Get the Money Insurers Owe You after a Car Crash
The average driver will get into three or four car crashes over the course of their driving career. They may only be minor fender-benders, but one serious car accident with major injuries or death is a life-changer. Afterward, the injured individual and/or grieving family will face steep medical bills and other difficult costs and losses.
As car crash victims turn to insurance companies after major accidents, they often find that car insurance is a complex system that is foreign to them. Indeed, only two types of people deal with the details of car insurance day in and day out: insurers and car accident attorneys. Insurers try to keep as much of the money that should go to car accident victims as they can.
At Stern Law, our car accident lawyers want to get as much insurance money into your hands as we can.
Our objective is to ensure your car accident settlement lets you return as closely as possible to the life you had before the crash. Ken Stern and his team at Stern Law, PLLC, work to educate car accident victims about their rights, and fight on their behalf to make insurers pay what they rightly owe.
Contact Stern Law today to for a free discussion of how we can help with your car accident case. We will speak for you.
7 Steps to Protect Your Interests After a Car Accident
The moments following a car crash can be chaotic and stressful, especially if you or a loved one are injured. However, these moments may also be crucial for your ultimate financial outcome if you have a car accident claim.
As part of our service to accident victims, below we offer seven steps to take after any car accident. Taking these steps will strengthen any legal claim you may pursue to cover the costs of your medical expenses, property damage, lost income and more from your car accident.
- Check for injuries. Your first priority after a car crash should be your and your passengers’ conditions. Consider whether you have been injured, and ask about your passengers. If you are able to, check on people in the other vehicle(s). Do not move anyone (including yourself) who appears to have suffered a head, neck or spine injury unless it is absolutely necessary to protect that person’s life. If necessary, summon emergency medical care to your location by phoning 911.
- Remain calm. Proceed in a calm and business-like manner as you deal with your car crash. Be polite to the other driver(s) and/or passengers. Do not make or respond to accusations. Do not accept or admit fault for the accident. If you need to deflect an aggressive driver or passenger, say the authorities are on the way; they will handle this, and wait inside your vehicle.
- Cooperate with authorities. If emergency medical responders say you should go to the emergency room, go with them. If police respond to the crash, answer their questions truthfully and succinctly. Don’t volunteer information they don’t ask for. Do not admit fault for the accident.
- Get a medical examination. If you do not go to the ER right away, see a doctor the following day or sooner if possible. Some serious injuries common to car accidents may not exhibit symptoms right away. An initial medical exam after a car crash begins to record your injuries, if they exist, and your medical costs for a potential accident claim.
- Gather driver information. Be ready to provide your name, address, phone number, driver’s license number and expiration date, license plate number, car registration information and insurance information, including the policy number, to police or the other driver. In some states, you are required to provide the other driver this information after a car crash. If police respond, they will get this information from each driver and share it with the other driver.
- Document the car accident. Begin to create a record of your car accident. If you are able to, get photos or video of the accident scene, vehicles involved and their damage, any markings on the road, any conditions that may have contributed to the crash, your injuries, your passengers’ injuries, etc. Record the names and contact information of any witnesses at the scene. Record anything that will help tell the story of your car accident. As soon as you can, write down in detail everything that you can remember about the crash – what you were doing immediately prior to the crash, what happened when the crash occurred, anything the other driver(s) and/or any passengers said after the crash, and what actions you took (if any) after the crash. Create a file for any and all documents related to your crash, medical care and recovery, and save every report, record, receipt, etc.
- Contact your insurer. Contact your auto insurance provider within 24 hours to open a claim. Answer questions but stick to the facts. Do not say anything to downplay the damage to your vehicle or your injuries. If you hear from the other driver’s insurance company, refer them to your insurance carrier.
In the days after your car accident, do not sign anything presented to you by an insurance company representative. Do not agree to record a statement. You could be signing away your right to compensation or say something that will be held against you to reduce or deny your claim.
We strongly urge you to contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible if you have suffered an injury in an accident. A car accident attorney, such as ours at Stern Law, can review any settlement offer you may have received, or investigate your crash and advise you about pursuing a personal injury insurance claim.
At Stern Law, if we can pursue a claim for you, we will do so aggressively, seeking full restitution for your losses, including your pain and suffering, as provided by law.
