Many types of car accidents can occur, including traffic collisions, hit and run accidents, rear-end collisions, roll-over accidents, head-on collisions, highway accidents, and side-impact collisions. Car accidents can often be caused by drivers not paying attention to the road.
Car accidents may also occur due to distracted driving, including texting while driving; speeding; traffic conditions, such as drivers not allowing enough space in-between their car and the car ahead of them; and weather conditions, such as decreased visibility.
Bruckheim & Patel understands the stress that can occur following a car accident. It is important to contact an attorney to explain and guide you regarding your rights and potential avenues for compensation for injuries.
What To Do After You Get Into A Car Accident
It is beneficial to acquire any information that helps or supports your case. It may help to take pictures of the damage to your car. The pictures can assist in illustrating how you received certain injuries, prove any damage to the car sustained as a result of the accident, and help prove what happened during the accident.
You may also want to keep the vehicle located where the accident occurred. In addition, calling the police is important so that you can get a police report. Without the police report, it may just be your word against the other party’s. This may make it more difficult to prove your case. The other party may have time to change his or her story to better suit themselves if there is no police report about the accident.
It is extremely important to get medical care and to follow up with the doctors that treat you. Additionally, you should document the injuries you sustained due to the accident and follow the instructions and advice that your doctor gives you.
A failure to seek medical advice and to follow it could potentially be used against you by the other party. They may claim that any injuries you sustained were not caused by the accident, that you exacerbated your injuries by ignoring medical advice, or that your injuries were not as bad as you claim.
Insurance Companies And Settlement Offers
Insurance companies may request recorded statements from the parties. These may, however, be used to lessen an amount of a future settlement offer if a party says something harmful to their claim. It is important to contact an attorney about your car accident case prior to giving any statements to insurance companies.
Many insurance companies may hope to settle. An insurance company may take a number of factors into consideration when determining the amount of a settlement offer. These may include past and future lost wages resulting from your injuries, the severity of the accident, and medical records that confirm your injuries.
However, the insurance company will not take pain and suffering into consideration when determining the settlement offer. This is because pain and suffering are very subjective, and insurance companies tend to focus on factors that are easier to quantify.
If you take a settlement offer from an insurance company, you will not receive further compensation. If you take the case to trial, however, the compensation award will depend solely on the court’s decision; while you may be awarded what you deserve, there is also the chance that you do not obtain any compensation at all.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Car Insurance
In DC, there is required car insurance coverage for drivers. You must get insurance for bodily injury liability, property damage liability, uninsured motorist bodily injury liability, and uninsured property damage liability. Each category of insurance may have a minimum amount that you have to purchase.
DC Code § 31-2404 sets the requirements for PIP. It provides coverage for victims injured by car accidents whether or not the accident actually occurred in DC. Under PIP, a number of benefits are provided, including funeral benefits, work loss benefits, and medical and rehabilitation expenses. It will only apply, however, to an insured victim, a passenger in the insured’s car, and the car that the insured is driving. Any benefits that are laid out under PIP will be provided, regardless of negligence or fault.
In DC, all drivers will file their insurance claim with their own insurance company. After a claim is filed, then the insurance company will provide coverage, regardless of who was at fault for the car accident. This is because DC employs “no fault” insurance.
PIP coverage, however, can be subject to limits. For example, an insurance company may not completely compensate an injured party if the cost of the driver’s coverage exceeds their coverage. Therefore, if the extent of your injuries from a car accident requires more compensation than is provided for under your insurance, a personal injury lawsuit may be a better option. PIP benefits only compensate for expenses. PIP does NOT compensate for pain and suffering.
There are certain circumstances under which a driver can receive both PIP benefits and pursue legal action. These circumstances include when the car accident resulted in expenses, such as those related to medical issues, rehabilitation, or work loss that are more than the amount of available PIP benefits or because of certain medical issues that may arise from the car accident. If these circumstances are not met, however, then both PIP benefits and legal action cannot be pursued. Generally speaking, a driver must choose between pursuing PIP benefits or pursuing a lawsuit.
