Medical Bills in a Car Accident
Following a car accident, the government pays for all accident-related medical bills. However, you may incur additional bills and expenses apart from your medicals. Potential damages resulting from a car accident claim include lost wages, inconvenience, pain, and suffering. You can recover compensation for these damages through a personal injury insurance claim or lawsuit.
When it comes time to file your injury claim after a car accident, you want a knowledgeable car accident lawyer on board in your case. Representing yourself in a car accident claim is never a good idea. If you do not have legal representation, the insurance company will assume you do not have the necessary knowledge and skills to negotiate a favorable settlement offer competently or represent yourself at a jury trial.
Moreover, car accident victims only have two years from their accident date to file a lawsuit for damages. If litigation becomes necessary, your lawyer needs enough time to file a lawsuit on your behalf and pursue the compensation you deserve. The earlier you involve a lawyer in your car accident claim, the better off you will be.
In addition to negotiating with the insurance company adjuster on your behalf, your lawyer can threaten the insurance company with litigation if they refuse to compensate you reasonably. Your lawyer can also represent you at all legal hearings in the court system and bring your case to an efficient resolution.
What Damages Can I Recover in My Car Accident Claim?
An accident victim can recover various damages in a car accident claim. Not all car accidents are the same, and different accident victims suffer different injuries. The damages that an accident victim ultimately recovers will depend upon the type of car accident that occurred, the extent of their injuries, and whether or not they suffered a permanent injury in their car crash.
Since the government pays a car accident victim’s medical bills, the final cost of medical treatment will never become a part of the accident victim’s injury claim. However, if the car accident victim had to miss time from work to recover from their injuries, they can assert a lost wage claim.
Some accident victims suffer such serious injuries that they cannot return to the same job or might need to switch careers altogether. When that happens, the accident victim can pursue a claim for loss of earning capacity to recover the difference between their current and former earnings.
Victims of car crashes can also recover non-economic damages. As part of a claim or lawsuit for non-economic damages, the accident victim can seek compensation for the inconvenience, pain, suffering, humiliation, and mental distress that results from their injuries.
Some accident victims suffer such serious injuries that they cannot participate in the activities they once enjoyed. For example, they might not spend time with family members or engage in recreational activities like exercise or sports. When that occurs, the accident victim can claim loss of enjoyment of life.
Some car accident victims also sustain permanent injuries and disabilities. When an accident victim suffers a permanent injury, such as full or partial paralysis that prevents them from using a body part for the remainder of their life—they can pursue a loss of use claim. Finally, accident victims can seek compensation for the loss of spousal companionship and consortium that results from their injuries.
A car accident lawyer will advocate on your behalf during settlement negotiations and litigation. Your lawyer will do everything possible to help you maximize the compensation you recover for your accident-related injuries. A personal injury settlement or lawsuit aims to make you whole again, to the greatest extent possible.
How do Car Accidents Happen?
Car accidents happen for various reasons, but driver error is the most common cause. Drivers commit errors when they behave recklessly or carelessly under the circumstances.
Some of the most common causes of car crashes include:
- Violating laws, such as speeding, tailgating, failing to use turn signals, and failing to yield the right-of-way at the appropriate time.
- Drunk Driving
- Failing to watch the road while driving
Some car accidents happen because of defective vehicle parts, such as braking systems or steering mechanisms that a product manufacturer did not properly design or test. Finally, car accidents can happen because of negligent repair work that a facility performs on a vehicle, causing the vehicle to malfunction while on the road.
If you suffered injuries in a car crash because of someone else’s negligence, your lawyer can discuss the accident with you and determine your legal options. If you can file a claim or lawsuit for damages, your lawyer can assist you throughout the process and work to get you the necessary damages to cover your losses.
Car Accident Injuries
Accident victims often sustain injuries that leave them needing medical treatment and rehabilitation. Different car accident victims suffer different injuries, depending on various factors.
Some of those factors include:
- The type of accident
- How the accident victim’s body moves in the vehicle
- Whether a part of the accident victim’s body strikes something in the vehicle—like the steering wheel, window, or headrest.
Common car accident injuries include cuts and abrasions, soft tissue injuries, bone fractures, traumatic head injuries, internal injuries, spinal cord damage, paralysis, and death in the worst cases.
A car accident victim’s immediate priority should be to seek same-day medical treatment following their collision. Waiting too long to seek treatment can jeopardize your injury cases. Insurance companies often become skeptical when they see delayed medical treatment or large treatment gaps.
Under those circumstances, insurance company adjusters often assume that accident victims did not suffer serious injuries in their accident and, therefore, they do not deserve to recover significant compensation.