Resist a Quick Settlement Offer after a Car Accident
Soon after you have been injured in a car accident, you may hear from the at-fault driver’s insurance company and receive a settlement offer. Insurance adjustors have been known to visit hospital rooms, check in hand. It could look like a pretty nice amount of money.
There are two distinct problems with a quick insurance settlement after a car accident:
- Accepting an insurance settlement requires your signature. But the statement you sign will say that in exchange for the money you promise to forego any legal action you might otherwise be entitled to take against the at-fault party. In short, your signature closes the case. In most car accident cases, that check will be all you ever get.
- You don’t know your costs and losses from this wreck. The biggest expense after a serious car accident is typically the cost of medical care. In the first few days after suffering a serious injury, it’s not possible to know how your recovery will go and what care you will ultimately need. But insurance companies employ actuaries, people who compile and analyze statistics to calculate insurance risks and payments. The insurance company knows what they want to pay for injuries like yours and what is likely to look good to someone in your position. The amount initially offered as an insurance settlement will have nothing to do with your specific case or your needs.
Particularly if you have been seriously injured in a car accident, you will need — and deserve —far more than what’s in an initial settlement offer if you are to be made whole.
A Stern Law car accident attorney will gladly review any settlement offer you have received in your car accident case. We can help you understand precisely what the at-fault party is offering to you, as well as what rights you would be giving up by accepting the settlement. We can also help you determine whether the amount offered is sufficient to cover your expenses and losses.
What Compensation Do You Really Deserve for Your Car Accident?
The only way to ensure you are being paid what you are due after a car accident is to fully investigate the accident and your injuries and recovery, and to develop a full accounting of your losses from being in the accident. Only then can you seek all of the compensation you are legally owed.
The costs that may be covered in a claim should include:
- Medical expenses from the initial ambulance ride, through the ER exam, surgery, convalescence, and rehabilitation therapy. This includes prescribed and over-the-counter medications, bandages, assistive devices (cane, walker, wheelchair, hospital bed) that you rent or buy, transportation costs to doctor appointments, and more. In cases of long-term care needs or permanent disability, specialists help us project future costs in a life care plan.
- Property damage to your vehicle and any additional property damaged or destroyed in the crash. This could include any cargo of value in your vehicle, ranging from jewelry to luggage or recent purchases that never made it home from the store. In some cases, special values must be taken into consideration, such as for a vintage or restored vehicle, or something like prize-winning show dogs killed in a crash. Such a claim would require special documentation and substantiation of value, which an attorney could help develop.
- Lost income that you are unable to earn during recovery or because of partial or full disability caused by the accident. Your employer might offer sick leave that pays you salary while you recuperate, but if it is limited or nonexistent, your claim should seek money you have not been paid that you would have made. In addition to regular wages, you can seek additional money lost, such as performance bonuses you have regularly earned but did not qualify for because of your absence from work. If your injury diminishes your ability to work for a living, you may be able to seek future lost income, including allowances for probable raises and promotions, bonuses, stock options, etc.
These are the basic economic losses typically included in a personal injury claim. In addition, most states allow the injured party to seek compensation (or “damages”) for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
A wrongful death claim after a fatal car accident could seek the above for immediate dependent family members plus the funeral and burial costs.
Find All Liable Parties to Maximize Car Accident Compensation
In addition to calculating the full range of costs and losses, a car accident attorney’s investigation can also identify additional liable parties in some cases. This not only allows the injured driver and/or their family to hold responsible parties accountable, it increases the number of insurance policies that may provide compensation to cover losses and expenses.
In addition to the at-fault driver, such third parties in a car accident could include, for example:
- Dram shop owners or social hosts: In drunk driving accident cases, many states hold people responsible for car wrecks and their damage if they sold or served alcohol to an underage driver or a driver who was already intoxicated and later wrecked. Evidence such as witness testimony, receipts and social media posts may implicate third parties in drunk driving accidents.
- Texting or phoning correspondents: In at least one case, a court agreed that an individual who texted a driver who she knew was driving and who crashed while reading the text could be held liable for the accident. Texting while driving is a known threat on our highways, and seeking a court order to obtain cell phone evidence has become a routine part of car accident investigations.
