What to Expect After a Car Accident

January 13, 2023 | Ed Bernstein
What to Expect After a Car Accident

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.

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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 Considerations

Regardless 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
Your insurance company, or the at-fault party’s, may use this information to determine what they will offer to pay for vehicle repair or replacement. In most cases, you have the right to decide whether to accept the damage and cost assessment or to seek another, independent evaluation. Contact an experienced car accident injury attorney right away to learn about your rights and decide on next steps. Sometimes, the cost of repairing damage may amount to more than the vehicle is worth. In that case, your auto insurance company might deem the vehicle totaled and offer to pay you the vehicle’s replacement value. But beware insurers sometimes try to minimize their own costs by undervaluing your car, declaring it totaled, and then paying you an amount that’s less than what you need to purchase a replacement vehicle. Speak with an experienced attorney for a car accident right away if your insurer refuses to pay for repairs you believe are reasonable, or offers you less than you think your car was worth before the accident.

What to Expect From Insurance?

What to Expect After a Car Accident Most car accidents lead to insurance claims. You can often use insurance funds to pay for repairs and medical expenses. Insurance may also cover the damages you suffered as a car accident victim. You may have the right to pursue multiple types of insurance claims after a car accident.

Liability Claims Against the At-Fault Driver’s (or Another At-Fault Party’s) Insurance

The law generally entitles you to claim compensation from anyone who was at fault for causing your accident and, by extension, that party’s liability insurance policy. A liability claim can seek money to compensate you for the damages you sustained in the accident, including:
  • Medical expenses and other out-of-pocket costs
  • Lost past and future earnings
  • Physical pain and emotional suffering
  • Loss of quality of life and relationships
Drivers must carry liability insurance to legally operate a vehicle in most states. Many businesses and individuals also maintain other forms of liability insurance to protect them against the financial consequences of their own negligent or reckless actions. Talk to a car accident lawyer today about the potential liability claims you may have the right to pursue for your losses.

Collision Claims Against Your Own Insurance

Collision 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 Insurance

Around 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 Claims

Auto 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 Accident

The 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.
By analyzing this information, the parties develop a view about who owed a legal duty to pay you compensation, and how much you should receive.

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.
Demand packages sent to insurers aren’t the only way to claim compensation, however. A lawyer may conclude that it’s preferable to send a demand to the at-fault party’s attorney, for example. Or your lawyer may believe it’s in your best interest to file a lawsuit for damages against the at-fault party immediately. Your lawyer might also prefer pursuing multiple demand strategies simultaneously. Your priorities and the particulars of your case will typically dictate the path your lawyer chooses.

4. The parties negotiate about a potential settlement of your claim.

Regardless of how a demand gets made, at some point the parties’ representatives—your lawyer, the at-fault party’s lawyer, and the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim — will typically start negotiating a settlement of your claim. Negotiations can happen by phone, in person, or in writing. They can happen directly between the parties, or through a neutral intermediary called a mediator. And they can last less than a day or span over weeks or months. The purpose of these negotiations, however they happen, is to resolve your claim through an agreement in which you receive money and, in return, you release the at-fault party and insurance company from further liability for your injuries. Most car accident cases end through this type of negotiated settlement, because it’s generally faster and cheaper than going to trial, and it gives the parties control and certainty about the case’s outcome. Your lawyer usually conducts negotiations on your behalf. But your lawyer cannot agree to any settlement without your permission. Of course, a lawyer can advise you about when to accept or reject a settlement offer, but in most cases you alone get to decide how much you will agree to take to resolve your claim.

5. An unresolved claim may end up in court.

Not all cases settle, however. Sometimes the lawyers and insurance companies cannot reach an agreement about who should pay you or how much you should get. In those cases, you generally have the option of taking your claim to court through a lawsuit against the at-fault party and its insurer. Your lawyer may wait until negotiations have broken down to file a lawsuit on your behalf, or may proceed with legal action from the get-go to help spur negotiations forward. A lawsuit that does not settle may conclude through a ruling from a judge, or via a trial before a judge or jury. If your lawyer succeeds in winning your case, you generally have the right to enforce the court’s judgment in your favor against the at-fault party and its insurance company.

6. Ideally, you receive full payment of your settlement or court award amount.

Your car accident claim aims to recover the maximum compensation available for your injuries. Ideally, there will be enough insurance coverage to cover the full extent of your damages. But if not, you may also have the ability to pursue compensation directly from the at-fault party. Your lawyer typically manages the collection and distribution of the funds paid by those parties. The lawyer usually oversees reimbursement of any insurance subrogation claims, collection of the lawyer’s own fee, and disbursement of the remainder of the money to you.

Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today

Ed Bernstein
Ed Bernstein, Las Vegas Car Accident Lawyer
Don’t wait to seek legal help from a personal injury law firm in Las Vegas for your car accident claim. Contact an experienced car accident lawyer in your area today for a free case evaluation.

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Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.