You plan for the possibility of a car accident. Like most drivers, you carry auto insurance to protect against the financial cost of a crash. And you may even have a backup plan to ensure you will have a vehicle in the event of a car accident, especially if you live in an area without public transportation. But all of that planning does not make an accident any less shocking or painful when it occurs. And in its aftermath, life can feel overwhelming, even if you do all the right things like calling the police and seeking immediate medical care. To help you make some sense of a chaotic and stressful situation, here is an overview of what to expect after a car accident, and how an experienced car accident lawyer can get you compensation for your losses.
What Becomes of Your Vehicle After a Car Accident?Generally, after a car accident, one of three things will happen to your vehicle.
- You drive your vehicle away from the scene of the accident. If your vehicle did not sustain damage that made it dangerous to drive or undrivable, you can generally drive it away from the accident scene. You may use your vehicle to get home, to the hospital, or to continue with your day, depending on the accident’s severity.
- Your friend or family member picks up your vehicle. Sometimes, you may need emergency medical attention or feel too shaken to drive. To avoid towing fees, you may move your vehicle off the road, then have someone else come to pick it up later. You cannot leave your vehicle in the middle of the road or in an area that could prove dangerous for other drivers, but someone else can take your vehicle home for you.
- A tow truck takes your vehicle away. Sometimes, your vehicle might suffer such severe damage that no one can drive it. In that case, a tow truck can pick up the vehicle and carry it away. The tow truck driver may take it to the tow lot, where you can pick it up later. Or you may give instructions for the tow truck driver to take your vehicle to a specific location, including dropping it off at the garage of your choice so that you can get a repair estimate.
Repair and Replacement ConsiderationsRegardless of how your vehicle leaves the accident scene, be careful about making any repairs to your vehicle before an insurance adjuster representing your auto insurance company, or certified repair shop, assesses the damage. Doing so could impair your ability to claim compensation for your losses. An adjuster or mechanic may:
- Photograph the damage to the vehicle
- Evaluate the vehicle to see what repairs it needs
- Create an estimate of the repair costs of the vehicle
Collision Claims Against Your Own InsuranceCollision insurance covers the repair and replacement costs for your own vehicle after an accident. State law does not require drivers to carry collision insurance, but many do. If your collision coverage pays for vehicle repair or replacement, and you pursue a liability claim against the at-fault party’s insurance, your insurer may have the right to seek reimbursement from the amount of any liability insurance award you receive (known as a subrogation claim). An experienced car accident attorney can assist you in securing payment under your collision policy and in resolving your insurer’s subrogation claim.
Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Claims Against Your Own InsuranceAround 12.6 percent of drivers on the road are uninsured they do not carry the auto liability insurance required by law. Many more drivers are underinsured they carry liability insurance, but not enough to cover all of the damages you sustained as an accident victim.. Most auto insurance companies offer uninsured and underinsured coverage, which you can buy to protect you against your losses in an accident with a driver who doesn’t carry any or enough insurance to pay you what you need. If you carry that insurance, you may file a claim against it whenever your losses exceed what the at-fault party’s liability insurance (if any) covers. An experienced car lawyer knows you to pursue an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim on your behalf.
MedPay or PIP ClaimsAuto insurers also often offer insurance to cover your medical expenses and other losses in a crash, regardless of who is at fault. MedPay insurance offers immediate compensation to cover your medical bills following a car accident. PIP insurance, also known as personal injury protection insurance, offers similar protection but also includes coverage and compensation for lost earnings and other financial losses. MedPay and PIP, if you carry them, typically cover your medical expenses first, ahead of your ordinary health insurance (if you have it). An experienced car accident attorney can handle a MedPay or PIP claim for you in most cases. As above, if you also pursue a liability claim against the party at-fault for your car accident, your MedPay or PIP carrier may have a subrogation claim for reimbursement out of your liability award.
Step-By-Step Overview of an Insurance Claim When Someone Else Was At Fault for Your Car AccidentThe process of claiming compensation for losses you sustained in a car accident caused by someone else can feel intimidating. But don’t let it stress you. An experienced car accident lawyer can handle pursuit of a claim on your behalf in most cases, saving you the effort, confusion, and frustration of dealing with insurance companies, defense lawyers, and unfamiliar legal issues. Here’s a step-by-step overview of the role an attorney can generally play in securing compensation from an insurance company on your behalf, when someone else’s wrongful actions caused your car accident. (Not every case follows the precise sequence of steps below, but most cases proceed in their general direction. Nevertheless, it’s always critical to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer about the steps potentially needed in your case to secure compensation for your accident losses, as they may differ substantially from what we describe here.)
1. You contact a car accident lawyer immediately.If you suffered an injury in your car accident, contact an experienced lawyer immediately. An initial consultation with a car accident lawyer is always free-of-charge. Most lawyers also represent car accident victims on contingency, which means they only earn a fee if they win for you. (Disclaimer: You may have to pay an opposing party’s court fees and costs in the event of a loss.)
2. You wait for the lawyers and insurance companies to investigate the accident.Your lawyer, the at-fault party’s lawyer, and any insurance company facing liability for your damages will typically want to review the facts and circumstances of what happened. The purpose of these investigations is to determine what contributed to an accident and who may have liability for it. Lawyers and insurers often review evidence like:
- Witness statements and video footage of the accident;
- Photos, videos, and police reports from the accident scene;
- Medical records of your injuries and treatments;
- Medical bills, expense receipts, and other documentation of financial losses;
- Any repair or replacement estimate for your vehicle damage;
- Expert opinions on medical, forensic, or financial topics relevant to liability or damages.
3. Your lawyer demands compensation on your behalf.After completing an investigation and formulating a view on liability and damages, your lawyer will usually demand compensation on your behalf from the at-fault party or its insurer, or from your insurer (if claiming under your own policy). One common way of doing so is to send a demand package to the insurer explaining:
- Why the lawyer believes the insurance covers your losses; and
- The amount you deserve to receive.