A car accident is one of the most traumatic events you could possibly experience. Whether you or a loved one suffered harm, the pain caused by a serious car accident can persist for many years after the initial crash. For individuals who survive a car accident, they may suffer life-altering injuries that severely reduce their quality of life. In other cases, families may lose their loved ones, suffering severe emotional and financial damages in the process.
As a car accident attorney with extensive experience handling traffic accident cases, I have seen the damage a serious crash can have on the life of a survivor or his or her family members. Some car accident victims, including surviving family members, suffer millions of dollars in damages. A young person with a C1 spinal cord injury could incur millions of dollars in lifetime medical expenses alone.
Fatal car accidents also cause families to suffer extensive damages. Family members may experience steep losses in income, especially if the deceased person was the family’s sole breadwinner, and are likely to incur medical and other costs as well.
You are much more likely to recover adequate compensation for these damages if you are quick about hiring an attorney as soon as possible after the crash. Below is a detailed description of what you should know about hiring a car accident attorney to handle your claim.
Try to Preserve the Evidence
The more evidence your attorney has, the stronger your claim. Evidence is crucial to your ability to recover compensation, so you should try to preserve it if you are able. Be sure to write down any important details. What occurred before, during and after the crash? The details are going to be important. Witnesses may be useful later, so don’t forget to obtain their contact information. You should also get the insurance and contact information from other motorists involved in the wreck.
Photographs of the damage to your vehicle or your injuries may also help strengthen your claim. Take photos of the accident scene, including any tire marks or damage to other vehicles or property.
Seek Medical Attention
It is also very important to seek medical attention after the crash. Some types of injuries may be dormant for hours or even days before serious symptoms occur. Internal bleeding is a great example of an injury that may go undetected before it causes serious injuries or death. Medical records are another important piece of evidence that can show the extent of your injuries. By seeking medical attention, you are not only protecting yourself, you are also strengthening your claim by establishing a physical record of your damages.
As a final note, you should always contact the authorities right away. Never leave the scene of an accident. Once the police arrive, they will ask you or any witnesses what happened.
Don’t Wait to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
You should never wait to hire an attorney. One of the most important reasons to act quickly is because evidence that is crucial to your claim can disappear very soon after the accident occurs. You need to act quickly to preserve this evidence so it can strengthen the validity of your case against the other party.
Witnesses may disappear and move on with their lives. Physical evidence, such as tire marks or debris, may also be removed from the scene of a crash within hours. In accidents involving commercial trucks, the data on an electronic control module or event data recorder may show what happened leading up to the accident. Unfortunately, the data may also be erased or altered if you do not act to preserve it very soon after the crash. Your attorney can help preserve this evidence.
It is also easy to make mistakes after an accident that can jeopardize your claim. Never talk to the other party’s insurance adjuster about your injuries or the accident. Remember, insurance companies are in business to make money. They are not in business to ensure you receive the full amount of compensation you will need to recover. You should also never discuss your case with other people or on social media. What you say could be used to devalue or deny your claim.
An attorney can guide you through the process and help you avoid common mistakes. You should call an attorney as soon as possible.
How to Choose a Car Accident Lawyer
It is important to be selective while choosing a car accident lawyer to handle your case. Some attorneys have much more experience with car accident claims than others. An experienced personal injury attorney is going to know how to best utilize the evidence to protect your claim from the defense. Look for an attorney who has experience handling car accident and product liability claims.
Trial experience is extremely important for car crash cases in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, we have a modified comparative negligence rule for holding the other party liable if your car accident meets the “serious injury” threshold. If the case goes to trial and you were more than 50 percent responsible for the crash, then you cannot collect damages from the other party. Although many car accident claims settle, there is always a possibility that your case will go to trial. Look for an attorney with a history of securing large verdicts and settlements.
Referrals are a common way to find a good car accident attorney. You can check with your state bar association or other personal injury organizations in your state. Google is another great and common way to find an experienced attorney. When you land on a personal injury attorney’s site, look at their case results and see if they successfully resolved cases similar to your case. Many personal injury attorneys and law firms have information about their prior cases on their websites.
Lastly, you should review the law firm’s fee structure. Most personal injury attorneys take cases on a contingency fee basis. What this means is that you will not have to pay for the attorney’s expenses unless he or she secures a successful verdict or settlement. You should contact the law firm and get details on the fee structure. Most personal injury law firms offer free initial consultations. This information is likely to be on the firm’s website. Don’t be afraid to call, as you will likely not have to pay any fees. It’s also your only likely means of determining whether you have a case.
What Could Happen Next
If an attorney finds that you have a valid case, then it is important to provide them with ample evidence of your damages. Evidence will vary depending on the circumstances, but medical records, photos, witness information, video footage and your vehicle could factor into your case.
Once your attorney reviews the evidence, he or she will attempt to negotiate a settlement by filing a lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances of your case, this process may take months. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell how long the process could take. There is a statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit against the other party, which is another good reason to contact an attorney as soon as possible.
If your case goes to trial, it will delay your ability to recover compensation, but it could also increase the amount you receive. Personal injury claims, including cases for car accidents, may take months or more than a year to go to trial. Although a trial may not be necessary, it is a possible outcome depending on the circumstances surrounding your case and what occurs after the lawsuit is filed.
There is also the possibility that multiple parties are responsible for your injuries or loss. For example, evidence may uncover that an auto manufacturer is responsible for the accident. In that case, you would seek damages against a large corporate entity.
What Car Accident Compensation Covers
What compensation will cover depends on the damages you suffered. Generally, you will be able to recover compensation for your economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages could include your medical bills, lost income, loss of future earning capacity or funeral expenses. Noneconomic damages would include costs associated with pain and suffering, or a loss of enjoyment in life. Keep in mind, some states have caps on how much you can recover.
If your case goes to trial, there is a possibility of recovering punitive damages. Whether this is possible depends on the circumstances and the at-fault party’s conduct during the accident. Some states have caps on punitive damages or may allow punitive damages only for certain types of personal injury claims.
About Grutzmacher Law Firm
Adam Grutzmacher is the Pennsylvania personal injury attorney responsible for the largest settlement ($227 million) in state history. He is a graduate of Moravian College and Widener University School of Law.