If you or someone you love recently suffered an injury in an auto accident, you might wonder how to claim injury in an accident. The most crucial step is to call a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Your attorney can help you by:
- Investigating the cause of your accident to determine liability
- Collecting evidence to prove your claim
- Filing an injury claim with the right insurance company
- Negotiate a fair settlement
- File a lawsuit if the insurance company if they won’t offer a reasonable settlement
- Represent you in court if necessary
Large insurance carriers don’t stay afloat by giving settlements to every claimant. Instead, the injured party must prove the value of their injury claim. The good news is that there are many actions you can take after a car accident to help your claim. Among several other things, your attorney can help you stand up to the insurance company and fight for the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Accidents Are on the Rise
Why do you need a lawyer? Accidents are on the rise. Why does this matter? It means insurance companies need to pay out more in damages, so they will fight your claim even harder today than they would have a few years ago.
Preliminary estimates for 2021 motor vehicle accident fatalities and injuries show an upward trend. The National Safety Council (NSC) and the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimate that fatalities in these accidents increased by around 9 or 10 percent in a recent year and approximately 18 percent from the prior year.
The estimated mileage fatality rate in 2021 is 1.43 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down 2 percent from 2020. Still, it represents an increase of 19 percent from 1.20 in 2019. In addition, the current medically consulted injury-to-death ratio is 114:1, putting the 2021 estimated number of nonfatal medically consulted crash injuries at 5,246,000.
Seek Medical Care
After an accident, getting medical care should be your top priority. Doing so benefits your health and well-being and your legal injury claim. You won’t have reliable evidence of your injury if your doctor and other healthcare team members do not document their findings.
Even if you don’t have pain or other symptoms or feel as if your injuries are insignificant, it’s still in your best medical and legal interest to see a doctor. Sometimes adrenaline from the accident can prevent you from feeling the pain of your injuries. Many car accident injuries such as concussions, whiplash, soft tissue injuries, and spinal injuries might not reveal symptoms until several hours, days, or even weeks after the crash.
For example, internal bleeding and organ damage are common after an auto accident. While these severe injuries can kill, they may not show symptoms immediately. If you have internal organ damage or bleeding and don't see a doctor, you can be putting your own life at risk and not even know it. It's always better to err on the side of caution and get checked out.
You also protect yourself legally by getting medical attention. For instance, suppose you don’t see a doctor right away, but a week later, you notice that you have increasing back pain. So you go to the doctor who diagnoses you with a slipped disc.
In that case, the insurance company can argue that your injury must have been from something that occurred after the accident since you didn’t see a doctor and get a diagnosis right away. Waiting to seek medical care can increase the chances that the insurance company will deny your claim, or you won’t receive as much as you deserve for your injuries.
At your first appointment and beyond, discuss your symptoms candidly with the nurses and doctors.
- The circumstances involved in your car accident, how it happened, what type it was (rollover, t-bone, rear-end, etc.)
- The symptoms you’re experiencing
- When symptoms started
- The severity of symptoms
- Your complete medical history, including pre-existing conditions, surgeries, and previous injuries
Follow Your Doctor’s Advice and Instructions
Once you are under the care of a physician, be sure you follow their advice and instructions. For instance, they may tell you not to lift anything over 10 pounds, to go to physical therapy twice a week, or that you should have surgery. When you follow your doctor’s advice, you help substantiate your injuries. If you ignore their instructions and guidance, you might make it seem like your injuries aren’t that big of a deal, and you aren’t really suffering.
If you are non-compliant, your medical team will likely document this in your chart allowing the insurance company and their team of lawyers to find out. It’s also not uncommon for insurance companies to hire private investigators to keep an eye on claimants. For example, if your doctor told you not to lift more than 10 pounds, but you are observed at the parking carrying your 30-pound toddler, it will be detrimental to your claim.
When you do all you can to adhere to what your doctor or other medical professionals tell you to do, you show the insurance company that you take your injuries seriously and will do whatever it takes to get better. Doing this can increase the validity of your injury claim.
What About Pre-Existing Conditions?
Perhaps you’ve had a previous back or neck injury, or maybe you broke the same ankle a few years ago. Whatever the case, don’t let a pre-existing injury keep you from seeking the legal or medical help you need. Having a pre-existing injury doesn’t preclude the at-fault party or their insurance company from liability for causing your new injury, thanks to what is known as the eggshell skull doctrine.