- Employers: If the at-fault driver in a car wreck was driving as part of their job duties, their employer may be held liable. This typically is the case in commercial truck accidents, but may apply in other instances. For example, the employer may have acted with negligence by requiring an employee to make a trip as part of their job though he or she knew the driver was too fatigued or drowsy from long work hours to drive safely. In some states, an employer who puts drivers on the road as part of their job assumes “vicarious liability” for any accidents they cause.
- Automotive manufacturers: In many car accidents, it is the failure of an automotive part or system, such as an airbag, tires, brakes or steering system, that causes or contributes to a car accident. An investigation may determine that an automotive manufacturer’s negligence in producing a faulty product is totally responsible for an accident, and a product liability case may be pursued. Or, if the driver was notified of a recall but failed to obtain repairs (or otherwise contributed to the accident), the manufacturer might be considered partially liable for the crash.
- Local government and/or contractors: When road conditions, such as large pot holes or missing or obscured signage, contribute to a car wreck, the government entity responsible for that roadway might be held liable for damage and injuries in the accident. In accidents in or near road construction work zones, it is a good idea to investigate how the work zone was set up and manned. If a work zone does not provide proper warning and space for deceleration, for example, the contractors as well as the hiring entity might be liable for car accidents in the work zone.
It is better to investigate any car accident quickly before evidence is degraded, lost or destroyed. This is another reason to contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible if you have been injured in a car accident. Only a car accident attorney puts your interests first as he or she investigates an accident you were involved in.
Answers To Your Questions About Auto Accident Cases
If you are involved in a car crash, your first concern should be your safety and the safety of others traveling with you. If you are able to do so, move your car out of the path of traffic so as to reduce the likelihood of being struck by another car. (You should not move if you believe you have a head, neck, or spine injury unless your life is in immediate danger.) Summon medical assistance unless you are absolutely sure that you did not suffer any injuries whatsoever. Next, obtain the name, contact information, and insurance information from every other driver involved in the crash. You should also obtain the names and contact information of any witnesses at the scene of the crash who say they saw the accident occur. Finally, if you have a camera or camera-equipped smartphone, take pictures of the scene of the crash, the damage to the vehicles, and your injuries. This information and evidence can be extremely beneficial to your attorney and to your car crash lawsuit.
“No fault” insurance essentially means that the insurance carrier of each driver will pay the expenses and losses of their respective clients (up to the policy’s limits), regardless of who was at fault in causing the crash. This usually means injured drivers receive compensation from their insurance carrier more quickly than they might otherwise receive. The trade-off for this benefit is that drivers are usually unable to file car crash lawsuits to seek additional compensation from the other driver. Only a few states have “no fault” insurance laws, and some of these states have exceptions to the general prohibition preventing them from filing a civil lawsuit. It is best to consult with an experienced attorney in your state to learn what rights you may have in this situation.
My family and I were traveling back from vacation when we had our accident. We are not from the state in which the accident occurred and neither is the at-fault driver. Where should we file our case, and what law will apply?
This is a tricky question. First, you may be able to file your car crash lawsuit in the state in which the accident occurred or in the home state of the at-fault driver. You would need to evaluate the laws of each of those jurisdictions to determine which state’s laws were more beneficial for you. As far as which law will apply, in most every case the law of the state in which you choose to file your lawsuit will apply. However, there may be issues pertinent to the resolution of your case (such as insurance coverage and the payment of claims) that would be resolved according to different laws.
Each state has a “statute of limitations” that describes how long an injury victim has to file a lawsuit. The amount of time you have would depend on the laws of the state in which you intend to file your lawsuit. It is crucial that you abide by these statutes of limitations – if you do not, you may be precluded from ever filing a lawsuit for compensation based upon that car crash.
Contact Stern Law After a Car Accident
At Stern Law, we work with individuals and families whose lives have been upended by car accidents to ensure they receive compensation they need to put their lives back together. Stern Law works with a national network of litigation attorneys to pursue personal injury lawsuits for our car accident clients. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, contact Stern Law. We will speak for you.
Stern Law provides legal representation that is tailored to our clients’ needs. We will listen to you, investigate your car accident and injuries, and advise you of the legal options available to you. When we pursue car accident cases, we do so aggressively.
We represent clients. We don’t simply handle cases.