Moreover, a healthcare provider at an emergency room or urgent care center can order the necessary imaging tests, such as MRIs and X-rays, to ascertain the accident victim’s medical condition. Finally, the doctor can recommend follow-up treatment, such as with a family physician or orthopedic doctor.
While you’re undergoing medical treatment, your lawyer can start advocating for you by gathering the documents necessary to prove your claim. Those documents include copies of your medical records to date, lost wage statements, police reports, and photographs. Once you finish your medical treatment, your lawyer can submit these documents to the insurance company and start negotiating a fair settlement on your behalf.
The Burden of Proof in a Car Accident Claim
Car accident victims who suffer injuries due to someone else’s negligence have the legal burden of proof in their injury claim. The at-fault driver does not need to prove anything, as the sole legal burden rests entirely with the accident victim plaintiff. Insurance companies and courts will not take your word that someone else caused your injuries, and you must present sufficient evidence to meet your burden of proof.
The accident victim must establish various legal elements to recover damages in a car accident claim or lawsuit. First, they must demonstrate that the at-fault driver behaved unreasonably under the circumstances, such as by violating a traffic law, engaging in distracted driving, or operating their vehicle while intoxicated.
Next, the accident victim must show that the at-fault driver’s negligence caused the accident. Finally, the accident victim must demonstrate that they suffered at least one injury and resulting losses in the accident.
To prove the legal elements of a car accident claim, an accident victim’s lawyer might need to hire an expert. An accident reconstructionist, for example, can help the accident victim prove fault in their car accident case. A reconstructionist can review police reports, speak with eyewitnesses, and piece together how the crash likely happened.
In addition to an accident reconstructionist, the accident victim may need to retain a medical expert in their case. A medical expert can demonstrate, based on a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the accident victim’s claimed injuries directly resulted from the car crash.
A medical expert can also prove that the accident victim suffered a permanent injury or disability that won’t improve over time.
A knowledgeable car accident lawyer can help you establish the legal elements of your claim so you can recover compensation and damages. Your lawyer can also retain the necessary experts who can testify at a deposition or jury trial to support your case.
Obtaining Compensation Through Settlement or Litigation
Injury victims can recover the compensation they need by settling a case or litigating it in the court system. The settlement process begins when a lawyer sends a settlement demand letter and demand package to the insurance company adjuster handling the claim. In most car accident cases, the accident victim’s lawyer will deal with the at-fault driver’s insurer.
However, if the at-fault driver had inadequate insurance to compensate the accident victim, or if the at-fault driver had no insurance, then the accident victim’s lawyer might be dealing with the accident victim’s insurer. This happens via an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim.
Regardless of the insurance company involved, the initial letter and claim make a monetary demand for settlement. The remainder of the demand package includes important paperwork the adjuster can use to evaluate the claim. This paperwork includes copies of the accident victim’s lost wage statements, medical records, injury photographs, and property damage photographs. The demand package may also include investigation reports and other evidence if the insurance company disputes fault for the accident.
If the insurance company accepts liability, the adjuster will start settlement negotiations with the accident victim’s lawyer. The parties will go back and forth until they either resolve the case—with the accident victim’s permission—or reach a stalemate. At that point, the accident victim’s only option is to litigate the case by filing a lawsuit in court.
Once the accident victim’s lawyer files suit, settlement negotiations can continue. However, the court will issue a scheduling order establishing deadlines for various milestones in the case. These milestones include a discovery deadline, settlement conference date, and sometimes a jury trial date.
Most car accident claims settle out of court before they ever get to a jury. Moreover, the parties may consider alternative dispute resolution instead of taking their case to trial. If the case proceeds to a jury trial after the parties complete all written discovery and depositions, the jury members will decide the outcome of all disputed issues. Specifically, the jury will decide what damages to award the accident victim plaintiff for their car accident injuries.
As an alternative to trial, the parties might consider mediation, when a neutral mediator helps the parties during their settlement discussions. Alternatively, the parties may take their case to binding arbitration, where a neutral arbitrator listens to the evidence and awards damages within certain pre-set monetary parameters.
Your lawyer can help you decide whether you should accept compensation through settlement or whether you should file a lawsuit in court and litigate your case to a conclusion. Whatever you decide, your lawyer will be with you every step of the way and can help you make the best possible decisions in your car accident case.
Talk With a Car Accident Lawyer Today
An experienced personal injury lawyer can answer your legal questions and help you pursue the damages you deserve. If the insurance company is unwilling to settle your case favorably, your lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf and litigate your case in the court system.
Many car accident victims assume that because they do not face medical bills for treatment, they do not have an injury claim after a car accident. In reality, many car accident victims recover substantial compensation for lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Case evaluations with car accident lawyers are free, so you have nothing to lose by learning whether you might have a claim for compensation after your crash. Contact a lawyer to get your consultation today.