OHIO CAR ACCIDENTS | AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS LAWYER
COLUMBUS, OHIO ATTORNEY
Automobile Accidents - Frequently Asked Questions:
Each case and set of facts is different. As such, the information below is intended to provide general information regarding an auto accident claim. As with all legal matters, you should consult an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances prior to making any decisions.
What should I do immediately after an accident?
First, determine if you or anyone in your vehicle needs immediate medical assistance. If so, call 911 and request help. Similarly, if you are able to check on the people in the other vehicle, try to determine if they need immediate medical assistance and if so, call 911 and request help.
If there are no life-threatening injuries, call law enforcement and inform them of the accident.
If possible, take pictures and/or video of the accident scene prior to moving the vehicles. Be sure to do so from a safe place, away from traffic.
In addition, you should take pictures of any damage to the vehicles, each vehicle’s license plate, and of any injuries you or any of your passengers may have sustained.
Exchange insurance information with the other driver, taking a picture of both the front and back of the other driver’s insurance card if possible.
If you are able, you should also try to obtain the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of any witnesses to the accident.
Most importantly, if you are injured, seek medical assistance.
Should I speak to law enforcement at the accident scene?
The nature of this answer varies depending on your specific situation. If you are in an auto accident with no other circumstances (such as driving under the influence or other criminal conduct) then you typically want to provide a statement to law enforcement regarding how the accident occurred. If you have any concerns, you should attempt to consult a lawyer prior to making any statements.
If you do speak to law enforcement, be polite, but remember they are there to investigate the accident, and if possible, to determine fault.
When making a statement to law enforcement, be concise, factual, and focus on how the accident happened. Before speaking with law enforcement, try to recall what specifically happened: which lane of travel were you in? How fast were you going (if you know)? Did you have your seat belt on? Do not “guess” as to any of these issues, and do not provide your “opinion” as to things you do not know.
In addition, do not speculate as to the nature or extent of any injuries you may have suffered.
What should I do in the first few days following an accident?
If your injuries are serious, your initial treatment will likely be at an emergency room or an urgent care facility. You should secure copies of all applicable records and make sure you follow their release instructions, including scheduling follow-up visits with your family doctor or specialists.
If you do not treat in the emergency room or an urgent care facility, and you are feeling pain or discomfort in the hours or days after an accident, you should schedule a visit with your family physician as soon as possible. In most “soft-tissue” injury cases, you likely will not feel pain or discomfort for a few days. As such, if pain and discomfort does set in, it is important to seek treatment.
If you have any bruising or cuts from the accident, take pictures of those injuries before they go away and document how long they last.
Most importantly, follow your physician’s instructions with regard to treatment and any recovery plan.
Do I need to speak to the other driver’s insurance company regarding my injuries?
Absolutely not. The other driver’s insurance company is not there to help you.
A representative from the other driver’s insurance company will usually call and state that they “need” a recorded statement from you. They do not. They simply would like one.
Although you do not have an obligation to speak with the other driver’s insurance company regarding your injuries, you do have an obligation to cooperate with your own insurance company. In doing so, you should be very factual and refrain from providing opinions or medical diagnosis regarding your own injuries. Again, if you have any questions or concerns, you should contact a personal injury lawyer prior to making any statements.
Do I need to speak to the other driver’s insurance company regarding the damage to my vehicle?
If you are not at fault for the accident, and unless you have full coverage and will be relying on your own insurance company to repair your vehicle, you usually will have to discuss the extent of the damage to your vehicle with the other driver’s insurance company in order to resolve that portion of the claim.
You should consult an attorney before doing so.
This part of the claim is usually handled early on and separately from claims for personal injury or lost wages, as set forth in more detail below.
How should I resolve my claim for damage to my vehicle?
Typically, most attorneys who handle the personal injury aspect of your claim will not handle negotiating your property damage claim (damage to or loss of your vehicle). Part of the reason is that you will need to resolve that portion of your claim immediately so that you can either repair your vehicle or obtain the money to purchase another one.
As such, you want to make sure you receive the full value for the damage to or loss of your vehicle.
If your vehicle is damaged, you should obtain repair estimates from one or more reputable repair facilities, and confirm in writing that the insurance company will cover any damage that cannot reasonably be discovered until repairs are underway.
If your vehicle is totaled or deemed totaled by the insurance company, be sure to conduct your own research regarding the fair market value of your vehicle, considering the make, model, condition, and mileage. Some useful resources to obtain the fair market value are Auto Trader (which uses data from internal listings), Edmunds (which uses data from its own inventory), and Kelly’s Blue Book (which uses data from surveys).
Remember, this is a negotiation. Therefore, you do not need to take the first offer you receive, and you can improve your outcome by demanding more and supporting your position.
