What Is My Car Accident Case Worth?
When someone suffers an injury in a car accident, they often have questions about what actions to take following an accident. While seeking medical attention and informing their insurance company are the initial steps, making sure they seek legal guidance is another crucial step.
One of the questions that car accident attorneys are accustomed to fielding is about compensation. Nearly every victim wants to know what their accident case is worth. However, this is never an easy question for a lawyer to address because so many variables are involved. Let’s take a look at what goes into an accident claim.
Liability and Car Accident Cases
One example is Florida which is a no-fault insurance state. In most cases, a car accident victim will have to file a claim with their insurance company if they suffer an injury.
Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage is required for every driver on the roadway. There are specific instances where a victim may file a third-party claim against the person responsible for the accident. However, to be able to do so, the victim must first prove that another driver was liable for the accident.
To prove liability in a car accident, the injured person must show the following:
- The driver who caused the accident owed them a duty of care.
- The driver who caused the accident breached their duty of care.
- The breach of duty of care resulted in an injury.
- The injury caused a financial loss to the victim.
Every driver on the road owes other drivers a duty of care. A car accident caused by a driver under the influence, driving recklessly, or speeding can mean the driver who caused the accident breached their duty of care. When victims seek medical attention immediately following an accident, their medical records will show they suffered an injury. Medical bills, car repair bills, and other costs associated with the accident can demonstrate financial losses.
Victims of car accidents can seek copies of police accident reports, witness statements, and video from traffic cams or other nearby cameras to establish fault when necessary. In many cases, the victim will seek assistance from a personal injury attorney to help them gather the necessary information to prove the other driver was at fault for the accident. Keep in mind the limits on other states will be based on that state’s rules.
No-Fault Insurance and Limitations on Claims
If a car accident victim does not suffer a serious injury, their only recourse may be to file a claim with their own insurer. There are specific situations where a car accident victim may step outside the no-fault system and file a claim with the responsible driver’s insurer or file a personal injury lawsuit.
- The injured party suffers an injury that is considered permanent.
- An injury causes the victim permanent scarring or disfigurement, which is significant.
- The victim suffers the loss of a bodily function that is regarded as permanent.
While these may seem vague, there are specific situations, including someone who has lost a limb in an accident, a victim who suffers a traumatic brain injury, or a victim who loses their vision or hearing as a result of the injuries sustained in a car accident. While these may seem extreme, they all fall within the category of serious injuries.
Some of the most common injuries a car accident victim has to deal with are considered serious. Therefore, no car accident victim should just assume they have no option but to accept what their own insurance company will offer them for a settlement.
Determining the Worth of a Car Accident Case
Every car accident victim faces unique challenges. Just as no accidents are identical, no victims are the same. Every person heals differently. Factors such as age, health prior to the accident, and the type of work a victim is involved in impact the total value of a car accident claim.
Car accident victims can file a claim to recover compensation for:
- Medical bills associated with the accident. These costs would include out-of-pocket expenses for treatment, including tests, medication, and medical devices like crutches. These costs would also be included if a car accident victim requires follow-up visits or rehabilitation therapy.
- Wage and benefit losses. The victim may also claim the value of any losses associated with the time they need to take off work to recover from their injury. This not only includes hourly wages but may also include benefit losses, including pension or profit-sharing plan losses, overtime losses, and bonuses which they might have been able to earn had they been able to work.
- Unexpected expenses. Some car accident victims may have to hire outside help to assist with chores they did before suffering an injury. This includes hiring someone to get them back and forth to doctor’s appointments, get children to school, or provide daycare services for their children.
When a victim is able to go outside of the no-fault system, they are also entitled to include claims for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, and other non-financial losses which they suffer as a result of a car accident.
Working on Insurance Claims and With Adjusters
Car accident victims are under a great deal of stress. Not only are they trying to recover from their injury, but they are also dealing with financial stress. After reporting an accident to their insurer, they will also begin getting information from their insurance company.
One of the first things an insurance company will do following the reporting of a car accident is to assign a claims adjuster. In most cases, there will be two adjusters, one handling the damage to the vehicle and one handling the injury portion of the claim.
There are some things that an accident victim should be aware of when dealing with an insurance adjuster, including:
- They are not there to protect the rights of the victim. Adjusters work for the insurance company and are under no obligation to inform the injured party of their rights under the law.
