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Car accidents are life-changing experiences. Whether it’s a major accident with property and vehicle damage and serious personal injury, or a no-fault incident with nary a scrape or bruise, rarely does one leave an accident without experiencing some form of lasting effects. In many cases, the accident itself is only the beginning of what can be an extremely long process of filing an insurance claim, determining fault, and most importantly, getting the closure one needs to move on with their life. Having to take on both the insurance companies and the law to get what you deserve from your accident is extremely intimidating and often victims will accept a far lower settlement amount than if they had hired an attorney or received a free legal evaluation.
At Morgan & Morgan, we have been fighting for our clients who are victims of car accidents since 1988 to get them the compensation and justice they are owed. After all, insurance companies tend to seek to minimize compensation. What can seem like a fair sum might fail to cover long-term medical costs, lost wages from missed work due to an accident, or delayed injuries or damages that weren’t accounted for in the original settlement amount. We’re experts at navigating the often confusing legal and insurance process.
Below, we break down what you should do following an auto accident and answer many of the questions we’ve been asked over the past three decades, from whether you should hire a car accident attorney to understanding the types of injuries that can result from a crash, and much more. We have decades of experience getting millions of dollars from insurance companies and the various parties at fault who will often attempt to avoid taking full financial responsibility while the victims are left struggling to pay their bills.
What To Do After A Car Accident
The confusion in the moments following an accident can make an otherwise straight-forward process equally challenging. There are few things more jarring than being in a car crash, and in addition to any physical injuries or vehicle damage one incurs, an accident can leave a person in an emotionally vulnerable position such that doing things “by the book” becomes far more difficult.
Nevertheless, before you can even start thinking about hiring a lawyer, you need to make sure that the minutes and hours following an accident are handled correctly, either by yourself or a trusted family member. It’s absolutely crucial that you protect yourself from doing or saying anything that might impede you receiving the compensation you are owed.
With that said, here is what to do if you get in a car accident.
Move to Safety: If the accident is a minor one, move the cars off the road to a safe space and turn on hazard lights. Mark off the area with safety cones if you have them.
Get Help: Call an ambulance if there are any injuries or complaints of pain and always call the police so that a police report will be created.
Gather Information: Obtain all necessary information about the drivers involved, including their insurance information, and take photos of the accident.
Do Not Admit Fault: Remember, fault will be determined by the police who attend the situation, not by those involved in the accident. So even if you think you were at fault, do not say so, but also remain courteous to keep everyone in as good a mood as possible. After all, your crash could have been caused by a problem with the automobile itself, so wait until you get all the facts before you accept blame.
While you can start filing an insurance claim at the scene of the accident, it’s often better to wait until you’ve regained your bearings and have a clear recollection of what happened. Automobile accidents are never pleasant experiences and typically those involved are eager to move on with their lives. But if you feel that the police report failed to account for certain facts or your settlement does not cover the cost of your injuries or time lost at work, then you will want to look into obtaining the services of a car accident attorney.
Types of Car Accidents/Statistics
Did you know the typical car driver will get into at least three or four car accidents in his or her lifetime? Even with more accident-prevention features within cars than ever before and self-driving cars no longer just a dream of the future, on average there are 3,287 deaths by car crash every day with more than 37,000 deaths stemming from car accidents per year. In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that automobile deaths were expected to exceed 40,000 per year for the first time since 2007. Furthermore, 2.35 million people were either injured or disabled due to car accidents in 2017.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how cautious a driver you are, you can’t ever truly guard against a texting motorist crashing into your rear or getting T-boned by an intoxicated driver. Here are some further car accident stats to keep in mind:
- More than 1,600 children younger than 15 die every year, on average;
- Young drivers are the most at risk, with nearly 8,000 people killed in crashes involving drivers ages 16-20, on average;
- The cost of automobile accidents in the U.S. is $277 billion per year;
- Car accidents in Tallahassee, Florida went up 41 percent between 2011 and 2015;
- 83 million sleep-deprived drivers are on the road on a daily basis, and in 2015 roughly 5,000 people died due to driving while drowsy.
No matter how many stats you review in terms of car accidents by state, city, or country, the numbers inevitably paint a dire and dangerous picture. With so many car accidents and so many different types of them occurring every day across the country, it pays to do your homework about which situations require car accident lawyers.