Finally, with regard to any resolution regarding the loss or damage to your vehicle, be sure you do not sign any documents releasing any other portions of your claims, such as the claims for your personal injuries.
What should I do about solicitations from health care providers and lawyers?
Almost immediately, you likely will begin receiving telephone calls, text messages, mailings, “door hangers,” and/or other solicitations from health care providers and lawyers.
Remember, they are attempting to “sell” you their services.
As with any decision to hire a lawyer, doctor, or other professional, you should conduct your own investigation into their credentials, motives, and methods, and decide for yourself whether you want to form a professional relationship with them.
In response to such solicitations, you do not need to discuss your injuries or how the accident occurred, and can simply take down their information and let them know you will consider them along with other options when deciding on the best course of action for you.
Should I obtain a lawyer to handle my personal injury claim?
As a lawyer, my answer to this question is almost always “yes,” particularly if you have suffered serious injuries, lost wages, or have significant medical expenses, even if those expenses were paid, in whole or in part, by insurance.
If you accept compensation from the other driver or their insurance company for your injuries, you typically have an obligation to pay back your own insurance company for any medical bills related to the accident that were paid on your behalf. This obligation usually applies if payments were made by your health insurance provider, through the Medical Payment coverage on your auto insurance, or by Medicare or Medicaid.
You may have a claim for lost wages, even if you used your vacation or sick time to cover time off work due to the accident. You may be able to recover lost wages for time missed in the initial days or weeks following the accident, and for work missed due to doctor’s appointments related to the accident. Therefore, keep accurate records of the time you missed due to the accident.
If you suffered a serious injury, you may also have future damages, such as a decreased earning capacity or costs for future care. These types of damages usually will require an evaluation from an expert in those areas.
To navigate you through this difficult process, it is usually best to secure the services of a lawyer who is experienced in personal injury law.
What will I need to do to settle the personal injury portion of my auto accident claim?
First and foremost, do everything you can to aid in your recovery. Do what your doctor advises you to do and do not miss doctor’s appointments or physical therapy.
Once you have completed treatment or reached a point where your doctor does not believe you will see any further recovery (some injuries are of course, permanent), you or your attorney will need to obtain all of your bills and records in relation to the accident. To do this, your lawyer will have you sign a release to obtain such information.
To aid in this process, you should keep a record of all of the doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers you have seen in relation to the accident, and the dates of such visits, along with a list of any related prescriptions and costs.
You should also keep a log of all time you missed from work, even if it was for a few hours for a doctor’s appointment.
Once this information is obtained, your lawyer should work with you to make a demand to the other driver’s insurance company.
How long will it take to settle my injury claims?
A case is usually not ready for settlement until you are able to determine the full extent of your injuries. As such, the process does take time, and can vary depending on the nature of your injuries and treatment. The more serious the injuries and the longer the treatment, the longer it will be before your case is ready for settlement.
In addition, once you complete treatment, you will need to obtain copies of your medical records and bills from your health care providers and information related to any payments made by your insurance company. Response times vary, but this process may take up to six weeks after the requests are made, depending on the providers.
Once this information is complete, you can make a demand to the other driver’s insurance company. This is a negotiation, with some back-and-forth, and therefore additional time is needed to try to maximize your recovery (you usually do not want to accept the first offer provided).
If you are not satisfied with the total amount offered in settlement, you may have to file a lawsuit. This process may take anywhere from six months to two years to reach trial.
Of course, you can settle your case at any time. However, once you settle, you cannot go back to the other driver or their insurance company and demand more money. Therefore, you want to make sure you are in position to determine the full extent of your damages and injuries prior to settling.
How much should I expect to receive in a settlement?
Settlement results vary depending on a number of factors, including the nature of your injuries, the amount of your medical bills, the amount your medical bills were reduced due to insurance, and whether there were any lost wages or permanent injuries.
Your settlement should account for any amounts still owed to health care providers, insurance companies, costs, and attorneys’ fees.
For example, a typical breakdown of a settlement in a case with minor injuries that does not go to trial would include the following:
$40,000.00 - Settlement Amount
($11,200.00) - Attorneys’ Fees (reduced to facilitate settlement)
($467.00) - Expenses (filing fee, costs to obtain records, etc.)
($425.00) - Owed to Radiology
($2,200.00) - Owed to Physician
($2,150.00) - Owed to Physical Therapy
($3,090.00) - Owed to Chiropractor
($7,190.00) - Owed to Client’s Health Insurance Company
$13,278.00 = amount to Client
* The amount of damages, payments, and recovery vary from case to case. The above example is for illustrative purposes only to show some of the routine deductions made from a settlement amount.
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