How to Claim Bodily Injury from a Car Accident

Learn more about what steps to take if you are injured in an accident. This article walks you through the basics of a personal injury claim arising from an auto accident.

How to Claim Bodily Injury from a Car Accident - Learn more about your car accident case and the steps involved in obtaining a fair settlement for your injuries.
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How to Claim Bodily Injury from a Car Accident 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an increase in driving activity has led to a significant rise in traffic accidents, resulting in the tragic loss of nearly 43,000 lives last year. If you or a loved one have the misfortune of being injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence or reckless behavior, you have the right to make a claim for compensation against the person who was at fault.

This article explains the process for making a personal injury claim after a car accident and how to improve the chance of a successful outcome. You’ll learn what to do to avoid allowing an at-fault driver to avoid responsibility for causing the accident and the injuries that you suffered.

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Key Takeaways

  • When injured in a car accident, immediately seek medical attention and follow all advice given by your doctor.
  • Report the accident to the police and your insurance company.
  • Gather evidence to support your claim for damages.
  • Contact a personal injury attorney right away for legal advice and representation.
  • An insurance adjuster from the at-fault driver’s insurance company is not on your side, so be careful what you say if contacted about the accident.

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Get a Lawyer

Contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident. You may be tempted to handle a bodily injury claim on your own, but at the very least, you should schedule a consultation with a seasoned personal injury lawyer.

Most personal injury law firms offer a free consultation and case evaluation, so it will not cost you anything to learn what a personal injury attorney can do for you and your claim. Most personal injury law firms work with motor vehicle accident clients under a contingency fee arrangement.

The contingency fee agreement you and the lawyer sign states that the legal fees owed to the law firm for representing you are paid from the settlement or judgment in the personal injury case. If you do not win the case, you do not owe the law firm a legal fee.

Some of the reasons why retaining a car accident lawyer to represent you can improve the outcome of your lawsuit include the following:

  • Their education, training, and experience give personal injury lawyers the skills and legal knowledge to take on defense lawyers and insurance company adjusters.
  • Car accident lawyers know how to identify and present evidence, including witness testimony, to support and prove your claim for damages.
  • A personal injury attorney knows how to evaluate the value of your car accident claim and has the negotiating skills to get you a fair settlement from the car insurance company.

A car accident lawyer takes the burden of dealing with car insurance claims adjusters off your shoulders as you focus on resting and working with doctors to recover from the physical injuries caused by an at-fault motorist.

Gather Relevant Information and Evidence

Car accident claims are won or lost based on the evidence. Evidence is what the attorneys at the law firm representing you need to prove what caused the car accident and the harm you suffered as a result. 

You can improve your chances of getting the compensation you deserve by gathering information and evidence and giving it to your personal injury lawyer.

Focus on gathering the following information and evidence at the accident scene:

  • Take photos of the accident scene, including the position and condition of each vehicle involved in the auto accident. If you cannot take them, ask someone else to do it.
  • Obtain the names and contact information of all drivers and passengers of vehicles involved in the crash.
  • Get the names and contact information of eyewitnesses.
  • Ask police officers for a copy of the police report of the accident. If you cannot get it at the scene, the attorney representing you will obtain it from the police.

Keep a record of all physicians and other medical providers that provide medical treatment for the injuries suffered in the auto accident. Keep copies of medical bills, pharmacy receipts for prescribed medication, and additional information documenting the medical treatment and medical expenses related to the car accident. 

This information helps your personal injury lawyer know the names of health care providers to contact for medical records to prove your claim.

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Get Medical Treatment Right Away

Depending upon the severity of your injuries, emergency medical personnel at the scene may take you by ambulance to the nearest hospital for a medical evaluation and treatment for your injuries. If you do not go to the hospital, you must seek medical care immediately.

Symptoms of serious injuries, such as whiplash and concussion, may not develop for hours or even days after an auto accident. Go to a doctor for an examination and medical evaluation even when you may not believe it is necessary because waiting may damage your personal injury claim.