When To Hire A Car Accident Attorney/Car Accident Legal Help
Car accidents are rarely cut-and-dry affairs. Be it complex insurance claims, seeking compensation for hard-to-quantify damages such as mental anguish, or determining whether you can file a claim for additional damages, Morgan & Morgan has a glowing reputation when it comes to helping individuals following a car accident. From winning $8 million for a gravely injured woman to turning a $25,000 car insurance claim into a $1.1 million settlement, we excel at getting the best possible results for our clients.
Often the insurance company or negligent party from whom you are seeking compensation will try to classify your injury as temporary, even if permanent damage has been done. Our team of experienced car accident attorneys will collect and organize evidence to substantiate your claim and get you the compensation you deserve. In addition, we can assist you in navigating the complexities of traffic and personal injury law, as well as determine if you are subject to personal injury protection (PIP) requirements.
After taking on a case, our car accident attorneys will work diligently to determine just how much you are owed using a variety of tried-and-tested methods. These include collecting police and accident scene reports; questioning witnesses; reconstructing the accident scene; taking photographs of the scene, damage, and injuries; analyzing medical reports; contacting expert witnesses to review evidence; and speaking with insurance providers on your behalf.
While not every case requires the involvement of a personal injury lawyer, our attorneys boast intensive experience in a wide variety of car accident-related cases. If you’re wondering if a car accident attorney is what you need to resolve your accident, Morgan & Morgan has the talent and resources needed to help you.
How Much Money Can I Expect from a Car Accident?
In the majority of car accidents that result in automobile damage or physical injuries, you will typically file a claim with the insurance company representing the party at-fault. In turn, the insurance company will calculate how much they believe you will need to cover the damage and any other costs incurred by you. (The process varies in states with no-fault insurance.) While only a minority of car accident cases go to court, they can be for anything from minor car accidents and injuries to major injuries and fatal accidents — though in most cases both parties will seek to reach a settlement. The monetary amount of a settlement can vary substantially from state to state depending on the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred, alongside the facts of the case itself.
In the majority of jurisdictions, damages stemming from car accidents can be separated into two distinct categories: special damages and general damages. Special damages are typically associated with specific economic harm, including lost wages due to missing work, damage to one’s vehicle or property, and medical costs. General damages cover “noneconomic suffering” that include pain and suffering, physical disfigurement or impairment, shortened lifespan, mental anguish, reputation loss, companionship loss, loss of life enjoyment, and emotional distress.
Items like hospital bills, auto repair shop bills, and quotes from mechanics are used to determine the cost of an accident. Pain and suffering as a result of a car accident is considerably more difficult to calculate, because there is little material evidence that can accurately measure just how much hardship was endured as a result of a car accident.
Car Accident Injuries
No two car accidents are ever quite alike. While back and neck injuries make up a significant number of car accident claims, we have seen a wide variety of injuries and represented a large number of highly specialized personal injury cases resulting from automobile accidents.
Considering that car accidents are one of the leading causes of personal injury, the economic cost of car accidents averages almost $300 billion per year; and the number of different types of injury associated with car accidents ranges from the common to the highly rare. What matters is the pain and suffering caused by the injury and how it affects your life going forward, which could mean endless medical bills.
Often insurance agencies will be quick to declare an injury healed or will only cover so many physical therapy sessions and doctors’ appointments, even when your health depends upon them. Hiring an experienced attorney is a way to arm yourself against these questionable insurance practices and get the compensation that will help you get your life back on track.
Types of Car Accident Claims/Lawsuits
When it comes to learning the basics of how to handle a car accident settlement, let’s first discuss what will lead to them. Let’s say you were in an accident in which you were not at fault, rear-ended by a driver who was texting. You were left with severe, long-term injuries but you did not receive the amount of compensation from the other party’s insurance company you felt you deserved. You may decide this is the type of situation when filing a personal injury lawsuit makes most sense. Before doing so, however, it is important to understand what to expect once you decide to take legal action.
Rarely do car accident cases, or most cases in general, actually go to a full civil trial. When you choose to have your case decided by a jury, there is truly no knowing what might transpire or if your case will be successful, regardless of how right you think you are.
