Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accidents

What should I do if I am in an accident with another automobile, motorcycle or truck?

If you have not been seriously injured, you should collect as much information as you can at the scene. You should collect the driver’s name, address and phone number, as well as his license plate number, name of his insurance company and policy number. You can also get the names and contact information for any witnesses. If you have a camera or cell phone, take photos of the cars and other shots of the accident scene, including car damage, skid marks, debris and bodily injuries. Later on, you should obtain the police report.

Even if you haven’t been seriously injured, you should still go to the emergency room and receive follow-up medical treatment within a few days after the accident. Although you have no cuts, scrapes, bruises or broken bones, you may have internal organ, head, brain or soft tissue injuries that aren’t immediately apparent that will need to be examined and treated.

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What should I do if my car was damaged or totaled, but I was not hurt?

If your car was damaged in a collision, a hit-and-run, or in some other way. You may have to deal with your insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You may be entitled to have your car fixed or payment for a total loss. This can be a frustrating and complex situation. Fortunately, we prepared a guide on how deal with property damage claims on your own.

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What are the most common causes of car accidents?

Car accidents have a variety of factors, but most arise from driver behavior or driver error. According to transportation data, the top causes of fatal and injury crashes involved the at-fault driver:

  • Operating a motor vehicle in a careless or negligent manner
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Running off the roadway
  • Failing to keep in the proper lane
  • Driving too fast

Many other factors also play a role in dangerous and deadly accidents, including drunk driving, distracted driving, following too closely and running a stop sign or a red light.

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We were in a car accident that was caused entirely by the other driver putting on her makeup, looking at herself in the mirror and drifting into our lane. Are we entitled to compensation?

There were 34,017 fatal motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. in 2008, according to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In most of these cases, the accident was caused by negligent or reckless driving. Some of the common causes include distracted driving (eating, drinking, talking on a cell phone, texting, talking), drowsy driving, drunk or drugged driving, speeding, violation of traffic signs and vehicle malfunction. At J. Clay Benson, Attorney at Law, our skilled, experienced and aggressive car accident attorneys can evaluate whether the other driver’s negligence caused your injuries, and we can determine the extent of those injuries. We know what evidence to gather from the accident scene, police reports, medical records and eyewitnesses. We also work with a network of experts, including accident reconstruction experts, mechanical engineers and medical professionals. Our car accident lawyers are firm negotiators and talented trial lawyers. If your case does not settle for a fair and full value, we will be prepared to advocate strongly on your behalf in a courtroom. We don’t back down from insurance companies who make low and unreasonable offers and try to dispatch your case as quickly as possible.

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My wife and I were sideswiped by a truck at an intersection. I wasn’t too badly hurt, but my wife suffered severe, life-threatening injuries. Is she entitled to relief?

If you can prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident, every passenger who was injured in your vehicle (spouse, children, parents, friends or co-workers) would be entitled to a full and fair recovery.Sadly, in many cases, a loved one may die in the automobile accident. The survivors may seek recovery by filing a wrongful death claim that may include compensation for your family member’s pain and suffering and medical expenses as well as compensation for funeral expenses. The survivors may also assert a direct claim for loss of a loved one’s services and their care, comfort and companionship (loss of consortium).

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We were rear-ended at a stoplight. The accident totaled our car and resulted in severe injuries to me and my passengers. I haven’t been able to work for months and will need surgery and physical rehab. What can I recover from the other driver?

If the other driver’s liability is established in your case, you may be eligible to recover three types of damages: special, general and punitive damages. Special damages cover mainly economic losses, such as past and future medical expenses, funeral costs, lost past and future wages. General damages are non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement or the loss of society and companionship. Punitive damages are also frequently awarded in drunk or drugged driving cases. They are intended to punish a defendant for especially reckless conduct and to deter the defendant and others from engaging in similar conduct.

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The vehicle that struck my car head on did not have insurance that will cover the extent of my medical expenses or the pain and suffering I’ve endured. What can I do?

This is a complicated situation, but one that unfortunately is common. First, you may bring a lawsuit against both the owner of the car and the driver if that person is not owner, seeking damages for any medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and punitive damages. You can also file a claim with your own insurance company for the full extent of your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, or UM/UIM coverage. This policy entitles you to recover for injuries when the at-fault party either has no liability insurance (UM) or has insurance that does not cover the full extent of your damages (UIM). Even though your insurance company may have been friendly with you when it accepted your premiums, it may not be so friendly when you seek to collect your claim. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced liability insurance lawyer.

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Our automobile was in a wreck with a delivery van. The delivery driver doesn’t have the insurance or personal funds to cover our losses. Can we sue his employer?

Under a doctrine that applies to this situation, an employer can be held responsible for any injuries caused by the negligence of an employee during the course and scope of his employment. This is called “vicarious liability.” The delivery company could also be held liable for negligent hiring and retention if it can be shown that the company knew the driver had a record of getting into accidents or had a string of traffic violations when it hired him or that he had been in accidents while working for the company. In some cases, the company might have encouraged negligent or reckless driving by giving the driver tight, unreasonable deadlines for making deliveries.

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I was in an accident caused by the other driver and needed emergency medical treatment. Now, my health insurer claims it can seek reimbursement from whatever verdict or settlement I obtain. Can they do that?

If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident and received medical treatment, it is likely that you have received medical treatment that was paid for by a health insurer while your case against the negligent driver was pending. If you were working at the time of the auto accident, chances are that your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier provided medical and wage benefits. These insurance companies, or even a hospital or physician, may place a lien on your recovery and have a limited right of reimbursement.

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I was seriously injured in an automobile accident last month. A friend told me I should see an attorney soon, but it may be months before I am healed. What is the hurry to see an attorney?

It is important that police officers and other witnesses be interviewed as soon after the accident as possible. It is also important that you recount the events of the accident while they are still clear in your memory. While police officers make notes and write reports, other witnesses do not. It is important to obtain their information while the facts are still fresh in their minds. With the passage of time, witnesses forget, or move, and even die. A once helpful witness may only be able to say "I don't remember" if they are not questioned soon after the accident.

Evidence may be lost with the passage of time. Information from a seat belt sensor or air bag sensor that did not work properly may be lost if the car's battery dies or is removed. Proof of physical damage contributing to your injuries may be lost if the car is repaired or destroyed. It is important to gather information about your case while the evidence still exists.

If you have been seriously injured in an automobile accident, even if the at-fault driver was uninsured, you should contact an attorney. With our experienced attorneys, there are no attorney fees unless we assist you in obtaining monetary benefits.

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Can't I just attempt to settle my claim without an attorney?

Yes, but you will most likely not receive the same compensation for your losses as you would through the representation of a skilled auto accident lawyer. Insurance companies know that unrepresented parties are usually not aware of the full value of their claims and will generally make settlement offers that are significantly less than those claims are worth. However, once an attorney is involved, an insurance company must consider the risks of litigation, the expenses of a trial, and the quality of representation provided by opposing counsel when determining the amount of money to offer on a claim. The value of a claim goes up when the insurance company knows that there is a threat of litigation, which is present when a respected car accident lawyer is representing you.

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