Frequently Asked Questions About Motor Vehicle Accidents
Q: I have been in a motor vehicle accident. Should I go to a doctor?
A: If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should see a doctor right away. First, you should see a doctor for your own well-being. You may not be able to discern the extent of your injuries yourself; a small ache could be something significant, or it could be nothing at all. Only a doctor can tell you for sure. Second, you should see a doctor because if you decide to bring a legal claim against the at-fault driver or another party, you will need documentation of your injuries and what you did to fix them.
Q: Do I have to go to court if I want to recover monetary damages?
A: Maybe. Your case may settle even before your attorney files a lawsuit; on the other hand, it may go all the way to a trial and a jury verdict. The majority of lawsuits are settled before they get to trial, but what happens in your case depends on the facts, the law and the parties involved.
Q: If the accident was my fault, can I still recover compensation?
A: Some states have no-fault insurance laws. This means that you may be able to make some recovery of economic damages from your own insurance company. In other states, if your fault is found to be over a certain level, it is more difficult to recover compensation. An attorney in your state can advise you on the rules in your area.
Q: How much is my personal injury case worth?
A: Your attorney can speak with you about this, but even attorneys can't necessarily pinpoint what your case is worth until it is close to a resolution. Many factors, including the circumstances of the accident, the state of the drivers involved and the insurance companies influence the outcome. So do your medical bills, your loss of income and the nature of your injuries. An experienced lawyer can work with you to decide whether to pursue legal action and how to proceed.
Q: How soon do I need to bring my legal claim against the other driver?
A: It is best to speak with an attorney right away. The time limits for taking legal action vary by state, and they may also be affected by insurance policy terms and conditions. The nature of your injuries may even change the amount of time you have to bring a claim.
Q: What if the insurance company offers me a check right away?
A: Before you accept anything — or sign anything — from an insurance company, be sure that you are aware of your legal rights and options. Accepting a check may mean that you are giving up your right to sue later on if you need extra medical care or you have to miss a lot of work. Consult an attorney before you negotiate with the insurance company.
Q: What if the other driver, who caused the accident, has no insurance?
A: Even though your state may require all drivers to carry a certain level of auto insurance, that doesn't mean that everyone follows the law. This is why some states require insurance companies to offer drivers uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If your insurance policy has this feature, then it may compensate you for some of your losses.
Q: Are there parties other than the at-fault driver against whom I can take legal action?
A: If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, there may be parties other than the at-fault driver who share responsibility for what happened. If the accident occurred because the other driver was drunk, and a business served alcohol to the visibly intoxicated driver before the accident, your state's dram shop law may allow you to hold the business liable; this varies from state to state. If a defect in one of the motor vehicles caused or worsened the accident, the vehicle manufacturer may be responsible for the injuries that resulted. Or a third party may have left debris in the road or caused one of the drivers involved in the accident to undertake a risky driving maneuver to avoid collision. Finally, if the owner of the car driven by the at-fault driver negligently allowed the driver to use the car, the owner may be liable, too.
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