If you were in a car accident, you probably have a million questions running through your mind. Here are answers to frequently asked questions we receive.
If you were in a car accident, the first thing you should do is assess the situation. If anyone was seriously injured, you should call 911 to request medical assistance. You should also call the police because they can assist with traffic control, protect the scene of the accident, and conduct an investigation if necessary as well as file a police report.
Even if the accident was not serious, you should still file a police report to document the incident. This report is an important record stating the facts of the car crash. If you decide to file a claim with your insurance company or sue the other driver for your injuries, the police report will be one of the most important pieces of evidence used in your defense. Additionally, having a police report in hand makes it much more difficult for the other driver to change their story or invent facts in the future.
Even if you were able to walk away from the accident, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Many car accident injuries are not readily apparent due to the adrenaline we experience immediately following accidents. Mild symptoms, such as headaches, can be signs of serious internal injuries such as concussions.
Related article: Common car accident injury symptoms
Having a doctor’s report that documents your physical health immediately following the car accident is an important tool to use in car accident settlements. It will show the extent of your injuries and make it difficult for the other driver’s insurance company to contest your medical bills down the road.
Finally, make sure you file any insurance claims on time. Many auto insurance companies require that you file a claim within 30 days of the accident.
Arizona requires that all drivers have minimum insurance coverage as follows:
- Bodily Injury Liability Coverage: Minimum $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident
- Property Damage Liability Coverage: Minimum $10,000
- Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage: Minimum $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident
- Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage: Minimum $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident
Unfortunately, these limits may not be enough to cover all the injuries you may suffer or the damage to your vehicle. To make matters worse, many drivers on the road choose to break the law by not having insurance at all.
The first place to seek recovery is with your own insurance provider, which at a minimum will cover a certain amount of medical bills. You may have been paying a slightly higher monthly fee for this additional coverage.
If the amounts you are able to claim from insurance policies are not enough to cover damages to your vehicle or provide for lost wages or pain and suffering, you have the option of filing a lawsuit to recover the difference.
For example, if your new pickup truck is completely damaged in a car accident, it can cost more than $20,000 to purchase a new one. If the other driver only has minimum coverage, you may only receive $10,000 as a result of the insurance settlement. In this scenario, you may decide to sue the other driver for the remainder of the costs of replacing your vehicle.
In Arizona, car accident lawsuits must be filed within two years of the incident, so you have some time to decide if it is a route you want to pursue.
In some car crashes, there is no single at-fault party. Jill may have sped up to catch the yellow light before it turned red, and Jack may have been checking a text on his phone.
This will come into play most often in a courtroom, where a jury will determine the comparative fault of both parties. If Jack sues Jill for the car accident, the jury will determine what percentage of fault Jack is responsible for, and reduce his damages accordingly. If it turns out that Jack was 30% responsible for the accident, any money the jury awards him will be reduced by 30%.
Car accidents are major events that can turn our world upside down. Personal injury compensation is meant to restore your life to where it was before the car accident occurred.
Related article: Average Car Accident Settlements
This means that you can recover any economic, or specific, damages that you lost as a result of the accident, such as:
- Medical bills, including doctor and hospital fees, medication expenses, money spent on physical therapy and chiropractor visits, and time spent with therapists to recover from any PTSD suffered as a result of the car accident
- Money spent to replace personal property lost in the accident, including your vehicle, cell phone, and clothing that was damaged
- Lost wages, due to time spent away from work recovering from the accident
- Any other expenses you incur, such as lost bonuses, additional childcare fees, or costs to rent a car until you purchase a new vehicle.
Keep track of all of these expenses because it is likely that the insurance company will want to examine the bills before agreeing to pay them.
You can also request non-economic damages, otherwise known as general damages. Sometimes, known as compensation for pain and suffering, these are meant to compensate you for any changes to your life that do not carry a price tag.
General damages are meant to compensate you for:
- The physical pain you have while you are healing from your injuries
- Insomnia, anxiety, depression, or increased stress in your life
- Inability to enjoy activities you enjoyed before the accident, such as your morning runs or playing catch with your kids after work
Because of the difficulty in assigning numbers to general damages, this amount is usually dependant on the total amount of specific damages, which is why keeping track of every bill, no matter how small, is important.
Recovering from an automobile accident can be stressful and frustrating, especially if you have ongoing medical treatment and physical therapy, are unable to work or need to shop for a new car. Adding the stress of negotiating a settlement with a hostile insurance company is the last thing you need while your life is on hold.
Related article: Do I need a personal injury lawyer for my car accident?
In addition to reducing the stress of dealing with your insurance company, working with a car accident lawyer can result in a settlement that is fair. Our law firm has over 20 years’ experience representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases, so we can help you assess the value of your claim. Insurance companies want to settle car accident cases for as low as they possibly can. With a team of professional attorneys on your side, we can help you make an informed decision about what offers to accept and reject.
Although many cases can be completely resolved through the settlement negotiation process, not every case is settled easily. If you are dealing with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, the insurance payouts you receive may not be sufficient to compensate for damages you suffered as a result of the accident. If this is the case, our attorneys are ready, willing, and able, to file a lawsuit against the other driver and aggressively pursue your claim in court.
At Petersen Johnson, we work on a contingent fee basis, meaning that we only get paid if we are successful in collecting your claim. If we do not win, we do not get paid. We also do not bill our clients for out-of-pocket expenses, such as expert witness testimony until the settlement check clears. This allows us to begin working on your case as soon as you contact us.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. If you were in an auto accident, contact our car accident attorneys today for a free consultation.