Most drivers do not think about getting into an accident every time they get behind the wheel. However, accidents happen more often than most of us want to believe. Despite even the most cautious and careful driving, some accidents are ultimately unavoidable. Anyone who has been involved in a car accident knows the experience can be extremely traumatic, and even more so when the accident results in death.
When a fatal car accident could have been avoided, matters are only made worse.
When someone dies in a car accident, survivors of the victim must hold the at-fault driver responsible for his or her actions. In some accident cases, the matter only involves a civil claim for financial compensation. In the above-mentioned case, like others involving a driver who acted egregiously, criminal charges are pending.
If you are a victim of an accident, even if criminal charges are pending, you have the right to collect damages from the at-fault driver. The state’s decision to pursue criminal charges against an at-fault driver does not prohibit individuals from seeking a civil claim for damages. The outcome of any criminal proceedings will not determine the outcome of a personal injury claim for compensation.
Contact a personal injury lawyer from The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan to get all your legal questions answered.
The Cost of Retaining a Personal Injury Lawyer
You may wonder how you can afford to retain a lawyer, especially if you are injured and can’t work, or if you lost a loved one and consequently, their income. We understand that accident victims are under a great deal of stress, whether they suffered injuries or lost a loved one. The impacts of an accident can be physical, emotional, and financial.
Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation and case evaluation for prospective clients. You can discuss the specific circumstances of the case and the costs of representation without any formal commitment.
Many personal injury attorneys may agree to representation on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee arrangement allows clients to secure representation without paying upfront costs and fees. The arrangement may provide for payment of costs and fees at the conclusion of the case.
In a successful case, the costs and fees may come from the proceeds of the settlement or trial award. When you retain a personal injury lawyer, the cost is free. When an attorney offers a contingency fee arrangement, ask whether the attorney will calculate the contingency fee before or after the deduction of court costs and fees.
Settling With the Insurance Company
Since Massachusetts is a no-fault insurance state, all drivers of registered vehicles are required to obtain personal injury protection through their insurance policy. Under personal injury protection policies, if you are in an accident, even if the accident is not your fault, you must file a claim against your insurance policy.
However, you should know that even your own insurance provider does not have your best interests at heart when you file a claim for damages. Insurance companies operate and aim to increase their profits. When possible, insurance providers will try to deny or discredit any claims seeking a payout for accident damages.
After an accident, call your insurance company to provide notice of the accident, but only provide them with basic information. Information you should provide includes your name, policy number, date, and approximate time of the accident, location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information. Because the insurance company is looking out for their best interests, representatives may attempt to use any additional information you give them to deny your claim.
Who You Can Sue
In some cases, an individual’s personal injury protection coverage will not fully cover all accident-related damages. In that case, injured victims may choose to sue the at-fault driver, especially if his or her actions leading to the accident were grossly negligent. For simple cases, a lawsuit may be brought against the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company. However, in other cases, there may be multiple responsible parties, for example, accidents involving commercial vehicles. A commercial truck driver’s brakes may fail, leading to an accident that causes injuries to others involved.
An accident investigation may reveal that the brake technician overlooked the need for repairs or inadequately performed necessary repairs. If a technician’s mistakes contributed to causing the accident, they may be liable for any resulting damages. The company the technician works for may also be partially responsible if they negligently hired unqualified employees or failed to provide adequate training.
If you suffered injuries in a car accident, you may be entitled to recover compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Victims may only recover punitive damages if the defendant’s actions that led to the accident were grossly negligent or intentional, and a loved one died as a result of those actions.
Economic damages, often referred to as special damages, are those that have a quantifiable monetary value.
Special damages may include:
- Past medical expenses incurred before the settlement or the final jury trial.
- Future medical expenses incurred after the settlement or the final jury trial.
- Costs of rehabilitation, including physical, cognitive, and psychological therapy.
- Past lost wages.
- Future lost wages.
- Replacement or repair of personal property damaged or destroyed in the accident, such as your vehicle or a laptop that was in the vehicle.
- Medical aids, such as walkers and wheelchairs.
- Modifications to your home, such as a wheelchair ramp or a special shower.
- Modifications to your vehicle, such as a hand-operated accelerator and brake pedal.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
Non-economic damages, or general damages, are intangible losses that typically do not have a fixed cost. General damages may include:
- Pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of consortium.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of use of a body part.
- Loss of use of a bodily function.
More About Damages
A court orders economic and non-economic damages in an attempt to make injured victims whole again. The funds help pay bills and replace wages from missing time from work while recovering. In most cases, victims are entitled to non-economic damages when they suffer long-term or permanent injuries, or the loss of a loved one. Non-economic damages are rarely awarded for individuals who experience only minor, short-term injuries.
While no amount of compensation can heal injuries or bring a loved one back, it can significantly decrease the financial burden of an accident. An award of damages can relieve injured victim’s worry of providing for their families while they focus on their recovery. If you were injured or lost a loved one in an accident, contact a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation. You have nothing to lose.