A car accident can be traumatic. They happen suddenly—one moment, everyone is okay, and the next, everyone is in shock, confused, and possibly injured.
Some car accidents are life-altering. Individuals may be left with property damage worth thousands of dollars or serious injuries they had never anticipated. After the collision, there will be problems and issues that need resolving.
Here is a detailed guide of what to expect after a car accident — touching on what happens to the car, how fault is determined, and the challenges people may face after the incident.
What happens to the vehicle post-accident depends on its condition after the collision.
If the car is undrivable, it’ll need to be towed. Often, car collision insurance policies cover towing after an accident. If the individual’s insurance provider has a preferred towing service, they should call them to tow the car. If there is no preferred service, the individual must decide which one to use, ensuring that the company selected is trustworthy.
It’s essential to know where the car will be towed to, the towing fees, the potential additional charges, and the storage fees at the tow yard. If possible, have the vehicle towed directly to a reputable auto body shop to have it assessed for the required repairs and the cost of these repairs. Doing this will save time and money that would have otherwise been spent on multiple tows and storage fees.
If the car sustained repairable damages, the repair cost must be considered. It’s best practice to talk to the insurance company before making any repair decisions to determine which costs will be covered.
However, in “at fault” states like California, where the motorist who caused the accident (and their insurance company) is responsible for paying for the damages, those not at fault may have to wait for the insurance company to fix their car or pay for the repairs out-of-pocket and wait for reimbursement.
If the vehicle is so badly damaged that it’s unrepairable or will cost more to repair than it’s worth, the insurance company may declare it “totaled.”
Having a car declared totaled may not always be in the best interests of the car’s owner, as its value may be higher than the insurance adjuster claims. Find out the car’s actual cash value and if the insurance assessed value is below the cash value, challenge the value declared by the adjuster.
In some cases, however, it may be better to have the car declared as totaled. Just be sure to verify that the offered settlement accurately reflects the damages incurred, which can be done by consulting an attorney to review the claim and the settlement presented.
Determining fault in a car accident is not as simple as seeing which driver hit the other. There has to be proof of who is legally negligent – which is not always easy to acquire.
The responding officer, a trial jury, and the insurance companies are involved in determining fault and liability. They rely on evidence from the crash scene, including;
- Police reports
- Driver statements
- Witness statements
- Vehicle damage
- Photos, videos, and camera footage (if any) from the scene
- Medical records
- Road and weather conditions
The responding officer will collect statements at the scene and file an official report. In no-fault states like New York, the insurance company may not need to investigate who was at fault and will pay for the damages and injuries.
However, the insurer will assign an adjuster to investigate severe cases where medical costs and property damages exceed PIP coverage. They will talk to witnesses and both drivers, review medical records, witness statements, and police reports, determine the extent of damage, and verify coverage for both drivers.
When completed, the adjusters from both companies will conclude who is at fault and decide on the settlement amount. The conclusions may differ, and both parties will have a sit-down to discuss the settlement.
If all parties fail to come to an agreement, the case may be presented before a trial jury, which will review the evidence and determine fault.
Note that laws vary by state, so fault determination may vary based on where the crash occurred. Additionally, every state has a “statute of limitations” setting a time limit for how long an individual can file a lawsuit following the event.
After an accident, there is the possibility that the individual will lose their primary (and potentially only available) mode of transportation, which will affect other areas of their lives. It may affect the person’s ability to get to and from work or run errands like grocery shopping. Sometimes, the individual will need to rent a car – which can be costly. If the insurance covers the cost of renting and other transportation-related expenses after an accident, ensure you seek compensation.
The individual’s insurance rates may increase post-accident, especially if they are found to be at fault. Different states vary in how they deal with partial fault, so confirm how it is handled in relevant states. However, no matter the percentage increase, expect to spend more on insurance coverage than before.
Factoring in the potential for lost wages due to injuries sustained in the accident, increased insurance rates can hurt a person’s financial situation. It’s worth trying to talk with the insurance provider to see if it’s possible for them to lower the amount or reduce the period in which they’ll apply the increased rate for the accident.
Depending on the seriousness of the injuries, an individual may lose their ability to work. This means they will be unable to earn an income (or a reduced amount), which may lead to financial constraints, reduced quality of life, and other intangible effects like depression.
A car accident victim may suffer from injuries and trauma associated with the experience, resulting in physical pain, emotional pain, and suffering. These may result in a loss of enjoyment in life, wages and future earnings, and ongoing medical expenses, such as physiotherapy, in-home nursing care, and cognitive therapy.
Whether you were at fault or not, it’s important to know your rights and protect your interests following a car accident. It is highly advised to consult an attorney in your area as they have better knowledge of the local laws and limitations that would apply to your case. They will also ensure that the process and final fault placements are accurate.
Michael B. Schulman & Associates offers various legal services, including personal injury cases like car accidents. Don’t suffer in silence; contact Michael B. Schulman & Associates today to get the ball rolling.