Settlements on the other hand allow you to resolve your dispute, while also receiving the money you are seeking. The goal of a settlement is to reach an agreement that is satisfactory for all parties involved.
A jury trial offers no guarantee of a successful outcome – even in the most seemingly open-and-shut of cases. Juries can be unpredictable and subject to changing their minds. Once a settlement is reached, it is typically the final decision.
Another tool that car accident victims can use to apply pressure on an insurance company is to have your injury attorney draft a “demand letter.” A demand letter details the incident, lists and describes the nature of your injuries and vehicle damage, and requests a settlement amount to avoid any additional litigation or a court appearance. Our lawyers craft highly-detailed demand letters that lay out clearly the different issues and facts related to your case alongside the relevant evidence, medical records, and any additional information that may be salient to getting you your car accident settlement.
Of course, settlements don’t always work out as described above. In some instances, after both sides have reviewed the demand letter and issued a response, the case can then enter a settlement negotiation phase. Involving a significant amount of back-and-forth negotiations, these talks can sometimes breakdown and mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) might become necessary. Ideally, the negotiations will ultimately land in your favor, but if an agreement is not reached, then your case will go to trial. In that case, there are only a few situations in which a civil suit is required to obtain additional compensation for personal injury damages. These include:
The concept of negligence is central to most car accident cases, as it’s necessary for the prosecution to prove that the defendant failed to exercise a certain level of caution while operating a vehicle or using common roads. Negligence is one of the most common factors in accidents that harm other motorists, pedestrians, or bicyclists.
By conducting a preliminary investigation, your attorney will gather and review the facts and evidence needed to determine the party who is at fault. In order to receive proper compensation, your lawyer will demonstrate that the defendant failed to meet a reasonable standard of care and that his or her negligence caused the accident. Defendants can include negligent, intoxicated, or reckless drivers, and bus drivers.
From Firestone’s faulty tires to VW’s “safe diesel,” there have been many cases of manufacturer liability over the past several decades. Be it defective parts, a faulty design, or a manufacturing and labeling issue, the manufacturer could be held liable regardless of who was actually at fault for the accident if there was a fundamental issue with the product they sold to the public.
In such cases, it is your lawyer’s duty to demonstrate that you, the driver, were in no way responsible or at fault for the accident. These cases can use expert testimony and analysis to prove that the defect contributed in some way to the accident, such as:
The defective car or part was “unreasonably dangerous;”
The vehicle was operated as intended; and/or
The vehicle’s performance had not changed since its initial purchase.
Claims that are filed in relation to defective parts typically include airbags, seat belts, accelerators, breaks, and engines.
You could be driving one of the safest cars on the road, but if the road isn’t built well, then there is little that can protect you from having an accident. Whether it be faulty construction, design, or maintenance of roads, these factors can all contribute to accidents. Additionally, new developments can have an impact on nearby intersections and roads that were not designed to handle large amount of traffic that new destinations like malls or stadiums can cause.
Other road design issues can include:
Barriers and Guardrails
Ultimately, deciding whether to settle or go to trial is not a decision anyone should make on their own, though understanding your state laws can also help shape your decision. By requesting a free case review from one of our experienced lawyers in your area, you can get a professional opinion on how to proceed with your case at no cost or obligation to you unless we win.
Understanding the Legal Issues Surrounding Car Insurance
One of the greatest fears drivers have is getting into an accident with someone who does not have car insurance. It is illegal in almost every state to drive without minimum insurance requirements in place that provide you with the minimum amount of liability coverage so that you can drive legally.
Of course, as we’ve seen so far, just getting the minimum amount will not provide you with the level of coverage you need if you are at fault in a major car accident due to the limits established by the insurance company. These limits cover bodily damage per person and per accident, as well as property damage up to a certain amount. Many experts advocate for getting insurance that provides protection well above the legal minimum. However, for many motorists, that expense might prove too much. Ultimately, the type of automobile insurance a driver purchases depends on a combination of his or her finances, state laws, and personal preference.
What Should My Car Insurance Policy Cover?
Liability insurance is the minimum amount of insurance required, because it’s designed to award compensation for injuries sustained by the insured driver as well as other motorists’ vehicle damage. The minimum amount of liability coverage to cover others’ bodily injury and property damage is set by states.