Proving What Happened After A Car Accident
The plaintiff, or the person bringing a legal claim regarding the car accident, must prove what happened. Every element of the case must be proven, and there needs to be evidence to prove that each element of the claim is met. For claims regarding your car accident, the burden of proof is by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that the plaintiff must show that he or she is more likely right than wrong.
Having evidence of your claim will be important. Pictures of property damage and of the vehicles at the scene of the crime immediately after the accident occurred can be very helpful in proving your case. Witness testimony, medical and police reports, and any other statements taken by the police can be particularly helpful as evidence for your case. They can help show what occurred at the time of the accident, support your explanation of the accident, and show that the damage to the vehicle and your injuries were caused by the accident.
You will also have to show that any injuries you claim you sustained were caused by the accident itself. This may include explaining what injuries existed prior to the accident and what injuries were caused or exacerbated by the accident.
You will also have to prove who was at fault or liable for the accident. DC follows the contributory negligence doctrine. Under the contributory negligence doctrine, an injured victim of a car accident is barred from recovering any damages if the victim is deemed to be even 1% at fault for the accident. The party at fault for the accident will have to prove the injured party’s negligent conduct contributed to the car accident.
Damages And Compensation
Damages can be awarded for a variety of reasons following a car accident case. In DC, there is no cap on damages that would limit how much you can recover. You can collect damages if someone else is at fault for the accident and if the accident led to the damages that you suffered.
Damages must be proven. This will include proving that any medical treatment you received was reasonable, causally related to the accident, and necessary. You will generally be able to seek an amount of damages in a personal injury case that will put you in the position you would have been in but for the car accident.
Medical expenses can be recovered after a car accident. These can include hospital bills; doctor visits; medically required procedures, such as surgeries; ambulance rides; physical therapy; required prescription medication; and medical testing. These medical expenses must be those that occurred because of the car accident. Medical expenses related to medical conditions that existed prior to the accident may not be compensated for unless the accident exacerbated or affected that preexisting condition in some way.
Property damage, including damage to your vehicle caused by the accident, can also be recovered. This compensation may cover car repairs, the fair market price of your totaled car, or costs for rental vehicles.
Additionally, damages can also be recovered for lost wages. This is the time that you may have been involuntarily unable to work because of the accident. Compensation can be included for both past and future lost wages, as well as other financial benefits, such as pay bonuses, that you missed because of the car accident. You may be able to recover damages if you are limited in your ability to pursue your career or if you are limited in the kinds of jobs you can get as a result of the car accident. In DC, you can also seek damages for your loss of future earning capacity.
Damages can also cover aspects of the crash that are harder to quantify. These more subjective aspects of damages include compensation for pain and suffering that the accident caused, as well as other negative impacts the accident may have had on your quality and enjoyment of life, such as loss of companionship.
Pain and suffering damages can be awarded for a variety of reasons, including mental anguish, physical pain, permanency of injuries received during the accident, insomnia, worry, and anxiety. A more severe injury has a higher likelihood of resulting in a larger award for pain and suffering. Punitive damages are very rare to recover in a DC personal injury case. This is due to the high standard required to justify the punitive damages award. In some cases, punitive damages may be available if the standard is met.
Restrictions On When You Can Bring A Car Accident Claim
The DC statute of limitations will set the time limit on when you can file a lawsuit or claim with a court if the case is not resolved through a settlement. It limits the time in which you must initiate the lawsuit and not the time in which the lawsuit or matter must be resolved.
Generally, the type of claim you are bringing might affect the length of the statute of limitations. For example, a wrongful death claim may have a different statute of limitations from a car accident claim.
The statute of limitations for a DC car accident claim begins on the day that the car accident occurs. You have three years from that day to bring a lawsuit or forfeit your right to bring one (See DC Code § 12-301). If the claim is against DC, however, then you have six months to file a notice with the District of your intent to bring a claim. (DC Code § 12-309).
Contact Bruckheim & Patel for a free and confidential evaluation of your personal injury car accident case at 202-930-3464 or 240-753-8222.