- They will ask a victim to provide a recorded statement. An accident victim should never give a recorded statement. Doing so could put a future claim in jeopardy. These statements are used as a tool to help insurance companies reduce the amount of a victim’s claim.
- They will send countless documents to victims. Insurers will often ask a car accident victim to provide them with certain documentation to support their claim. This is normal. However, insurers may also send a medical release form not limited to only the accident resulting in an injury. These forms are generally designed to assist the insurance company in digging into a car accident victim’s past medical record. This is to allow them the opportunity to show the victim’s injuries may not be entirely because of a car accident.
With these issues in mind, a car accident victim should seek the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney before they file a claim with the insurance company. Under no circumstances should a victim sign any paperwork without first having the documents reviewed by an attorney who understands Florida’s personal injury statutes and the insurance rules that apply. Signing any paperwork could result in a car accident victim forfeiting some or all rights.
Car Accident Statistics
Since we used Florida to demonstrate statutes and insurance rules earlier, we will use the same state for accidents as well. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) counts nearly 400,000 accidents in one recent year.
These accidents resulted in 247,745 injuries. While not every injury or accident is preventable, some are. These stats tell us that not only were there numerous victims, but a deeper look into these numbers also reflects some concerning information, including the fact that 141 victims suffered an injury in crashes involving impaired drivers. An additional 199 had their life cut short.
The drivers who got behind the wheel while impaired can be held financially liable for the losses an injury victim suffered. They can also be held liable by the surviving family members of those victims who lost their life.
Victim Rights Following a Florida Car Accident
Car accident victims often do not understand what legal rights are available to them following a car accident. Many believe their only option is to accept whatever the insurance company offers them in terms of compensation.
There are a few things that each accident victim should be aware of before they decide not to seek legal counsel, including:
- Statutes of limitations. Florida allows an accident victim to seek compensation from the responsible driver for four years when plaintiffs base the claim on negligence.
- Initial consultations are often free. In nearly all cases, a car accident lawyer offers a free, no-obligation initial consultation. This allows the accident victim to understand their legal options following an accident.
- Claims should be filed after recovery. It is often tempting for an accident victim to file a claim immediately. However, in most cases, once a claim is paid, the victim is asked to sign a form that states the insurance company has no further obligation to the victim. This means that even if the victim’s financial losses increase after the claim is filed, they have no recourse.
The benefits of seeking legal help after a car accident are clear. By contacting a lawyer, they can handle negotiations with the insurance company, review documents that the victim may be asked to sign, and they can serve as an advocate for the victim.
The Cost of Hiring a Lawyer Often Prevents Victims From Seeking Help
Accident victims never need to worry about how to pay a car accident lawyer.
- Free consultation. When a victim reaches out to a personal injury attorney, they are often provided with a free consultation to determine whether they have the basis for a third-party insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. The more information a victim can provide before contacting a lawyer, the better.
- Contingency fees. Car accident injury lawyers typically work on a contingency fee basis. This means that unless they can successfully negotiate a settlement on behalf of their client, the client does not pay for legal services. There may be other fees, such as documentation, filing fees, or copy fees which the firm will disclose when they are hired.
No car accident victim should feel they cannot afford representation. Many victims are also under the misguided notion that they lose control of the claims process once they hire a lawyer. This is a falsehood. Lawyers are hired by a client, and the client’s wishes must always be followed. Every offer which is made in a car accident case must be presented to the client, and the client makes the final decision as to whether to accept the offer.
Remember, insurance companies often have a band of attorneys who they consult with when they are dealing with claims. These attorneys are experienced in helping insurers minimize the value of a claim. They are there to protect the insurance company, not protect the victim of an accident—even when the victim is their own client.
Car Accident Lawyers Make Free, Immediate Legal Help Available
Car accidents can turn a victim’s life upside down. Recovery times, injuries, and even the speed at which the accident occurred can all impact the value of car accident cases. There is no easy answer. The best way to find out the value is to speak with a personal injury attorney with experience handling similar cases.
When someone is involved in a car accident that was not their fault or lost a family member in a car accident, they often do not know what steps to take or who they can turn to for advice. The best decision a car accident victim can make is to contact a car accident injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident and find out more about their legal rights and options.
Jim Holliday has recovered millions of dollars for his clients in restitution for their injuries.