FAQ – Car Accidents
Many car accidents result in serious injury and others cause tragic loss of a loved one. In these cases it is important to have a qualified and experienced car accident attorney representing you during this time.
The following are questions asked most often by victims of car accidents:
1. What is the first thing I should do after a car accident?
Call 911 – see a doctor. If someone requires emergency medical care, paramedics should be called without delay. Any concerns of lesser importance may be taken care of once help is on the way. If you feel that you’ve suffered an injury, your first and foremost concern should be your health.
Even if you believe that no one is seriously hurt, calling the police to the accident site is important for any accident. After the police and/or paramedics are in route to the scene, you should wait for them to arrive s they can help exchange contact and insurance information with the other drivers/witnesses involved. In the meantime, take pictures of the accident and surrounding area and make a note of the time and any details that seem relevant. It is better to take too many pictures than not enough.
If the police will not come to the accident scene because there are no life threatening injuries, make sure to exchange contact information, including vehicle description and insurance information, with the other driver. Obtain all witness information and take photographs of the vehicles and the accident scene.
2. The other driver’s insurance adjuster wants me to send them my medical records, should I do this?
Definitely not. The insurance company’s first concern is protecting their checkbook and your medical information in their hands, prematurely, could hurt your case. Insurance companies may make it sound as though sharing certain records is standard procedure or mandatory; but aside from the accident report you fill out for the police, a car accident attorney will help you know which things must be shared upon demand. The information you give them can and will be used against you to defeat or minimize your claim.
3. If I file a personal injury claim, will I have to go to court?
Not always. If the other driver’s insurance company agrees to pay what your attorney believes your case is worth, and you wish to settle for that amount, then there will be no need for you to go to court. Some insurance companies want to fight against a fair compensation claim and these cases then do require a formal court proceeding. Regardless, hiring a personal injury law firm with experience in handling car accident injury cases is critical.
4. If I don’t feel that I am hurt very badly after a car accident, do I have to see a doctor?
Even though you may not feel pain or see an injury immediately after an accident, after the initial shock wears off, you may start feeling it. You see what is on the outside, a doctor may see injuries that are internal and sometimes serious injuries that are not apparent to you. That “little” pain or ache may be the sign of something more serious, and only a doctor can determine that.
You should seek medical attention as soon as possible and never wait more than seven days following an accident, even if you feel “a little bit of pain” and think it will resolve on its own. You must document all injuries and pain or the insurance company will not believe you were hurt as a result of the accident.
5. What if I believe the accident I was in was at least partly my fault?
Unless you intentionally caused the car accident, you’re probably not in the best position to assess how or why the accident happened. There are many possible causes of an accident, which your attorney can investigate and evaluate. Accepting blame and apologizing to another driver may be used as evidence against you and negate that other factors were actually the cause. Under no circumstances should you admit blame or tell your insurance company that you were at fault for the accident until the details have been examined
6. My friends tell me that I should just let the insurance company handle this. Why should I talk to an attorney?
Every car accident is unique in some way. Insurance companies, even your own, want to pay the least amount possible and walk away from any future involvement. Under no circumstances should you admit blame or tell your insurance company that you were at fault for the accident until the details have been examined. Even though you have promptly paid your premiums for many for years, many times an insurance company must be pressured by an experienced car accident attorney to compensate you fully for your injuries and loss. Also, do not let them talk you into settling the case yourself. Injuries that you receive because of a car accident may not heal as fast as you hope. You may not be able to do all the things you once did, including your type of employment. If your insurance company only looks at what is happening right now, and only pays what they decide for your immediate situation, you may find yourself suffering long in the future with no compensation for your suffering or loss. You may have a right to certain types of compensation because of your injuries that you may not know exist.
Yochelson & Associates offers a free consultation so you can decide the benefits of having an experienced car accident attorney fight for you to get the full compensation you deserve.
7. How long do I have to file a claim?
Against a private individual or private entity: The statute of limitations in California for settling a claim or filing a lawsuit is two (2) years from the accident. However, the longer you wait to file your claim, the longer it will be to see resolution.
For a minor child injured in a car accident, they have two years from the date of their eighteenth (18) birthday to settle their claim or file a lawsuit against a private individual or private entity.
Against a public entity: (e.g. municipal bus lines, cities or counties): You must file a claim for damage form within six (6) months (or other time frame prescribed by law) from the date of the accident, whether you are an adult or a minor child. Failure to file within the six month period will forever bar your right to any recovery.
Please keep in mind that some insurance policies carry medical payments coverage in addition to liability coverage and typically you only have one year to file a med pay claim.
8. Who can be held liable for damages?
Any party whose conduct causes or worsens an accident can be held responsible for their part in the damage. This can mean that another driver is at fault; it can mean that a construction company is at fault for failing to post warnings; and it can mean that an auto manufacturer was negligent in constructing working air bags. Working with a competent car accident attorney allows you to investigate all potential causes of the accident and determine how they relate to your case.
9. If I’m a passenger in a car accident, can I sue the driver of the car I was in, or the other driver in the accident to pay for my injuries?
You can make a claim against the driver or your vehicle or the driver of the other vehicle, depending on who is at fault.
You can make a claim against both drivers if there is a dispute about who is at fault because you are a negligent free passenger.
If the vehicle you were a passenger in carries medical payments coverage, you may file a claim for med pay.
If you carry Underinsured Motorist coverage or Medical Payments coverage on your own vehicle, you may pursue a claim through your own insurance company if your injuries are significant and if the other insurance policies do not afford enough coverage. You do not have to be in your own vehicle at the time of an accident in order to make a claim under the Underinsured Motorist or Med Pay provision of your policy.
10. If the other driver was uninsured/underinsured, what can I do?
If you carry Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage on your own vehicle, you may pursue a UM or UIM claim through your own insurance company. UM and UIM coverage is excellent because it covers you, the insured, if you are involved in an accident as a driver, pedestrian or passenger, You do not have to be in your own vehicle at the time the accident occurs in order to use UM/UIM coverage.
UM/UIM also applies to members of your household as long as they are not excluded from the policy. Learn more…UNDERSTANDING UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE
11. How long will my car accident case take to win or settle?
Every accident is different. Every case if different. There is no definite answer for how long it will take. When you are working with an accident injury attorney we will keep you informed of each step of the case and explain any delays. We work together with you on every phase of your case so you know what is taking place.
12. How do I know if I have a legal case?
In general, your injuries must have been caused due to the negligence of someone else. There are many elements that can be involved that need to be examined before you can be sure you have a case for compensation. The best way to find out whether you have a case is to meet with an experienced car accident lawyer. Yochelson & Associates is available for a free consultation of your case to help determine if a legal direction would be the best move.