Right after a sudden and unexpected collision, it can be hard to think with a clear head and take the steps necessary to protect your health and your rights. Knowing in advance what you need to do can help you in the event of an accident.
Feel free to print this checklist of eight essential things to do right after you’ve been in an automobile accident:
- Get off the road. If it’s possible to do so safely, move your car off the road and out of traffic and put your hazard lights on.
- Call 911. Report basic information such as your location, name, address, and driver’s license number and let them know of any injuries. Truthfully and calmly answer all questions a first responder asks you, but do not admit or imply that you were at fault.
- GET MEDICAL ATTENTION. Even if you don’t think you are hurt, it is important to seek medical attention after your accident. Some injuries don’t show any symptoms until hours, days, or even weeks later.
- Get the other driver’s name, contact information, and insurance information.
- Take pictures of the scene and the vehicles involved.
- See if there are any witnesses. If anyone around the scene saw what happened, try to get their names and contact information.
- Contact your car insurance company. Call your insurance company and report the accident. However, do not under any circumstances admit fault or enter into any agreement with the insurance company about compensation or payment without first speaking with an auto accident lawyer.
- Speak with an Antioch auto accident lawyer. Even if you aren’t thinking about a lawsuit or are just intimidated about the idea of contacting a lawyer, seeking legal advice is one of the most important things you can do after a car accident. Speaking with a lawyer doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a claim or will file a lawsuit, though both may wind up being the case.
Personal injury law can be complicated, but getting more out of your injury settlement is quite simple: hire an experienced and aggressive personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident.
Statistics show that personal injury and car accident victims who retain a lawyer to handle their claim receive larger settlements and get more money in their pockets than people who try to negotiate with insurance companies and deal with their case on their own.
An analysis by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) revealed that settlements for auto accident injury victims who had retained an attorney were, on average, 40 percent higher than the settlements reached by injury victims who tried to negotiate for themselves. A separate IRC study found that individuals who retained a personal injury lawyer received 85% of all funds paid by auto insurance companies to settle claims.
Insurance companies are in business to make money. Every dollar they pay in claims is a dollar that cuts into their profits. No matter what their commercials may say, they are not “on your side” and you are not “in good hands” with them when trying to negotiate a settlement. They will do everything possible to either deny your claim or try to get you to accept the lowest possible amount of money. When you are looking at mounting medical bills, car repair costs, and other expenses after a car accident injury, it can be tempting to take any offer the insurer gives you. They know that.
Insurers also know that claimants who have an attorney on their side aren’t such easy marks. They understand that their denials of liability or efforts to reach a lowball settlement won’t fool an experienced Antioch auto accident lawyer. If an insurer knows that the attorney is aggressive, thorough, and fully prepared to take a matter to trial, they will be more inclined to make a more significant offer in hopes of avoiding a costly and unpredictable result from a jury.
While meeting with an Antioch personal injury lawyer and filing a lawsuit are the first steps towards obtaining compensation, it doesn’t mean that you will wind up in a courtroom months or years later after a personal injury claim.
While injured Americans file hundreds of thousands of personal injury lawsuits every year, only about four to five percent of those cases go to a full trial. That means that around 95% of all personal injury lawsuits end without a trial. While some suits conclude with a pre-trial ruling by a judge, the overwhelming majority of lawsuits end with a settlement.
Why do so many PI cases settle? Cost and certainty are the primary reasons. Taking a lawsuit through trial not only can take a long time, it can also cost defendants and insurance companies enormous amounts in legal fees. Even if the insurer strongly believes that it has a solid defense and that the plaintiff doesn’t deserve anything in compensation, it still may offer a substantial amount to settle a case because it may ultimately cost them less than defending the case tooth and nail.
Be careful with insurance, because the insurance company might be engaged in bad faith insurance tactics. If that is the case, you will need assistance from a lawyer who has experience litigating bad faith insurance claims.
Additionally, both parties to a lawsuit take a significant risk going to trial. There is always a chance that the 12 people on a jury will come back with a verdict which either costs a defendant a lot more than they could have settled for or leaves the injury victim with nothing when they could have agreed to a sizeable settlement.
Even though most cases settle, an experienced attorney should never approach an injury case thinking it will get resolved quickly. Your attorney needs to be prepared to take every case to trial, and the defendant needs to know that your lawyer is ready and willing to go the distance.
The law in Illinois acknowledges that pain and suffering are genuine consequences of a severe injury. But such “non-economic” damages don’t lend themselves to easy calculation. The amount of compensation you can recover for these losses mostly depends on your lawyer’s ability to prove the nature and scope of the injury’s impact on your life.
Within the two words, “pain” and “suffering” is a whole range of physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of an accident or injury. Such elements can include:
- physical pain
- stress, anxiety, or depression
- impact on a victim’s relationships with loved ones
- shortened life expectancy
- embarrassment from scarring or disfigurement
- limitations and restrictions on the victim’s day-to-day life
- impact on a victim’s ability to sleep
As noted, these “non-economic” damages don’t come with an equation or formula for putting a dollar figure on each aspect of an injury victim’s intangible losses. But like all other elements of a personal injury claim, your lawyer must present convincing and admissible evidence as to your pain and suffering to recover any damages for such losses.
Here are some examples of the kinds of evidence that your lawyer can use to demonstrate pain and suffering and justify an award of damages:
- expert medical testimony
- Letters or statements from friends and family explaining how the injury has impacted the victim’s life and their relationships with others
- Proof of mental health issues and treatment
- photographs contrasting the victim before and after the injury
- Personal diaries or journals describing the victim’s physical and emotional state
Pain is real to us and suffering isn’t just a figment of our imaginations. But when you are in a court of law and are asking a jury to award you compensation for the pain and suffering a defendant has caused you, it is imperative that you have an experienced Antioch personal injury attorney on your side who knows how make your unseen injuries crystal clear.