How To Deal With a Car Accident That Was Not Your Fault
When someone else causes a car accident and leaves you injured, you may not know what to do next—particularly if you’re injured and find yourself facing a mountain of bills for medical expenses. In that case, you will ultimately need a car accident lawyer to help you recoup your damages. In the meantime, what to do?
Car accidents occur on Texas roadways every 59 seconds. During one recent year, these accidents resulted in 17,535 people suffering a serious injury. Because of the stress and shock of a car accident, it is difficult to think about what to do when you are involved in an accident caused by another driver’s negligence.
Since accidents occur so frequently, you will be better prepared to handle the immediate aftermath if you understand what it takes to properly deal with the outcome of an accident which is not your fault.
- Keep yourself safe following a car accident – First and foremost, you need to think about your safety and the safety of any passengers in your vehicle. If possible, move your car out of oncoming traffic and get as far to the side of the road as possible. This is important because the last thing you want is another vehicle striking you and causing you further injury. Make sure you turn on your hazard lights so other vehicles are aware there is a problem.
- Reach out to law enforcement – Immediately contact law enforcement and notify them there has been an accident. This is an important step, especially when you are not at fault. When contacting law enforcement, make sure you advise them of any injuries you are aware of at the scene so they can contact a rescue vehicle if needed. Make sure to advise them of the number of vehicles involved in the accident, as well as the number of drivers and passengers.
- Obtain information from others – while waiting for law enforcement officers, take the time to get information from the other driver, and any witnesses who may stop to come to your aid. For the other driver, you will want to obtain their name, address, telephone number, and insurance information. Witnesses should be asked for their names and contact information even if they were pedestrians.
- Document the scene of the accident – Pictures often speak louder than words. You can take photos of the scene including photos of your vehicle, the other involved vehicles, injuries anyone sustained, and traffic signals in the area. This information may come in handy later, so take the necessary steps to obtain it.
- Speaking with witnesses, drivers, and law enforcement – You should always attempt to use caution when speaking with anyone immediately following the accident. Do not extend what may be an apology for the accident, use caution when answering direct questions that may indicate you have few or no injuries, or when asked how you are feeling. In general, it is probably not a good idea to speak with the other driver, but it is understandable if this becomes unavoidable. You should also ask the police who responded when the accident report will be available so you can use the Texas Department of Transportation website to obtain a copy.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
These are the primary things you should handle at the scene of the accident. Once all these matters are handled, your next step should be to immediately seek medical attention, even if you believe your injuries are minor. Remember, the shock your body goes through immediately following an accident could be masking serious internal injuries. The higher the speed the vehicles were traveling before a car accident, the more catastrophic the injuries are likely to be.
Whether you opt to see an emergency room physician or your own physician, make sure you advise them you were involved in a car accident. This will ensure they follow proper protocols in evaluating your overall physical condition.
Time to Deal With Your Insurance Company
While the expectation is the person who caused the accident will report the incident to their own insurance company, you should not depend on them to follow through. Even when an accident is not your fault, contact your own insurance company and let them know you were involved in an accident. Advise them of the date, time, and location of the accident as well as the information that was obtained from the other driver. You should also let them know which police department took the initial accident report.
Even though the accident was not your fault, you should be aware of Texas insurance coverage requirements. Under Texas laws, drivers must maintain at least $30,000 for coverage for any injuries suffered as a result of a car accident, and $60,000 per accident. This is a liability policy and is required by every person who registers a motor vehicle in Texas.
Seek Guidance From a Car Accident Attorney
After you speak with your insurance company, you should request a consultation with a car accident attorney. Chances are, within a few days of the accident, while you are still recovering from your injuries, the insurance adjuster from the at-fault driver’s insurance company will contact you. Bear in mind, these adjusters are not looking out for your best interest nor are they interested in making sure you are fairly compensated for the cost of the accident.
Insurance adjusters are hired to protect insurance companies by keeping the amount of the claims they pay as low as possible. You could be presented with an offer shortly after your accident—the insurance company hopes you accept this settlement because it means once you do, they are no longer responsible for any medical bills, time lost from work, or your pain and suffering. Do not be tricked into signing any documents that let the insurer off the hook.
In most cases, you are better off referring any insurance adjuster to your car accident attorney. Your lawyer is there to advocate on your behalf and to protect your rights under Texas’s personal injury statutes. Taking this important step will ensure you are not answering questions in a manner that could potentially damage your ability to collect a fair settlement for your injuries.