Here are the different types of coverage areas provided by most insurance policies.
Bodily Injury (liability): If the others involved in the accident incur medical expenses through injury or are killed as a result of your fault, your insurer will cover the medical expense or make a payment to the family of the deceased;
Property Damage (liability): When the insured party is found to be at fault, the insurer will be obliged to pay property damage;
Collision Coverage: Insurer helps to repair or replace automobile damage in an accident with another car or an object, like a tree or fence;
Personal Injury Protection: Insurer pays for injury claims and other damages claimed by passengers;
Comprehensive Coverage: Going beyond accidents, comprehensive coverage includes damage from fire, theft, vandalism, or other destructive acts.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
There will always be those motorists who disregard insurance requirements or can only afford liability insurance coverage that is inadequate in relation to the severity of the accident. However, uninsured motorist coverage can help lessen the financial blow of not being compensated for injuries or damage to your vehicle in a crash involving an at-fault, uninsured driver. The laws governing uninsured motorist coverage vary from state to state, with some requiring it and others providing it as an addition to a basic policy. While it won’t help you in a hit-and-run, it can help to get you reimbursed for medical expenses, wages lost from missed work, passenger injuries, and vehicle damage.
How to Determine Liability in a Car Accident
One of the most important things to understand as a driver in order to ensure you don’t end up paying for another person’s mistakes, is how liability is determined. Determining who is at fault in an accident is the primary interest of insurance companies, so taking the time to learn how liability is typically decided can save you a significant amount of money and stress.
Proving Fault Following a Car Crash
There are three primary ways to prove fault in a car crash. They are as follows:
By Police Report
One of the most central documents in determining liability is the report filed by the police officer who responds to the scene of the accident. In almost every accident, the responding officer will file an incident report containing their assessment of the accident site and making note of whether any of the persons involved received a citation.
Part of the reason incident reports are so important is that obtaining one can help to substantiate your account of what happened and settle ongoing disagreements over insurance. Vice versa, if the report contains factual errors, you then have evidence that can correct the officer’s mistake. However, if errors stem from the officer’s subjective opinions, removing or changing them becomes much more difficult. One way to combat inaccurate information is to add your statement to the record to counteract the officer’s account.
State Traffic Laws
Where police reports can be tarnished by poor reporting, state traffic laws provide a more reliable barometer in situations like who had the right of way in a four-way stop or whether the driver’s right turn on red was illegal. Just remember that these laws change state to state and if you experience an accident while visiting a friend or relative on the other side of the country, make sure you familiarize yourself with their traffic laws so that easy-to-avoid accidents don’t end up ruining your vacation.
Types of Accidents
Lastly, sometimes the type of accident itself can be self-evident when determining the at-fault party. For instance, while this is not always true, rear-end collisions often indicate that the person who hit you from behind is at fault. Another example is when a car runs a red light or stop sign and t-bones another car, a situation that is increasingly caught on film thanks to many cities installing cameras on stop lights around busy intersections.
By working with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys, we can help guide you through this often difficult process, thanks to our decades of experience and deep familiarity with individual state law.
Truck and Bus Accidents
While they are both large vehicles, trucks and buses each come with their own particular set of dangers.
In the case of truck accidents, drivers and manufacturers of big rigs are held to a much higher standard than other drivers, and if an accident occurs you or your loved one may be reimbursed for your injuries. Typically, a full-scale “big rig” truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, whereas the average sedan weighs around 3,000 pounds. With all that weight, accidents involving large commercial trucks tend to present serious challenges and dangers — their size can cause total devastation to the cars and property around it.
Large trucks also make it harder for the driver to have control over visibility, acceleration, braking, and turning. The latter two are symptomatic of when 18-wheelers are most likely to “jackknife,” though the truck driver may avoid being held liable due to unforeseeable road conditions, an abrupt turn, or something else.
When it comes to assigning fault in an accident with a large truck, it’s important to recognize that these vehicles are typically driven for a trucking or shipping company. Therefore, when it comes to identifying defendants, there may be far more people involved than just the motorist. Employers, contractors, trucking companies, and insurance companies can all share the liability.
