You never think it’s going to happen to you.
You’re on your way to the grocery store, thinking about buying groceries for your family.
You’re running late for an appointment, an exercise class, maybe even a date, trying to maintain your focus on the speed limit.
You’re headed across town (or across the country) to visit a loved one, imagining the smile breaking out across their face as you emerge from the car.
If you had any inkling that today might be the day that your car collided with another vehicle—the day that sends you into a tailspin of physical, financial and legal turmoil—you would have had no trouble focusing on the road for signs of possible danger.
But you didn’t know. You didn’t think. Because nobody thinks it will happen to them, until it does.
Don’t Navigate Your Recovery Alone
In the aftermath of a car accident, your brain and body kick into high gear over one crucial issue: survival. Anything that doesn’t involve you getting out of the vehicle and out of danger will fade away into a distant blur. You may find yourself sitting by the side of the road, staring into space, unable to decide whom to call or to answer questions about where you were going or what happened in the crash.
This brain fog is normal to feel, and it will often persist for days or even weeks after the crash. Unfortunately, it can be a huge disadvantage when communicating with law enforcement or insurance companies about the accident. Many car accident victims have trouble remembering the pertinent details of their collision. Guesswork on the part of the victim means guesswork on the part of authorities. And that, in the long run, usually means that the victim is left to navigate their recovery alone.
It’s precisely for this reason that your first call, after having a car accident, should be to a good attorney.
After the initial impact, a car accident brings a labyrinth of consequences. Navigating them requires research, documentation, and a thorough knowledge of state law. When you’re in the midst of recovering from the trauma of a car accident, these are the last things you want to have to deal with. And yet dealing with them is essential to your future health, both physical and financial.
Here are the main areas that a good car accident lawyer can help with:
The biggest and most obvious effect of a car accident is the damage to your vehicle. The insurance company will be first in line to assess the damage, decide how much to pay for repairs, and which of the two parties’ coverage will pay.
When you’ve been the victim of a car accident, it’s very difficult to wait through the process while these decisions are being made. Even worse, though, is the discovery that your insurance company’s claim offer is insufficient to fully cover your repair or replacement costs.
Arguing with your insurance company and pressing for your rights is not something that you should have to do while you are recovering from an accident. Having a good car accident attorney is essential to getting a fair estimate of the damages and making sure that your claim is fully honored.
It’s not uncommon for victims of a car accident to walk away feeling more or less unhurt. In all but the very worst cases, victims will often refuse the help of an ambulance because they feel merely “shaken up.” This is rarely a reliable state of mind; the truth is that they are in shock, and the survival reaction of adrenaline is fueling them through the moments and even hours after the accident. It’s only later, after the victim has had a chance to rest, that the true extent of their injury will reveal itself.
At this point, it may be too late to seek redress. Insurance companies will usually call within a few hours of the accident to begin assessing the damages. It’s not an easy thing to get back to your insurer 24 hours or more after the fact and change your story from “I’m not hurt” to “My ribs are bruised and I’m having migraines.”
Even if you are able to specify your injuries, it’s all too common for victims to receive pushback on their claims. It’s standard procedure for most insurance companies to avoid paying more than absolutely necessary; many of them will press the victim to admit that the injuries are less serious than originally stated.
What this often leads to is long-term physical damage, because the victim will avoid the doctor/chiropractor because they are afraid they cannot pay for it, and believe that the condition (whiplash, recurring headaches, etc.) will go away on its own.
A car accident attorney has experience working with insurance providers to make sure car accident victims receive the full amount they are owed. A car accident attorney will also let you know exactly how to keep records of all expenses involved in crash-related injuries (including doctor’s visits, medicine, sometimes even commuting) so that you don’t wind up in the position of paying for your own injury.
On top of all this, if injuries from the accident prevent you from moving on with your life—for instance, mental anguish that affects your ability to do your job, or a long-term physical impairment that impacts your entire life—a car accident attorney will be able to help you in receiving compensation for the accident’s effect on your future.
One of the biggest questions in the aftermath of a car accident is “Whose fault was it?”
Believe it or not, determining fault is not always an either/or between the two vehicle drivers.
For example, many car accidents can be traced back to a defect or a malfunction in the vehicle, one that the driver may never have been aware of. A car accident lawyer will know exactly how to follow up with the authorities and with the car manufacturer.
At other times, the road condition is to blame for a vehicular accident. Things as small as an unlevel paving job or poor signage can have huge consequences for cars. If your accident is caused by poorly maintained roads, a good lawyer can call the proper governmental agency to account for your accident.
Act Within Your Window of Time
Federal, state and local law leave a very narrow window for claims to be filed in the aftermath of a car accident. This time limit is called the statute of limitations, and it varies from one state to another. That’s why it is important to have a number on file and know exactly whom you will contact in case of a car accident.
Remember, calling a lawyer after your car accident does not necessarily mean initiating a lawsuit. It is simply an opportunity to consult an experienced professional and find out what your rights are. Too many car accident victims are unaware that they even have rights, and that they may be entitled not only to the insurance payout to fix their vehicle, but to resources that will help them recover.
Be assured that a lawsuit is very rare in cases of car accident. The fact is that having a lawyer on your side is often all that is needed when dealing with insurance companies and other parties to make sure that negotiations are fair and that you receive the compensation you deserve.
The Bottom Line
What car accident victims feel, more than anything, after surviving a collision is gratitude to just be alive. While this is indeed important and a cause for profound gratitude, don’t forget that you deserve not only to live, but to recover the life that you had before this accident happened to you. Hiring an experienced attorney can make all the difference between tragedy and true healing.