An Insurance company claims adjuster may use a delay in seeking medical treatment as evidence that an injured person was not hurt as badly as they claim to be. The way to avoid this is by seeking immediate medical treatment for any accident injury, regardless of how mild the pain or symptoms are at the time.

Notify Your Insurance Company

You must notify your own insurance company and give them details about the accident. Doing so ensures that your auto insurance company will honor the bodily injury liability coverage of the policy to pay claims that could be made against you by someone claiming that you were the at-fault party.

Another reason to notify your own insurance company after a motor vehicle accident is to protect you and your bodily injury claim. If the at-fault motorist your claim is against does not have bodily injury liability insurance, your own insurance company may pay them. 

When an at-fault party does not have bodily injury liability insurance, or their insurance coverage limits are not enough to pay the medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages you incurred, your auto insurance policy may cover the claim.

Insurance companies offer uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage. If you have it, file a claim with your own insurance company.

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Preparing a Demand Letter

A demand letter prepared by you or your personal injury attorney lets the at-fault parties know that you were injured in the car accident and make a claim for compensation against them. Think of it as the start of the claims process.

Negotiating a Settlement

Settlement negotiations usually begin after the at-fault party forwards the demand letter to their car insurance company. The company investigates the accident and contacts your car accident lawyer. 

Your lawyer and the claims adjuster may settle before a lawsuit is filed against the negligent party, but if it is not, negotiations usually continue throughout the claims process.

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Filing a Lawsuit

Personal injury attorneys usually file a lawsuit in a car accident claim as soon as they believe that an injury settlement will not be reached or that the insurance company is unnecessarily delaying or not negotiating in good faith. When a lawsuit is filed, state law imposes deadlines that all parties must obey.

Most personal injury cases, almost 97%, end in a settlement, so filing a lawsuit does not close the door to negotiations. A lawsuit may force an insurance adjuster to stop stalling and negotiate in good faith to prevent a case from reaching the trial stage.

Filing a lawsuit also helps car accident victims who need money to pay bills while their cases are pending. Litigation funding allows someone with a car accident claim to borrow against its settlement value to get an immediate cash advance—however, companies offering litigation funding only fund cases where a lawsuit is pending in court.

When Can You File A Bodily Injury Claim?

State personal injury laws let you make a claim for injuries suffered in an accident that was caused by the negligence or reckless behavior of another party. In other words, the other party must be at fault.

If you are at fault or partially at fault, your ability to recover compensation depends on your degree of responsibility for causing the accident. Only four states and the District of Columbia have a contributory negligence law that prohibits the payment of compensation to accident victims who are as little as 1% at fault.

Most states have comparative negligence laws. Under pure comparative negligence, an accident victim who is at fault still may recover compensation, but it will be reduced by the victim’s degree of fault. Some states, such as Florida, follow a modified comparative negligence rule that prevents an accident victim who is 51% or more at fault from recovering damages.

Florida is also one of 12 states with no-fault insurance laws. No fault limits the ability of accident victims to make a claim against an at-fault party. Instead, an injured person files a claim with their own insurance company for payment of medical expenses through their policy’s personal injury protection or PIP coverage.

No-fault laws include exclusions for serious personal injuries that allow an accident victim to sue an at-fault party for compensation, including pain and suffering and emotional distress. Check with your personal injury attorney about the laws in your state.

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Tips for a Successful Bodily Injury Claim

The keys to a successful outcome for your bodily injury claim include the following:

  • Consult an experienced personal injury attorney.
  • Do not delay seeing a doctor for a medical examination and evaluation of your car accident injuries.
  • Organize and retain all documents related to the accident and medical treatment.
  • When considering whether to accept a settlement offer, consider the long-term effects, including disability, of your injuries. Make sure that settlement offers include the cost of future medical care and treatment.

Remember that insurance adjusters do not work for you. They look out for the interests of the insurance company and the at-fault party, so be careful what you say when contacted by an insurance company. The safest approach is to let a personal injury attorney handle all contact with insurance companies and claims adjusters.

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