Causes of Truck Accidents
In addition to the risk caused by trucks’ difficult maneuverability, truck drivers themselves can pose a threat when they have insufficient training, payment determined by compensation systems that encourage faster driving, and overly long schedules that can lead to falling asleep at the wheel.
Normal-sized cars, on the other hand, can pose a danger to trucks when changing lanes abruptly, making a turn in front of the truck with too little space, or driving too close to the truck so that the driver has limited visibility. In addition, wind turbulence can push a car into a truck, and a slow entry upon the freeway can also cause a truck to stop abruptly. Our team of truck accident lawyers are on call to help you with your case.
Similar to truck accidents, bus accidents are typically some of the most severe accidents that occur on the open road. Part of the reason that the chance of injuries and deaths are increased is that there is often a lack of seatbelts and other onboard safety measures. And while injured passengers might be entitled to compensation for losses following an accident, recovering an adequate settlement from a bus can be difficult.
Buses are typically owned and run by the government, which means state laws can play a more disruptive role. For instance, claims made against Florida’s municipalities tend to face stricter guidelines and have shorter time limits in which legal action can be taken. While lawyers not familiar with the intricate claim process are likely to hit a wall in their case, our lawyers boast substantial experience, having handled bus accident cases against both the government and third-party companies.
Have you been injured in a truck or bus accident either as a passenger or third party? You might be eligible for compensation. Our bus accident attorneys are here to review your claim at no charge or commitment to you.
Using bikes within metropolitan areas to travel between one’s home and place of work has never been easier or more popular. Cities across the country are building new bike lanes and instituting bike sharing programs. However, while bicyclists might not travel as fast as those on motorcycles, their bodies are just as vulnerable if they happen to be struck by a car or if they hit something on the road and go flying. And while cities are making efforts to protect their bikers by adding signals to their bike lanes, there are no surefire safeguards in place to guarantee the safety of riders across the county.
What’s particularly disheartening is the fact that victims of bike accidents caused by vehicles, buses, or even trucks often face extreme push-back from insurance companies who fight legitimate claims. We help accident victims recover compensation for injuries and property damage and are committed to holding negligent motorists accountable for their actions.
Pedestrians might be the most at-risk traffic segment when it comes to automobile-related accidents. Unlike a driver of a car, pedestrians have no built-in safety features like air bags or shocks.
Even when areas with high pedestrian traffic are given millions of dollars for safety upgrades, there’s still no guarantee that pedestrians themselves will follow the best practices to keep them safe. With pedestrian fatalities in such states as Georgia, which is up 37 percent over the past two years, it’s clear that this is a crucial and all-too overlooked area of personal injury law.
Our team of pedestrian accident attorneys are experts in this often-confusing legal realm, excelling at in-depth negotiations with insurance companies and winning verdicts against poor drivers. We have the resources at hand to expedite this often arduous process.
Learn more about how we work to ensure you get the best compensation possible for your pedestrian-related accident.
For enthusiasts, motorcycles are one of the most fun and freeing ways to explore the open road. But the fact of the matter is there is little separating you from a fatal accident. When a motorcycle accident occurs, it’s typically much deadlier and more destructive than a car crash. And in many states, automobiles are actually responsible for the majority of motorcycle wrecks.
One way motorcycle enthusiasts can protect themselves is to wear a helmet. Many states have strict laws in effect, because not wearing a helmet means one is three times more likely to experience brain injury following an accident. In addition to your helmet, it is advisable to wear any of the other protective gear mandated by your state. If you were struck by a motorist while riding your motorcycle without a helmet, then the case would be inadmissible in some jurisdictions.
Motorcycle Defects and Recalls
Another area that our lawyers are constantly keeping an eye on is motorcycle recalls and defects that can harm motorcyclists. It’s not uncommon for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the companies themselves to issue a recall after discovering a defect because the stakes are so high when it comes to motorcycle-related injuries and deaths. One way to keep yourself safe is to conduct a periodic check of motorcycle recalls to see if you’re perhaps riding on a bike with defective shocks or a similar issue that can be life-threatening.
At Morgan & Morgan, we get results for our motorcyclist clients, including a $47.5 million award for a severely injured biker who was run over by an intoxicated truck driver. If you were in an accident or were the victim of a crash, contact our motorcycle specialist lawyers to get a free, no-risk case review.