Car accidents are a daily occurrence in the United States. In fact, more than 2 million people were injured and 35,092 were killed in car crashes in 2015 alone, according to research from the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, when people get into their vehicles to head to work, school or elsewhere, they almost never expect to be involved in a car wreck.
When accidents happen, they can leave victims seriously injured and unsure of how they'll afford to pay their medical bills, repair or replace their damaged vehicle, or generally make ends meet. Car accident victims who were injured due to another person's negligence may be entitled to compensation for injuries and other damages.
If you were injured in a car accident you didn't cause, here's what you should know.
Common Types of Car Accidents
There are a number of different types of car accidents. Some of the most common accident types include:
- DUI Accidents: In 2015, alcohol played a role in 29 percent of fatal crashes, according to the NHTSA.
- Rear-End Collisions: Each year, there are approximately 1.7 million rear-end collisions in the United States. Roughly 80 percent of those could be prevented by collision avoidance systems, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
- Distracted Driving Accidents: More than 391,000 people were injured and 3,477 were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2015. Common distracted driving behaviors include texting while driving, eating and drinking, changing the music, or using a navigation system.
- Single-Vehicles Crashes: This category includes collisions with rocks or debris, run-off-road accidents, and rollover wrecks.
- Drugged Driving Accidents: Recreational or street drugs aren't the only substances that contribute to such accidents—prescription drugs, including opioids, also play a role.
- T-Bone or Side-Impact Wrecks: These accidents usually occur when motorists run a stop sign or red light, then collide with another vehicle going through an intersection.
- Drowsy Driving Accidents: Driving while fatigued can be just as impairing as driving while drunk or drugged, according to a study by AAA.
Injuries Associated With Car Crashes
- Severe bruises
- Head injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injuries
- Broken or crushed bones
- Back injuries, such as herniated discs or slipped discs
- Spinal cord injuries, including paralysis
- Eye injuries, including blindness or eye loss
- Torn muscles
- Internal injuries
Potential Damages Available for Car Accident Victims
A wide range of compensation for economic, non-economic and other damages is potentially available to those injured in car accidents.
- Economic damages: Compensation for past and future medical bills related to injuries sustained in the accident; reimbursement for medical-related travel expenses; vehicle repair or replacement costs; and wages lost taking time off work to recover and the loss of earning potential if the severity of the injuries prevents a return to the workplace.
- Non-economic damages: Compensation for physical pain and suffering; mental and emotional anguish; loss of enjoyment of life; and scarring or disfigurement.
Plaintiffs who file a wrongful death lawsuit after losing a loved one in a car accident may be entitled to pursue additional compensation.
Damages in these cases are usually divided into two categories: damages that compensate for injuries and losses the decedent suffered between the time of the accident and their death, and compensation for losses incurred by the family after their loved one's death.
Examples of damages sought in wrongful death car accident cases include compensation for:
- Medical costs incurred by the victim prior to death
- Physical pain and suffering experienced by the victim
- Property damage to the victim's vehicle
- Funeral costs
- Burial or cremation expenses
- Loss of the victim's future earnings
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of the goods and services the victim would have provided
- Loss of pension plans, medical coverage or other benefits
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish experienced by the decedent's survivors
- Loss of care, protection, guidance, and training
- Loss of love, society, and companionship
- Loss of consortium from a deceased spouse
Additionally, in cases where the defendant's conduct was particularly egregious, a judge or jury may award punitive damages that seek to punish the victim for these actions, as well as deter future bad conduct.
When to Hire an Attorney
While many attorneys urge car accident victims to hire legal representation as soon as possible after an accident, there are times when hiring an attorney isn't strictly necessary. For example, motorists involved in very minor car accidents that caused no injuries and only slight property damage may not need to hire an attorney. Instead, they can submit an insurance claim to seek compensation for their losses.
However, there are times when having an attorney can be absolutely invaluable. Accident victims may benefit from hiring legal counsel if:
- The accident happened less than 18 months ago
- The injuries sustained in the accident resulted in medical bills or lost wages of $2,000 or more
- The accident was caused by someone else's negligent actions
- The accident victim's vehicle sustained clear and visible damage
- The victim sought medical attention as soon as possible after the accident
- The victim has seen a doctor regularly since the accident and sought all recommended treatments
- The victim's injuries caused broken bones or necessitated surgery
- The negligent party has insurance
Understanding the Litigation Process
Many times, people seeking compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident have little prior experience with the legal system and therefore, just aren't sure what to expect.
Two of the questions potential clients often ask are: how long will a case take, and will they have to go to court. The answer to both questions depends entirely on the circumstances of the case and whether the injury victim decides to accept a settlement during the negotiations process or take the claim all the way to court.
- Settling a car accident injury claim has the benefit of as faster conclusion, so plaintiffs receive money sooner. However, after a settlement is accepted, no appeal is possible. Additionally, the other side may not offer a fair settlement amount, in which case, taking the case to trial may be the best option.
- Taking a car accident injury claim all the way to court means the parties involved can appeal decisions with which they disagree. However, this is a two-edged sword and, while the plaintiff could appeal an unfavorable decision, so can the defendant, which means that any potential settlement would be delayed—possibly for years. Trials can also be extremely stressful, exposing information the involved parties would prefer to keep private.
Regardless of whether the case is settled out of court or goes to trial, accident victims should be sure to choose an attorney who isn't afraid of going to trial, if necessary.
Do You Need a Car Accident Attorney?
If you sustained significant injuries in a car accident that wasn't your fault, the experts at Case Barnett Law may be able to help you fight for the compensation you need to recover. Contact Case Barnett Law today to request and schedule a free initial case consultation.