Every year, more than 4 million people suffer injuries and more than 38,000 die from car accidents in the U.S. The injured and the surviving family members of lost loved ones often suffer devastating financial, physical, and emotional circumstances as a result. An auto accident lawyer can help alleviate some of the burden and get car accident victims the financial compensation that they deserve. If you suffered from a car accident in which the other party is either entirely or partially responsible, you may have the opportunity to recover your losses.
What Should You Do Immediately After a Car Accident?
Even a minor car accident leaves you slightly disheveled and unsure of what to do next. Unless you suffered severe injuries and need to wait for emergency medical services, there are a few steps you can take after a collision that ensure your safety and could help you should you need to file a lawsuit. Consider these steps:
- Contact the authorities. If the accident is serious and someone needs medical attention, call 911. The police will arrive along with an ambulance and a fire truck. If no one needs immediate medical attention, you should still contact the police to report the accident.
- Speak only to the officers. Avoid talking to the other driver. The shock of a car accident will likely leave you nervous. Your gut may tell you to apologize, even if the accident was not your fault. Apologizing could amount to admitting guilt. When the officers arrive, they will take statements from everyone involved.
- Record everything. Take photos or videos of the vehicles, the roadway, signs and signals, and any injuries that you can see. Also collect the contact information of everyone there, including eyewitnesses, and ask for the other driver’s insurance card.
- Get a medical evaluation. You may feel it is unnecessary to see a doctor, but you should have yourself examined for possible injuries even if you feel completely fine. Some serious injuries have delayed symptoms, and it helps to have official records from a doctor.
- Speak to an auto accident attorney. Sometimes you can get a consultation right away. They may even offer advice in the moment.
You do not need your own documentation of evidence to file a lawsuit. In a car accident case, the police, attorneys, and insurance companies all conduct independent investigations. An attorney will likely have access to an accident reconstruction expert that could help.
What Are the Most Common Causes of At-Fault Car Accidents?
The two most common types of at-fault accidents are rear-end collisions and angle accidents. In a rear-end collision, the most common cause is a form of aggressive driving called tailgating. Tailgating occurs with one car follows too closely behind another car, not leaving enough distance to stop without colliding if the vehicle in front brakes abruptly. Tailgating at high speed and in a congested area is particularly dangerous and can lead to a multiple car accident.
Angle accidents have many potential causes:
- Improper lane changes
- Turning without a signal
- Exiting abruptly or from a distant lane
- Failing to yield
- Failing to stop at a red light or stop sign
- Attempting to run a yellow light
- Weaving in and out of traffic
Any of these actions alone can cause a serious accident. However, in combination with negligent actions, such as driving under the influence, speeding, or distracted driving, they can result in even more severe injuries or even death.
Common Injuries From Car Accidents
Given the speed capabilities of automobiles, the wrong conditions can lead to dangerous collisions and significant damages, sometimes catastrophic. Car accidents typically fall into two categories: impact injuries and penetrating injuries. Impact injuries occur when the body hits a part of the car’s interior, such as the steering wheel or windshield. Penetrating injuries occur when something, such as glass, penetrates the skin.
Some common injuries from car accidents include:
- Bone fractures
- Knee injuries, especially for people who suffer from previous knee injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions
- Bruises and contusions
- Chest injuries, such as bruised or broken ribs and organ damage caused by forceful impact
- Muscles strains and sprains
The point of impact in a collision can influence the type of injury. For example, rear-end accidents commonly result in whiplash, which occurs when forceful back and forth movement of the head causes tiny tears in the soft tissues of the neck. Side-impact collisions often cause concussions, among other injuries, because the driver’s head may hit the window at impact. Some injuries may result in costly long-term treatments and potential disability.
What Is No-Fault Insurance?
Every state mandates a minimum car insurance policy, which typically includes liability and sometimes uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. However, the 12 no-fault states, required drivers to carry personal injury protection insurance. When a car accident occurs, no-fault insurance covers medical bills, lost income, and the cost of any services, such as household help or transportation, needed as a result of your injuries. If the accident results in death, PIP insurance will also cover funeral and burial costs.
The benefit of no-fault insurance is that it eliminates the issue of determining fault. Your PIP insurance covers you even if you are 100% at fault for the accident. However, there are some disadvantages:
- PIP insurance does not cover pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
- There is a cap on the amount of lost income you can recover.
- In more severe accidents, your PIP insurance may not be enough to cover all the economic damages.
Because you must have PIP insurance in a no-fault state, you must exhaust that coverage before you are eligible to file a lawsuit against the other driver. Some states set a threshold for injuries that allows you to sue. For example, in New York, you can pursue a lawsuit against the other driver if your injuries include broken bones, disfigurement, full disability for 90 days, or significant or permanent limited use of a body function, system, organ, or member.
What Damages Could You Recover in a Claim or Lawsuit?
Damages refer to the losses you suffered as a result of an accident. In a car accident case, the extent of the damages directly affects the amount of compensation you can receive. More severe accidents have more significant damages. Additionally, the types of damages include compensatory and punitive.
