Seven (7) Frequently Asked Questions After a Car Accident
This guide answers common questions we hear from callers and new clients after automobile accidents.
OTHER DRIVER AT FAULT: DO YOU CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY OR THE OTHER DRIVER’S INSURANCE COMPANY?Regardless of who was at fault, you should always report an accident to your insurance company. Most, if not all, insurance policies require that you report a claim in order for the insurance company to defend and indemnify you should the other driver make a claim against you. Although you are notifying your insurance company of an accident, it does not necessarily mean you are making a claim with your insurance company.
After you report the claim to your insurance company, you should contact the other driver’s insurance company and make a claim with them. As discussed in more detail below, it is very important that you are consistent with your recollection of the facts and that your explanation of the details of the accident remains the same each time you explain the details of the accident. If your explanation of how the accident happened changes from one conversation to another, it may raise questions about liability and the determination of which driver is “at fault.”
WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO AN ATTORNEY?Immediately after an accident. It could be the single, most important phone call you make after a wreck. Selecting an attorney is a very important decision. It is a personal decision that should be made by you and your family. It is important you that feel comfortable with whomever you hire to represent you.
When speaking with an attorney you should ask what kind of experience he/she has dealing with accident and insurance claims, and the types of cases he/she primarily handles. It is important not only to speak with an attorney, but to speak with an attorney who has experience handling cases similar to yours. Make sure to ask the attorney about his/her experience litigating and trying cases similar to yours, as well as the types of results he/she has obtained for past clients. Do your homework to see if the attorney has been reviewed by other clients, and what other attorneys in the community say about that attorney.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CLAIM AND A LAWSUIT?A claim is filed with the insurance company BEFORE a lawsuit is filed. A claim is handled OUT OF COURT and is not adjudicated by a judge or jury.
A lawsuit is the filing of your claim with a court. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a judge or jury will be the trier of fact over your claims.
HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE TO FILE A LAWSUIT?In Louisiana, an individual has one (1) year from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. This is known as the “prescriptive period”, or “prescription”. (In other states, it is referred to as the “statute of limitations”.)
HOW LONG WILL YOUR CASE TAKE?Unfortunately, there is no formula to determine exactly how long your case will take. In my experience, I have handled cases that settled in only 1-2 months, and I have also handled cases that lasted more than two (2) years. Each case is unique, and the evaluation is dependent upon the facts and circumstances of your case.
HOW CAN YOU CALCULATE HOW MUCH YOUR CASE IS WORTH?The value of your case depends on many different factors. The first factor includes medical bills from your accident. You won’t know how much those bills are in total until you are finished with your treatment and your body has healed. Next, you may be entitled to recover your “lost wages,” which is the amount of money you lost because you were unable to work as a result of the accident. This calculation could include long-term lost wages if the injury prevents you from doing your job anymore in the future, such as if you are no longer able to lift more than ten (10) pounds and you work in construction lifting heavy objects.
There are additional elements of damages that may be available to you, such as loss of earning capacity, loss of consortium, loss of household services, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of use of automobile, and gratuitous services performed by family members. Each of these items is entirely dependent upon the facts and circumstances specific to your claim.
Additionally, you may receive money for property damage, such as the damage to your vehicle.
Even after all those numbers are added up, there is no mathematical formula that can be used to determine the exact value of your case. Every case is different. The people dealing with your case such as the other driver’s insurance company or the jury may have different judgments on its value. You should speak to an experienced attorney about your case to learn more.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SETTLEMENT AND A VERDICT?The difference between a verdict and a settlement is who decides the outcome of the case. In some cases, both parties agree to a settlement. A settlement may be reached either before or after a lawsuit is filed. A verdict, however, is a judgment or decision in a court proceeding. A judge or jury issues a verdict after a trial. A court case can take months or even years to finish depending on the complexities of the case and medical treatment.