Many personal injury claims are filed as a result of car accidents. When you’ve just suffered a car accident, filing a personal injury claim may be the last thing on your mind. You may be dazed and confused and not know what you need to do first.
Taking certain steps straight after a car accident is important and can make the difference between being able to receive monetary damage or not. In many situations, compensation will come from the responsible party’s insurance company.
Your first steps after a car accident
Stop and call for help. Calling the police is legally required in some states, even for a fender bender. The responding officers will fill out an accident report which insurers will request to facilitate the claims process.
- Don’t ever leave the scene of the accident or discuss who was at fault with anyone.
- Don’t move your car unless you need to do so for safety reasons.
- Be sure to get the names and contact information of everyone involved, including witnesses that may have seen the accident.
- If you have a mobile phone with a camera, take photos of the accident from as many angles as possible and of the damage to your vehicle.
- Gather as much evidence as you can – time of the accident, weather conditions, etc. as not doing so can make your claim harder to substantiate.
- When making your statement to the police, give only the essentials.
- Report the accident to your insurance company.
The question of liability
When you’ve suffered a car accident, liability is not always a straightforward matter. You have to prove the other party was negligent if you want to claim and receive damages. In some cases, liability may be obvious, such as when a drunk driver causes the accident. If a driver is found to be negligent, he or she may be held fully liable for the damages resulting from the accident.
In other cases, you may be partially to blame for an accident. In most states, this requires filing a comparative negligence claim. This means that the amount of compensation you receive is reduced by the degree to which your negligence caused the accident.
Requirements for a valid claim
Solid evidence is required to prove the essential elements of a personal injury claim. An experienced personal injury lawyer understands the four basic requirements of a negligence-based personal injury claim:
- Show that the responsible party had a duty to act with reasonable caution to avoid risking injury to others.
- Prove that the responsible party breached this duty by acting carelessly or in such a way that others would not do in such a situation.
- Prove that the client was injured as a direct result of the actions of the responsible party.
- Present evidence of how the injuries adversely affected the client’s life.
Remember that certain states have a statute of limitations. You only have a certain amount of time to file a claim after an accident and if you don’t file before the deadline expires, you can’t recover compensation for your losses.
When you file an insurance claim, the claims adjuster determines who is at fault by inspecting the vehicles, looking at all the information provided by you and the other parties and examining supporting documentation, such as photographs and the police report.
If your insurance claim is denied or you think the amount of your settlement is inadequate, an experienced injury attorney will be able to answer your questions and give you advice about your options moving forward.