Car Accidents and Commonly Asked Questions

February 25, 2020

by Donaldson & Weston

A car accident can happen to anyone in virtually any situation. Understanding the cause of the accident is essential to deciding who is liable for it. Still, the type of accident can also be relevant to a claim. The kind of accident may affect the scope and nature of the victim’s injuries, which determine how much their claim is worth. Certain types of accidents also lead to assumptions about who may have been at fault, which you may need to consider if you are bringing a claim.

The best way to protect your rights is to schedule a free consultation with a car accident lawyer. A seasoned attorney can review the facts of your case, answer your questions, and provide sound legal guidance.

What do you do after a car accident?

If you have injuries, the most important thing to do after a car accident is to seek medical attention. Unless you need to be transported to the emergency room immediately, you should stay at the scene to get the contact and insurance information of the other drivers involved. You also should get the contact information of any witnesses to the accident, who can help support your claim. If you have a phone with a camera, you should take photos of various parts of the accident scene.

How long do you have to report a car accident to your insurance?

The terms of your policy will determine how long you have to report a car accident to your insurance provider. You should make sure to be familiar with the conditions so that you report the accident as required. Failing to report an accident as required by the terms of the policy likely will allow the insurer to deny coverage later, even if your claim is otherwise legitimate.

Do you have to call the police after a minor car accident?

In some states, you do not have to call the police after a minor car accident that did not result in injuries. Others do not require drivers to call the police after a car accident that resulted in neither injuries nor property damage above a certain threshold of value. However, you may want to call the police even if you do not technically need to contact them. They will put together a police report that can be helpful when you file an insurance claim.

How do you know who was at fault for a car accident?

Finding out who was at fault for a car accident usually requires a detailed investigation. Driver error is the most common cause of car accidents. However, other parties also may bear some of the faults, such as manufacturers, the employers of drivers, government agencies, and property owners. An investigation will look into any traffic violations or evidence of carelessness by a driver. It will also seek any defects in a vehicle and the layout of the accident scene.

What if I was partly at fault for an accident?

If you were partly at fault for an accident, you might reduce your damages award according to your percentage of responsibility for causing it. For example, if the other driver was 60 percent at fault, and you were 40 percent at fault, you would be able to recover 60 percent of your damages. Some states have cutoffs around 50 or 51 percent. If the accident victim’s fault is at or above that percentage, they cannot recover any damages in those states. Also, four states and the District of Columbia do not allow an accident victim to recover any damages if they bore any of the faults for the accident.

Is the rear driver always liable for a rear-end collision?

No, a rear driver is not always liable for a rear-end collision. Many states have a presumption that holds a rear driver accountable unless they can prove otherwise. The expectation is that each driver maintains a safe following distance from the car in front of them. However, the front driver may be liable in some situations, such as stopping to make a turn without using the turn signal. Or, failing to pull over when the car breaks down or failing to repair faulty brake lights.

How long after a car accident can you file a lawsuit?

The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in your state will determine how long after a car accident, you can file a lawsuit. Statutes of constraints usually last between two and four years, although they can be shorter in some states. If your case involves only property damage, you may have a longer statute of limitations. Regardless of how long you have to file a lawsuit, you should act sooner rather than later to gather the evidence and file the paperwork that you need.

How do insurance companies settle auto claims?

Typically, insurance companies settle auto claims through negotiations with a claimant following their initial demand letter. Insurers are profit-driven companies, so they will try to settle claims as cheaply as possible. The first offer that a victim receives may fall well short of their needs. You should be prepared to go through a bargaining process, and you should recognize that the insurance adjuster is not on your side, even if they seem friendly. If negotiations fail, you may need to file a lawsuit.

How much money can you get from a car accident settlement?

The money that you can get from a car accident settlement will depend on the specific circumstances of your accident and injuries. There is no set amount associated with any type of damages. Insurers sometimes use multipliers of two or three when calculating non-economic damages (like pain and suffering) from a claimant’s economic losses. However, you should not apply any formula to your case but instead, consult an attorney for an estimate.

What types of damages will a car accident settlement cover?