Documentation Following an Accident
Once you are home recovering from your injuries there is something you should keep in mind. Because of the shock of the accident, your body may have masked injuries that could cause you future health problems. Should you develop any symptoms including aches and pains, you should carefully document them. Any unexpected pain should result in your contacting your physician. This includes headaches, pain in your back, limbs or anywhere on the trunk of your body.
Additionally, you should document other things that may be tied to your health and well-being including difficulty sleeping, sudden and unexplained sensitivity to light, dizziness, or nausea. These could be symptoms of a more serious traumatic brain injury. Do not ignore symptoms, no matter how innocuous they may seem as they could be signals there is something else wrong.
You should also keep track of any expenses you incur as a result of your injuries. This includes trips to the doctor (including mileage), prescription medications, tests you undergo, rehabilitation therapy or anything associated with your recovery. In addition, if you need to bring in household help to assist with chores you did before your accident, you should document that as well.
Even if you feel fine, you should visit your physician before you attempt to return to work. This will help ensure you have a documented record of your care, your doctor’s opinion, and your overall physical health on the date of your return.
Potential Financial Settlement After a Car Accident
There is no solid answer as to how much you may collect for injuries you suffered in a car accident that was not your fault. However, some general guidelines can help you determine what the insurance company, or filing a personal injury lawsuit, should reimbursed you for.
Some of the compensation you may be entitled to includes:
- Medical care – All medical care you receive to ensure you recover fully from the injuries you suffered in a car accident can be reimbursed. Your medical care includes doctor visits, prescription medications including antibiotics and pain medications, follow-up treatments, tests, and physical therapy.
- Time lost from work – You are entitled to collect for any time you lost from work. Should your injuries prevent you from returning to work, you may include future wages in your lawsuit.
- Property damage – The damage to your car is compensable. You should collect for not only the damage caused to your car, but for any property inside your car that the accident damaged.
- Pain and suffering – In many cases, you may be eligible to collect for pain and suffering following an accident. Those victims who have permanent back pain, or other pain as a result of a car accident may also collect additional compensation.
Why Hiring an Attorney Makes a Difference
Oftentimes, victims of a car accident that is not their fault tend to think they can handle negotiations with insurance companies on their own. This is generally a mistake because insurance companies are depending on two factors. First, the insurance company knows when you are out of work, there is a financial strain placed on your family. This is one of the reasons they often make a settlement offer immediately after they learn of an accident.
The second factor is that insurance companies know you probably are not familiar with the various amounts of compensation that you may be entitled to collect. Therefore, their first offer will likely be far lower than what you might be entitled to collect for your injuries.
When you are the victim of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, you need someone who will serve as your advocate. A car accident attorney who has experience dealing with insurance companies will be there to offer advice, answer your questions, and protect your interests during negotiations. When an insurance company refuses to settle your claim fairly, your attorney will be prepared to advocate aggressively on your behalf in court.
Chances are, you are not familiar with the legal terminology you may hear over the course of negotiations with an insurance company. Not only can a skilled personal injury attorney evaluate your case on your behalf, they can also explain to you all the legal options that may be available to you. Once you have the right information, you can decide which option is right for you and your family.
Some of the steps your attorney can take on your behalf include:
- Understanding your injuries and determining the financial impact of your injuries
- Investigating the accident so they can properly present the facts of your case
- Negotiate on your behalf for a fair settlement with insurance companies
- When negotiations fail, an attorney can prepare your case, and speak with witnesses
- Your lawyer will advocate on your behalf in court
- An attorney can help you collect a final settlement
- Your lawyer will advocate on your behalf should a settlement be appealed
Following a car accident, you need to have your entire focus on recovering from your physical injuries and the emotional trauma of being involved in an accident. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you could be facing weeks or months of recovery and you may require extensive physical therapy to return to your “pre-accident” condition. This is all stressful enough without having to be hounded by an insurance adjuster to settle your claim.
Remember, insurance companies are trying to protect their bottom line and that means they are not looking out for your best interests. A car accident lawyer is there to protect you and your interests in any negotiation with an insurance company.
Why take the risk of being a victim to an insurance company that is negotiating in bad faith? Contact a car accident attorney today and discuss your rights under the law, find out what options you have, and let them take over the negotiations so you can focus on what’s really important: getting better.