If you have suffered an injury in a road traffic accident which was clearly the fault of the other party, then you may be entitled to make a car accident claim for compensation.
Whether you were driving the car itself, were a passenger in the car or were a pedestrian hit by a car, you have a right to be compensated for your pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost income, lost potential future income and other related expenses that are directly related to the car accident, although the amount of compensation you can claim will depend both on your specific injuries and the circumstances surrounding the accident.
What should you do immediately after a car accident?
Even if the car damage looks minor and the injuries look like they are very mild and do not require immediate medical treatment, it is still advisable to call the police to the scene of the accident so you can get an official record of everything (in some countries it is mandatory to do so anyway).
At later dates, when you can, get a copy of the official police report and keep it with you. This report will contain several important details that could help you when filing your claim for compensation successfully. In clear cut cases of where the fault lies, the report may also include the police officer’s opinion of who was responsible for the accident.
Make notes about the accident as soon as you are able to after it occurs. Include as many details as you can, even those that may seem insignificant at the time. You will need to maintain all documentation and receipts that are associated with the accident. This could include:
• Photographs of the vehicle and of the accident scene.
• Photographs of your injuries immediately after the car crash.
Keep a record of all the bills
Keep careful records of all medical bills which you have incurred as a result of the accident. These include all memos, prescription orders and receipts related to your medical care, including X-Rays and details of visits to the physical therapist, family doctor, emergency room or chiropractor. Make sure the necessary documentation is signed and dated and, if possible, stamped. Do not allow the possibility of receipts being disqualified on a technicality.
Also keep receipts of all miscellaneous costs that you incurred, which were a direct result of the accident – paying for a taxi service, cost of hiring child care or cancelling airline tickets if you were scheduled to travel, and even hotel bookings if the accident prevented you going on holiday.
In addition, if you have been forced to take time off from work to recover, obtain a letter from your employer verifying your lost work hours and also stating how much income you would have lost.
You should also maintain a daily diary where you record all other details related to the case that cannot otherwise be substantiated with receipts. For example, if you are undergoing treatment at the hospital for whiplash, write down all details of how you got there and back, what the treatment involved and how long it took as well as the discomfort and pain you had to go through.
Maintain a record of your emotional state on most days, as many injuries incurred as a result of an accident are non-physical in nature. Mention all of the difficulties you have to overcome on a daily basis. All of this will help strengthen your case and get you the compensation you deserve especially if you are suffering from long-term effects.
Report the accident to your insurance company
Your insurance policy is a contract between the insurance company and you. It could require you to report your accident whether or not you are making a claim and will have a strict deadline to give notice. If you fail to follow your contract requirements within the time period specified, you could lose your right to insurance coverage if you later need to file a claim.
Reporting your accident is simply notifying your insurance company that an accident occurred, not filing a claim to receive coverage for your property damages or injuries.
Even if you file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company, you may decide that it is quicker to pursue a claim for your car repairs and a rental car while your vehicle is in the shop with your own insurance company. If the other driver’s company is disputing your claim, it could take months or longer to negotiate a settlement. If you did not promptly report your claim in a timely manner, you could be denied coverage under your insurance policy.
Even if the other driver claims he has insurance, you may discover once you file your claim that their insurance policy has been cancelled or that they have insufficient coverage to provide you with the full compensation you deserve. If you reported the crash to your insurance company, you can file a claim for benefits under your under-insured or uninsured insurance coverage – if you purchased this type of insurance.
Engaging a personal accident injury lawyer
Whilst minor accidents will usually be sorted out by an insurance company, there may be the need to engage a personal accident injury lawyer to get all that you are entitled to in terms of compensation. Such lawyers usually operate on the basis of a No Win No Fee arrangement, but read the small print carefully before you engage one.
Also be very clear as to how much of any compensation payment you receive they will be entitled to and ensure it is not excessive. A third of any pay out plus office fees is standard – anything more than that and you should be contacting alternatives.
Normal practice is for the lawyers to arrange a free medical examination in your local area to assess the severity of your injuries and estimated recovery time. The evidence gathering process will involve a full account of the car accident, when it happened, where it happened and why it happened. They will also assist you in gathering photographs and witness statements, where applicable, which, together with your medical records, will form the core of the evidence as they seek to prove negligence.
It should be noted that, in the vast majority of cases, car accident injury claims will be settled out of court where there is strong evidence proving negligence and liability. If the defendant seeks an out of court settlement, your lawyers will discuss with their legal representatives an appropriate compensation settlement.
Where negligence is disputed, or perhaps there is shared negligence with other parties, your case will go before the courts. Although this can be a daunting prospect for many, your lawyer’s job is to support you and contest the case for you to the best of their ability.
How much compensation is available?
The amount of compensation you can claim for a car accident injury can vary drastically, as with most types of accident claims. This is simply because realistically not every car accident injury is the same, meaning the car accident claims pay-outs can vary from case to case.
In order to get an accurate assessment on the amount of car crash compensation you could claim for an injury, the best approach is to speak to several legal firms and get a range of opinions. Discount any that seem excessive because they are probably talking-up the case to get your business.