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Car Wreck 101

Posted by attorney Jason Dow

Do I have a case?

If the accident was caused by the fault, or "negligence" of another driver, and you were injured, you most likely have a case. This can arise from another driver's action or inaction. The next step is to get the insurance information from the other driver and determine what coverage(s) are on your own car.

What should I do immediately after an accident?

First and foremost, take care of your physical needs. If you are unable to move or are otherwise immobile, remain so until the EMTs arrive and then follow their instructions. Call 911 if nobody else has done so. Cooperate fully with the EMTs, police and fire personnel who arrive on the scene. Take pictures of your car and the other car(s) and the scene of the accident. Be sure and exchange driver information and be courteous to all parties involved. You might eventually testify about the events that occur immediately after an accident. If appropriate, take photos of your injuries while the injuries are new.

Should I talk to the other person's insurance company?

No. Don't give a statement or otherwise communicate with the other driver's insurance company until you visit with a personal injury lawyer first. DO NOT sign anything that is presented to you by the other insurance company. Call a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can.

Do I need a lawyer?

In most cases, yes. A personal injury lawyer can maximize the value of your case while protecting all of your rights at the same time. Further, a personal injury lawyer may find additional sources of recovery to which you are entitled. Finally, the lawyer will be able to further protect you by addressing medical liens and subrogation claims prior to settlement, so that you are not left owing money after you settle your case.

How long do I have to make a claim?

In most personal injury cases, the statute of limitations (SOL) is 2 years. That means that you need to either settle your case or file a lawsuit within 2 years from the date of the accident. However, the SOL for malicious prosecution, libel and slander is 1 year, whereas the SOL for sexual assault is 5 years.

What types of damages can I recover?

Assuming that liablity is established against the other person, an injured party can typically recover their past medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish and property damage. You may also recover lost wages, loss of earning capacity, impairment and disfigurement where it's appropriate. An injured party may also recover future damages. There may also be a claim based on harm to others such as loss of consortium, loss of services, and damages for bystander claims.

If you've been in a car accident, these are just a few of the many considerations that go into asserting a personal injury claim.

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