to accept their offer, it is usually not in your best interest. You will often regret doing so later as bills keep mounting and the insurance money has run out.
Additional Steps to Take
Consult with a lawyer. This is not to say that a legal claim is worthwhile for an accident with minor damages or injuries. It may not be. However, a lawyer can at least explain your options and the process you must go through to collect the compensation you deserve.
The lawyer will calculate the damages you could potentially receive and explain how they will work toward that goal on your behalf. You will always have the final say in whether to file a legal claim.
Once the at-fault driver’s insurer knows you have filed a legal claim, they may become more willing to negotiate a settlement. And you, as the victim, can feel more confident about receiving the compensation you deserve.
Build the case. Once engaged, your lawyer will begin to build your case. Their goal is to prove/establish three things:
- The other driver caused the accident.
- The accident caused your injuries.
- The total cost of your economic and non-economic damages; the value of your claim.
The third item is where an experienced lawyer will be beneficial. They will consider all your losses: time off work, current and future medical bills and needs, potential disabilities, future lost wages or reduced wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. This will result in a compensation demand, or the amount you will seek in a legal claim.
Then, the lawyer will continue collecting evidence to prove your losses, whether economic or non-economic. They may bring in experts such as medical professionals or accident reconstruction specialists. They will talk to witnesses and collect evidence. They will also preserve evidence by ensuring that the vehicles are not repaired or destroyed before the legal claim is over.
During this process, you will be asked to help. You can do so by keeping detailed records of your medical visits, diagnoses, prognoses, and treatments. Keep all medical and prescription bills in an orderly file. Also, keep a file that includes correspondence about your vehicle, including conversations with insurers and repair shops. Anything even remotely pertaining to the accident could be crucial evidence.
You will also be asked to help by letting your lawyer handle all conversations and correspondence. Insurers or even the at-fault driver will try to get you to say something that could be detrimental to your claim. Refer all inquiries to your lawyer.
Participate in negotiations. Your lawyer’s primary goal will be to arrive at a fair settlement amount with the insurance company through negotiations. Most times, personal injury accident claims are resolved out of court. It may take months, but know that your lawyer has skill in negotiating. They also know how to defend against insurer tactics. Be willing to keep an open mind and accept an amount that is fair to you.
Go to trial. If, after back-and-forth negotiations, you cannot reach a fair settlement, your lawyer will take the claim to court; this process is known as litigation. This may occur months or even a year or more after the accident. Many of the same steps noted above will occur, such as building the case and collecting evidence. But this time, the goal is to present favorably to a judge and jury. Your lawyer will explain the steps and timeframes for a jury trial.
The preceding is a simplified overview of the personal injury claim process. An experienced lawyer can best guide you through the legal process, timelines, and requirements. The bottom line is that when an at-fault driver has negatively affected your life, you deserve to be compensated fairly for your unexpected and unwelcome medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You cannot count on an insurance company to do that on its own.
Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Injured Drivers Get the Help They Deserve
Motor vehicle accidents can cause devastating physical and financial problems for the victim. If you have been injured in an accident, reach out to the experienced Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will thoroughly examine the cause of the accident and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.