Compensatory damages include the economic and non-economic losses that an injured person suffers from a car accident. The most common among these are:
- The cost of medical care for the injuries
- Lost income in the form of missed work, future missed work, or the loss of earning capability caused by permanent disability
- Costs related to damaged property, such as repair or replacement of the vehicle
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress, mental anguish, depression, anxiety, inability to enjoy life as you did before
- Out-of-pocket expenses related to accommodations, such as childcare, transportation, or in-home help
- Funeral/burial expenses
- Loss of companionship or consortium
- Loss of income or benefits from a deceased person
The economic damages, which include any tangible losses, require proof in the form of medical bills, future medical treatment plans, work payment history, recent income tax returns, and any receipts or estimates for property damage. Non-economic damages are more subjective. For example, a car accident lawyer may collect your written statement and testimonies from people involved in your daily life to proven pain and suffering. Additionally, they may multiply the monetary value of your economic damages by a number between 1.5 and 5 to get a value for non-economic damages. The more severe the accident and injuries, the higher the multiplier.
The court may award punitive damages in cases involving gross negligence committed by the at-fault driver. These damages do not compensate for any losses suffered by the injuries. Instead, the court may order the defendant to pay punitive damages to the plaintiff in addition to the compensatory damages as punishment for particularly horrendous behavior. Examples of actions that may warrant punitive damages include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Excessive speeding in areas with high foot traffic or a school zone
- Driving a vehicle with known mechanical issues, such as nonfunctioning brakes, that could endanger the safety of others
Reckless or aggressive driving that leads to an accident and injury or death to another party may result in an order to pay punitive damages. However, these damages are rare.
What if Both Parties Are Responsible for the Accident?
Not all car accidents are the result of negligence. Additionally, not all negligence in a car accident falls on one party. If you share responsibility for the accident and the resulting injuries, the rule of comparative negligence allows you to still receive compensation under certain guidelines:
- If your state follows the modified comparative negligence rule, you cannot carry more responsibility than the defendant.
- If your state follows the pure comparative negligence rule, you can carry more responsibility than the defendant and still receive compensation.
The comparative negligence rule requires the court to assign a percentage of fault to the plaintiff and defendant. Your percentage is then deducted from your award.
Does Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer Give You an Advantage?
As you recover from the aftermath of a car accident, the last thing you need is to deal with insurance negotiations and accident investigation. Preparing for and going through personal injury litigation can be cumbersome and stressful, especially for someone with substantial physical injuries or someone who recently lost a loved one. If you have not already decided to hire a car accident lawyer, consider the advantages having legal representation can provide.
They Understand the Litigation Process
Most states have a two- or three-year statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit after a car accident. Wrongful death suits are typically even shorter. Additionally, the legal process is heavy in paperwork, and the tiniest mistake in the initial filing could unintentionally delay your case beyond the deadline. A car accident attorney will prepare all the paperwork and file everything you need to get started as soon as possible. They also protect your rights and ensure that you never say anything that could hurt your case. You are under no obligation to hire legal representation. However, unless you have legal experience, you may find this process overwhelming and burdensome. Having an attorney present you is a relief and an asset in your case.
They Are Motivated and Supportive
Car accident lawyers understand the emotionally charged nature of car accident fallout. They offer professionalism in a situation where you may struggle to be objective. Additionally, a personal injury lawyer’s pay is typically contingent on their ability to secure a settlement or award for their client. This means that they do not get paid unless you get paid, and that alone is enough to keep them motivated to get a fair settlement as quickly as possible.
They Know the Value of Your Claim
Arguably, the most important and lengthy process in a car accident case is properly valuing the damages for your claim. An attorney will conduct a thorough investigation of your accident, establish what damages you suffered, and collect the evidence to support your claim for financial compensation. The non-economic damages require additional consideration and calculation, but an attorney understands the balance between precedent and the severity of your injuries, making it easier for them to more accurately value those damages.
AUTO ACCIDENT? CONTACT OUR NEW JERSEY AND NEW YORK CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS.
At Judd Shaw Injury Law™, we’re determined to achieve the best possible results for every injury victim we help. That’s why we introduced the Judd Shaw Way—a 5-point promise that helps ensure every client receives the highest level of service available.
We’re proud to fight for injured car accident survivors throughout New York and New Jersey. Our New Jersey office is located in Red Bank, and our New York office is located in the Bronx. However, we’ve helped clients throughout New Jersey, whether that’s Northern, Central, Pine Barrens, Southwest, and Coastal, NJ, or anywhere in New York City, including the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. Our New York car accident attorneys can also help clients throughout New York State.
Contact our New Jersey and New York car accident lawyers to get started now—just dial 1-866-909-6894 or complete the free online form on this page. With convenient office locations in New Jersey and New York, you’re never far from the experienced legal help you deserve.
Have trouble commuting or traveling to an office? At Judd Shaw Injury Law™, we’re able to serve you from the comfort of your home or another remote location. Through virtual meetings and electronic signing technology, our car accident lawyers can take your call, open your claim and get you started with the medical treatment you need.