How to Get Paid After an Accident
Just a few months into a recent year, and Massachusetts already saw 4,169 crashes, according to the commonwealth’s IMPACT website. That’s a little over 160 wrecks per day through just the first month of the year. Of those crashes, 13 were fatal.
Further breaking it down, 73 involved pedestrians and 13 involved bicyclists. Those aged 25 to 34 were in the most wrecks: 1,583. While many people end up wrecking at some point in their lives, you can only hope that if you haven’t wrecked yet, that you won’t get into an accident.
However, no matter how careful you are, you can’t control others’ actions, and sometimes, you can’t avoid them, either. For example, in a recent crash, a 23-year-old tried to pass another vehicle on the right and lost control. The person passing the car on the right lost control and hit a tree, causing his death and the death of his passenger.
The person he passed was not hurt, but the outcome of the wreck could have been very different: that person could have easily suffered injuries or death through no fault of his own.
What to Do After an Accident
In some cases, your injuries are bad enough so that you cannot move or do anything. However, if you can move around after a wreck, you should take several steps to protect your rights:
- Call first responders while you check on others involved. You can tell them if they need more than one ambulance.
- Get the other driver’s contact, registration, and insurance information.
- Get contact information from any witnesses.
- Take pictures of the scene. While investigators will most likely take photos, it’s a good idea to have your own. Take pictures that have the entire scene in the picture from all sides, then take some closeup—but not too close—pictures of the damage to all vehicles involved. If the accident scene has skid marks, damaged fences, signs or other damage, take pictures of the property damage as well.
- Get medical attention. Let the EMS crew check you out, and then either go to the emergency room or visit your medical professional as soon as possible. Some injuries take hours or even a few days to manifest. If you want to get paid for your medical expenses, you will need documentation of the medical issues associated with the accident.
- Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Even if you are still in the hospital, you should contact a lawyer. When you get your case started sooner, you are more apt to remember the accident, and prevent potential evidence from being lost or forgotten.
How an Attorney Helps You
All accident cases are different. Some are straightforward, and some are not. We offer free consultations to discuss your accident. Once we start working on a case, we might take several steps to help recover damages, including:
- Review the accident with you;
- Obtain any evidence that already exists, including the police report and medical records;
- Hire forensic investigators;
- Take depositions of the defendant and witnesses;
- Hire expert witnesses, including accident reconstruction investigators and medical professionals, especially when accident victims suffer from catastrophic injuries;
- Negotiate with insurance companies;
- Prepare for and go to trial.
Not every case needs expert witnesses, and not every case goes to trial. However, if an insurance company refuses to settle for a fair and reasonable amount, we may recommend going to trial; but ultimately, the end decision is yours.
After an accident, you might collect three types of damages: Economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Not all accident victims can collect all types of damages. The amount and type you collect depend on your injuries, and the actions of the defendant.
Economic damages, sometimes called special damages, are those with a specific price, such as surgery, a visit to a doctor, or even the cost of medical aids.
Economic damages include:
- Medical expenses you already incurred because of the accident;
- Future medical expenses, which might include physical, cognitive or psychological therapy, follow-up appointments, and additional surgery;
- Lost wages;
- Future lost wages;
- Medical aids, such as walkers, wheelchairs and other aids;
- Repairs or replacement of damaged property; and
- Funeral and burial expenses.
Non-economic damages, often called general damages, are those that do not have a specific price attached.
In most cases, general damages are awarded to those with long-term or permanent injuries, and might include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse;
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer participate as a family member;
- Loss of use of a body part or function, such as a foot or your eyesight; and
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do chores you normally would do, including grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, cleaning and home maintenance.
In most cases, doctors expect a long-term disability to last more than 12 months. However, some insurance companies might have their own definition of long-term disabilities, including less than 12 months.
If you want to recover punitive damages, you must prove the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent or intentional. The defendant pays special and general damages in an attempt to make you whole again—not so with punitive damages, which are more uncommonly awarded. The court instead orders the defendant to pay punitive damages as a punishment in the hopes that having to pay that money deters the defendant from those actions in the future.
Examples of grossly negligent behavior might include:
- Driving under the influence;
- Driving while distracted, such as texting and driving, or putting on makeup and driving; and
- Excessive speeding.
If you are suffering from injuries due to a recent wreck, a personal injury attorney can help you understand your options.
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