When another party’s negligence aggravates someone’s pre-existing condition or injury, lawyers frequently turn to the eggshell skull doctrine, also known as the thin skull rule or the crumbling skull rule. If this doctrine is applied correctly, it might stop an insurer from using someone’s pre-existing vulnerability to escape liability.
For example, if you had a knee replacement a few years ago and suffered a knee injury in a car accident, the at-fault party can’t use your knee replacement as an excuse to escape liability for your new knee injury.
The eggshell skull doctrine is a tort law that says the injury party’s weakness, frailty, sensitivity, or feebleness isn’t a defense that the at-fault party can use in a personal injury claim. Under this legal premise, when another party causes your injury, they take you as you are. This doctrine encourages fair compensation for injured parties and punishes the at-fault party for negligence.
It’s common to be concerned that your pre-existing injury or condition will impact your current injury claim or prevent you from obtaining compensation altogether. However, it’s not something you should be worried about. Instead, ensure that your medical care providers and your injury attorney are aware of your pre-existing condition or injury and let them worry about the rest.
Compensation for Your Injuries
You deserve compensation for injuries you may have sustained in an accident arising from another person or party’s negligent, intentional, or reckless acts. Compensation comes from your damages. Your damages are the money you’ve spent and the financial representation of the losses, inconveniences, and various other ways you have suffered due to your accident and injuries.
The monetary or special damages you may deserve compensation for include:
- Medical expenses, including ambulance, emergency room, hospital, doctor, specialists, surgery, physical therapy, and other bills
- Prescription medications
- Medical equipment such as crutches, wheelchairs, or shower chairs
- Transportation and parking expenses to go to medical appointments.
- Lost wages and income from missing work time to go to medical appointments or heal from your injuries
- Future lost wages and various medical expenses if you have a debilitating or catastrophic injury such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or spinal cord injury (SCI), or another injury that can require more care in the future.
In addition to these tangible financial losses and expenses, you likely also have injury-associated general or non-economic damages. These types of damages, unfortunately, don’t come with a pre-determined value, leaving their worth open to interpretation. The insurance company will inevitably place a lower value on them than you. However, with the help of an experienced car accident lawyer, you can fight for what you deserve to receive.
Your general damages might include:
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
While you generally receive monetary or economic damages at their actual value, special damages are typically calculated based on the value of economic damages. During settlement negotiations or when the jury calculates an award, they will apply a multiplier to the monetary damages. The more severe the injury, the higher the multiplier. For example, suppose you only suffered whiplash or another soft tissue injury. In that case, you will recover less in non-economic damages than if you suffered a traumatic brain injury, lost a limb, had severe facial scarring, or the accident paralyzed you.
When you first meet with an experienced personal injury attorney, they can evaluate your accident and injuries to determine how much your case might be worth. Remember that this is only an estimate and can change based on your attorney uncovering more information about your accident or injuries.
They base their estimate on several factors, such as:
- The type and severity of your injuries
- If and how your injuries will affect the rest of your life
- How many parties are liable for your injuries
- Who your claim is against
- The insurance companies and policies involved
- Recent similar cases in your area
- Any applicable state laws
Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
Anyone interested in filing a personal injury claim should know their state’s statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a deadline given to personal injury victims to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. Each state has its own, but they usually vary between one and four years from the date of the injury.
If the claim is against a government entity, the deadline is generally shorter—for example, six to twelve months. The statute of limitations can also vary for minor children victims, if the victim wasn’t immediately aware of their injury, or if the party causing the injury leaves the state where the injury occurred.
If their attorney cannot settle their injury claim for a reasonable amount, the injured party might want to pursue a lawsuit against the party who caused their injury. However, if the plaintiff does file the lawsuit within their state’s statutory time limit, they will lose the right to use the civil court system to resolve the case.
After sustaining your injuries, you can avoid missing the deadline by contacting a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will be aware of your deadline and work accordingly to ensure they don’t miss it should they need to file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Contact a Skilled Personal Injury Attorney Today
Sustaining injuries in a car accident or another type of accident can be painful and debilitating. You may miss time at work, making it difficult to pay your everyday bills. You may need extensive medical care with a hefty price tag. You may be unable to take part in the activities you previously enjoyed. You might experience scarring or other disfigurements, or even disabilities.
When the accident arises from negligence, you deserve financial compensation for your injuries. The best way to seek financial recovery is with the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney. Your attorney can investigate who is responsible for causing your injuries and pursue full and fair compensation from them.
Contact a trusted law office today to schedule a complimentary initial consultation and learn more about our legal services. The team can advise you if you have a valid injury claim and develop a strategy of how to file your claim. Do not delay in seeking legal help.