Q: If the accident resulted in minor damage, or the other party admits to fault, should I call the police?
Yes. A common mistake that some people make is not calling the police in these types of cases. Even though there are relatively minor damages to your vehicle, having the police come out and document the incident helps determine who is at fault and provides an “almost” accurate of the events in the form of photographs and written statements.
Q: What type of information should I collect?
Try to write down as much information as possible in the accident aftermath, including: driver and passenger names, phone number and address of other drivers, license plate numbers, insurance information or card, makes and models of all vehicles involved, contact info for any eyewitnesses, location of the accident, and the name and badge number of any responding police officers. If a witness is there get their information before they leave. Sometimes bystanders and onlookers only stay until the police arrive. Get their names and phone numbers, if possible.
Depending on the nature and extent of the damages done to your vehicle and whether anyone is significantly injured, the police may collect all of this information and document it in their report. But for minor accidents, its best if you get as much information as you can.
Q: Should I take pictures of the incident?
Take photographs of any damage to your vehicle as soon as possible after the accident. Photos helps your insurance adjuster determine how much you should be compensated for the damage to your car and can help in court. Pictures of your car before the accident can offer a great "compare and contrast" to show the true extent of the damage sustained in the accident.
Be wary of adjusters asking for copies of the photographs and insinuating that minor damage to the vehicle means minor injury to the person. And that just isn’t the case. Relatively minor car crashes have resulted in whiplash and other significant soft tissue damage injuries.
Q: Do I speak to other party’s insurance company if they call me or should I wait to contact a lawyer?
DON’T speak to the other party’s insurance adjuster because they are recording your statements and anything you say will be used against you in your case and other legal proceedings. Contact an attorney shortly after the accident and let them handle all the legal matters including speaking with the other party’s insurance company and in many instances your own insurance company too. If called by the other insurance company, be polite, but ask them to call your attorney to arrange an interview. In many instances, they try to pressure you into believing that you don’t need a lawyer. Just remember they’re building a case against maximum recovery.
If you speak to the other driver or witnesses don’t admit to anything. For example, if you say, "I'm so sorry I ran that red light! Is everyone okay?" you may be admitting legal liability for what happened. Immediately after an accident, it might not be clear who was at fault. Therefore, try not to admit anything unintentionally or unnecessarily.
Q: How long should wait until I report the accident to my insurance company?
Many insurance companies have time limits on when a claim can be filed normally no more than 10 days, so promptly tell your insurance company you’ve been in an accident. It's best to know what your own insurance covers ahead of time -- you don't want to find out you'll be paying for a rental car out of pocket. So, it’s important to read over your policy and know what type of coverage you have.
Q: What happens if I don’t have full coverage on my vehicle?
The term “full coverage” is often misleading. Most people who say they have “full coverage” really mean they have liability and comprehensive and collision coverage. Liability coverage helps pay for damage that you cause in an accident, while comprehensive and collision coverage can help repair damage to your car or replace it altogether. And depending on the type of coverage you may get a rental car.
So even if you don’t have “full coverage” on your vehicle and someone crashes into your car, then their liability coverage will cover the damages up to the amount of insurance coverage that they have. In the event that they are underinsured or uninsured, then your uninsured motorist coverage will cover the damages up to the amount of insurance that you purchased.
Q: What if I am not satisfied with the insurance companies estimate of damage to my vehicle?
Obtain your insurance company's damage valuation. If you aren't satisfied with how your insurance company has valued your vehicle, don't give up. Get two independent repair estimates or replacement quotes for comparable vehicles. If you can't agree on your car's value consult an attorney immediately. The insurance company wants to get you into a car as soon as possible to minimize on rental car expenses, if you decide to get one.
Q: What type of doctor should I go to?
If you’re injured then you should go to the Emergency Room immediately. If you’re not sure, then you should go to your primary care physician or family doctor. Your doctor will establish a treatment plan and/or make a recommendation for appropriate type of doctor such as a chiropractor, physical therapist, or maybe even neurologist.
Q: How do my medical bills get paid?
If you’re injured in a car accident there are 4 common ways that medical bills get paid:
- Auto Insurance provider with Medical payments depending on the amount of “medpay” that you have.
- Your Health Insurance provider pays your medical bills now and gets reimbursed from any proceeds. This applies even if you have Medicare/Medicare Advantage or Medicaid as a health insurance provider.
- Medical Facilities enter into an agreement to provide services now and receive compensation once your case has been settled.
- No One pays them and they get sent to collections.
Q: When do I stop treatment?
From time to time, someone will ask when they stop treatment and the truth of the matter is that you stop treatment once you are feeling better. Many chiropractors and physical therapist want patients to come 3 to 4 times per week for treatment, which may not be practical or feasible depending on your work schedule. But at the same time, you don’t want the insurance adjuster to make the claim that you didn’t follow your health care provider’s treatment plan.
Continue treatment until you are completely better or until your health care provider has determined that you are as good as you will get based on your injuries. In Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia you have two years to bring a lawsuit for bodily injury and in some instances people continue treatment after their case has been resolved.
Q: What can I recover?
You can recover all of your medical expenses, pain and suffering, disfigurement, damage to your vehicle, loss wages and loss of consortium (which is the effect of your injuries on your relationship with your spouse).
Q: What is Pain and Suffering?
In personal injury cases, such as ones involving car accidents, pain and suffering refers to a particular type of damages that a victim may be compensated for. Pain and suffering, in legal terms, is the physical, emotional, and mental distress you suffer as a result of the accident. This includes the physical pain from actual injuries (broken bones, burns, aches, bruises, etc.) as well as emotional pain, such as depression or embarrassment from scarring or deformities. These damages may be permanent or temporary and may not become evident for some time following the accident that caused them.
Pain and suffering are typically considered part of the “general damages” recoverable from an insurance company settlement or in a lawsuit. The specific amount of money awarded for pain and suffering depends on many different factors in an accident case. It’s best to consult with an attorney experienced in these types of cases. Give us a call today at 740.346.2899.
Attorneys can keep track of all your medical treatment including any doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, or other medical professionals that you receive treatment from, and each medical provider that referred you to other caregivers. They can also request copies of all medical reports and bills as these help you prove your medical expenses later. Medical expenses are relatively easy to document but pain and suffering is harder to prove. Be sure to keep a record of how your injuries have impacted your daily life including any missed workdays, list any routine activities you can't undertake, and describe how the injuries have affected your family life.
Most importantly, an attorney can also negotiate a settlement between you and the insurance company. There is a lot of work that goes into this by confirming that all your physical injuries have been treated. Some injuries don't show up or reach their greatest level of discomfort until many days, weeks, or months later. Don't settle a claim until you know you'll be compensated for all your injuries and consult an attorney before signing any settlement documents. An attorney can help you maximize your recovery if you're injured or better defend yourself if you're at fault.
Q: How does my lawyer get paid?
Many personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they only get paid if they get money for you. Feel free to contact our Personal Injury Team today for a free evaluation of your case. 740.346.2899.