In general, a car accident settlement will cover two main types of damages: economic damages and non-economic damages. Financial losses are often also known as special damages, while non-economic costs are commonly also known as general damages. Economic costs account for medical bills, lost income, property damage, and other financial losses. Non-economic injuries account for a victim’s pain and suffering, mental anguish, lost enjoyment of life, and other more subjective forms of harm.

How long does it take to get a settlement from a car accident?

The time that it takes to get a settlement from a car accident will depend on factors such as the complexity of the crash, the extent of the victim’s injuries, and the quality of the evidence supporting the claim. If the fault is relatively straightforward, you have suffered catastrophic injuries. If you have plenty of documentation to prove them, you will have a stronger chance of getting a fair settlement promptly. The process may take longer if the insurer suspects that you are exaggerating your injuries or that you may have been at fault. If you believe that the insurer is unreasonably delaying making payments on your claim, you may be able to bring a bad faith claim against the insurer.

Do you have to accept an insurance settlement?

No, you do not have to accept an insurance settlement that seems unfairly low to you. You should be especially wary about accepting an insurer’s initial offer, which is probably small and may not take all of your injuries into account. If you do not accept an offer, however, you may eventually need to file a lawsuit.

What are pain and suffering, and how much can you get for it?

Pain and suffering include both physical pain and mental anguish caused by your injuries. The amount that you receive will depend on the extent of your injuries and your ability to document them. If you have accumulated substantial medical bills or missed time from work, an insurer likely will recognize that you have experienced significant pain and suffering. Certain types of injuries also are commonly associated with severe pain, such as broken bones. If your damage is not critical or did not require extensive treatment, it may be harder to prove that you experienced significant pain and suffering.

What will insurance pay for a totaled car?

Insurance will pay for the fair market value of a totaled car. The fair market value is the value of the vehicle at the time of the accident. It was not the value when you bought it or the price that you paid for it. The insurer will then take away the car. If the vehicle is still on a loan or lease, you can get compensation for any amount remaining on the loan or lease if you have gap insurance coverage.

Can I get insurance after an accident?

Yes, you can get insurance after an accident, but it will not apply retroactively to cover the accident. You would be personally liable for damages resulting from that accident if you were at fault for it. If you do not have sufficient assets, this can seriously jeopardize your finances. You may face penalties if you do not meet the minimum insurance requirements in your state. Getting auto insurance is critical even if you believe that you are a safe driver and will not cause an accident.

Can someone drive your car if they are not on your insurance?

Yes, someone can drive your car if they are not on your insurance, but your insurance may or may not cover any accidents while they are driving. Insurance policies generally cover the named insured’s spouse and family members who are living in the same household with them. The policy may include other people whom the named insured allows borrowing the car. However, it may provide a lower limit or a higher deductible in these cases. Insurance will not cover an unlicensed driver using your vehicle and may not include a very inexperienced driver. If you are uncertain about whether someone is a safe driver, you should think twice before letting them borrow your car.

Do I need a lawyer after a car accident?

You likely need a lawyer after a car accident if your injuries are severe. Or also, if your claim is likely to be contested. By contrast, you may not need a lawyer if you sustained only property damage and minor injuries, and liability is clear. Most car accident lawyers offer free consultations, which you can use to get an initial impression of the challenges that you are likely to face. A lawyer can help you by gathering evidence, communicating with insurers, and generally taking the stress out of the process while you focus on recovering.

How much does a lawyer get from a car accident settlement?

A lawyer usually gets about 30% to 33% from a car accident settlement as their contingency fee. If they do not get money for you, you do not need to pay them a fee. However, you still may need to pay court costs and other expenses associated with filing your case, unless your agreement with the lawyer provides otherwise.

How do I find the right car accident lawyer for me?

The right car accident lawyer will be someone who communicates candidly, shows compassion for your situation, and has a proven record of accomplishment resolving similar claims. Trial experience can help explain to the insurer that you are serious about your case and prepared to litigate. You should interview several different attorneys to see who the right personality is fit for you. If you want to make sure that your attorney is personally doing the work on your case, you can ask about this issue.

Schedule a Free Case Review with a Car Accident Lawyer in West Palm Beach

To discuss your case with a personal injury attorney in West Palm Beach, contact Donaldson & Weston. Our lawyers offer free consultations and accept car accident claims on a contingency fee basis. Call our office at 561-299-3999 or send us a message on our Contact Page to set up a case evaluation.