After a car accident, many victims find themselves with substantial medical bills. Others may lose their primary source of income as their injuries prevent them from returning to work. You know that you deserve compensation for your injuries. How do you get paid after a car accident?
Step One: Contact an Attorney
If you suffered serious injuries in an auto accident, it is almost always best to hire an attorney to help file your personal injury claim and negotiate on your behalf. An experienced car accident attorney will ensure that your interests remain at the forefront of the negotiations. Insurance companies, no matter how kind the representative may seem, typically do not have the best interests of the injured party at heart. Instead, they seek to protect the company’s best interests and financial assets. If you hire an attorney, on the other hand, they represent your interests as you file a claim and seek the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
The insurance company may issue a settlement offer soon after your accident, often while you have yet to discover the full extent of your injuries and what your recovery may mean for the rest of your life. Consult with an attorney before accepting any settlement offer. Often, this settlement will not reflect the full compensation you deserve for your injuries. Accepting it could prevent you from seeking any additional compensation for your injuries in an accident.
Step Two: Collect Evidence
Your attorney will work both with you and on your behalf to collect evidence related to the accident. Relevant evidence may include:
- Your statement about the accident. You should clearly describe everything you remember about the accident to give your attorney the clearest idea possible about how it occurred.
- Witness statements. Witness statements can help provide a clear picture of what happened during the accident. The sooner you collect those statements, the more accurate they tend to be, as memory fades with time.
- Video or photo evidence. Photos of the vehicles and damage to them can provide a clearer picture of what caused your accident. So can video footage from dash cams, security cameras, or traffic cameras.
- Mechanical reports. After the accident, your attorney may have a mechanic examine the vehicle to determine whether a mechanical failure caused the accident.
- Police reports. The police report from the accident can answer some questions about the accident, including helping identify who caused it. The police report may also contain information about witnesses to the accident.
Evidence collection can make it easier to identify the legally liable party in your accident. In some cases, more than one party may bear legal responsibility for the accident and, therefore, for your injuries.
Step Three: Put Together Your Demand Package
Following an accident that caused you serious injuries, you should work with an attorney to put together your demand package: a list of your financial losses due to the accident and your demand for compensation. By working with an attorney, you can identify all the expenses you faced as a result of your accident, potentially including:
Your medical expenses may add up fast after an auto accident. Even a broken leg or arm can cost around $2,500 for non-surgical treatment. More serious injuries, like spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries, may come with even higher costs: a spinal cord injury that results in incomplete motor function, even without paralysis, could cost an average of $347,000 in the first year of recovery alone.
In addition to treatment at a hospital following your accident, your medical expenses may include:
- Therapies necessary to recover from your accident, including physical, occupational, and psychological therapy;
- Durable medical equipment, including wheelchairs, crutches, and prosthetic devices;
- Modifications to your home or vehicle to provide you with independence after your injuries; and
- Follow-up medical appointments.
Many injuries can cause you to miss substantial time at work during your recovery. How much work you miss will depend both on the extent of your injuries and the requirements of your job, as well as your employer’s willingness to make modifications to your work schedule and duties to accommodate your needs. Including lost wages as part of your financial demands following your accident can help make up for some of that lost income. If you completely lose the ability to work in your previous position due to your injuries, you can also include lost earning potential in your demand package.
Pain and Suffering
While you cannot repair pain and suffering through financial compensation, your attorney can help you quantify that suffering to help you seek compensation for it. Including pain and suffering as part of your claim can help you rebuild your life following serious injuries.
If multiple parties contributed to your accident, your attorney will advise you to file a demand letter against each entity to maximize the compensation you may receive for your injuries.
Step Four: Negotiation
Once you file your demand package, the liable entity will have the opportunity to negotiate. In some cases, as in serious accidents where your injuries exceed the maximum coverage offered by the liable driver’s insurance policy, the insurance company may attempt to quickly settle your claim. In others, you may need to go through several stages of negotiation to seek the compensation you deserve. If the liable entity accepts your demand, or if you accept the offer made by the liable entity, the negotiation ends, and you then receive payment for your accident.
If you and the liable entity cannot come to an agreement, you may progress to mediation. A mediator, often a judge or former judge, will sit down with both sides and help you attempt to reach a resolution. If you cannot resolve your claim in mediation, you may need to go to court to seek payment for your injuries.
If you suffer serious injuries in an auto accident, having a car accident attorney on your side can help provide the support you need through every stage of your claim, from compiling evidence to negotiating your claim or fighting for the compensation you deserve in court. Contact a car accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible to begin the process.