It goes without saying that an automobile accident can be a highly unpleasant experience, one that often leaves the driver with substantial damage to his or her vehicle. In some cases, the driver may suffer significant bodily injury as well. What all this means is that the driver’s ordeal frequently does not end after a car accident.
In the aftermath of the accident, there are a number of expenses that must be dealt with and these vary according to the nature and severity of the incident, as well as the coverage provided by any insurance policies.
The vehicles must be repaired. This involves anything from minor fix-ups to an extensive overhaul of the automobile. Sometimes the vehicle is “totaled”—that is, the cost of restoring it to a drivable state exceeds the worth of the automobile—and it then becomes necessary to purchase another car.
Depending upon who’s fault it is and the specifics of your insurance coverage, the amount of money the insurance company offers may be less than what you owe on the car. If you lease or have a loan on your car, your compensation may be less than what you think your car is worth.
Therefore, if you’re in this situation, you will need to have an experienced attorney represent you to get the most for your destroyed vehicle. If the other party is at fault and has insurance, you most likely are in better shape regarding your vehicle.
Expenses You Might Have To Pay After A Car Accident
If you or someone else is injured, you could be responsible for paying for expenses such as:
- An ambulance ride to the emergency room
- Emergency room fees
- Emergency room doctor fees
If your injuries are severe enough, you may also have to pay for:
- Hospital fees
- X-rays, MRIs, CAT scans and/or ultrasounds
- Surgical fees
- Doctor’s fees
- Physical therapy
- Medical devices like boots, braces, wheelchairs, crutches, etc.
- Medicine like painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs
When it comes to managing one’s expenses after an accident, there are questions that you must ask yourself before taking your next step. Whether you were the driver, a pedestrian or a passenger, who will pay for you, passengers and your medical expenses?
Most people have the general idea about what needs to be done after an accident—i.e. exchange insurance info with the other driver, notify the insurance company, etc. But when an accident occurs, it’s all too easy for the parties involved to overlook the correct course of action.
That’s understandable—many people have trouble thinking clearly in the stressful aftermath of an auto accident. That’s why it’s best to familiarize yourself in advance about what you need to do if disaster strikes. Here are some tips to minimize the expenses you will have to absorb after a car wreck.
What To Do After A Car Accident: The First Steps
If you are able to, you should do the following at the scene of the accident:
- If possible, do not move your vehicle. It’s far more valuable for the police officer to see the position of the cars at impact.
- Call the police.
- Seek immediate medical attention if needed.
- Even if your injuries are minimal, you’re advised to seek medical attention within 24 hours of the accident.
- If possible, take photographs of the cars and the accident scene, as stated above in point number 1.
- Make sure to receive a copy of the police report and contact information of the police officer.
If the police don’t arrive, then obtain the following:
- The contact information of the other driver
- The insurance information of the other driver
- Name and contact information of any witnesses: driver’s license number, state and expiration date of the other driver.
- Photographs of the cars, the other car’s license plate and the accident scene including the positions of the vehicles at impact.
While in the past it may have been standard advice to keep a camera in the glove box, the advent of cell phones has made it much more convenient to document an accident. Be sure to take multiple photos of all vehicles involved in the accident, with special attention to any areas that have sustained damage, as well as the license plate. Photos tend to be most effective when they can give an impression of the entire accident scene, not just close-ups of the vehicles.
For instance, if the other car is in the wrong lane, you should take a photo that captures this information. Among other benefits, photograph documentation may reduce the possibility that the other driver will later attempt to alter the harm caused by the accident. As we will see, having the right documentation and being able to produce it when requested, is one of the keys to obtaining a positive outcome.
Things To Avoid After A Car Accident
Also, there are a few things you should avoid doing at the accident scene:
- Do not tell the other driver that you feel responsible for the accident—this could haunt you later.
- Do not allow the other driver to pay you off at the scene; this is what your insurance is for and by accepting cash, you may compromise your ability to file a legal claim. Keep in mind that you may not fathom the full extent of the damage—either to your vehicle or to yourself—right away.
- Do not make some kind of handshake agreement to mutually decline to deal with the insurance company. If the other party later decides to sue you, then you may be denied the protections you would have received from filing a formal claim.
If you have to pay for transportation, be sure to get a receipt. This is one of the expenses you may be able to recover later. Contact your insurance company after an accident. You have limited time to contact your insurance company as per your automobile insurance policy.
They will collect information from you, including:
- Date of the accident.
- Time of the accident.
- Location of the accident.
- If there’s a police report, provide the report number.
- Your description of the accident.
- Any injuries you’ve incurred.
- How are you currently feeling?
- Did you seek medical attention?
- Are you still receiving medical attention?
Contacting an Attorney
If you’ve been injured, your best course of action is to obtain the services of an experienced accident attorney. Don’t count on the insurance companies to do the right thing—they’re not really on your side, even if they try to convince you otherwise.
Your attorney will advise you that the other party’s insurance company will be calling you. In addition, your attorney will advise you about what is appropriate to say and what you should not discuss with the other party’s insurance company. Your attorney will also tell you to inform the other party’s insurance company that you have retained the services of an attorney and to provide the attorney’s name and telephone number.
Last, you will tell the other party’s insurance company to contact your attorney with any other questions. The primary mission of insurance companies is to minimize the amount of money they have to payout. This means you will almost certainly not get the best deal possible if you negotiate with them all by yourself.
Having an attorney in your corner means that they can argue on your behalf if there is controversy as to the party responsible for the accident. Attorneys can also be very helpful when it comes to dealing with your claims adjuster. This is the person who is responsible for analyzing the facts of the case and determining fault.
Often, the other party’s adjuster will ask you to sign an authorization form. This allows the insurance company to access your medical records. This may seem innocuous enough, but this request can lead to problems for you. DO NOT talk to or sign anything without consulting with your accident attorney. For example, the insurance company may attempt to use pre-existing conditions as an excuse to lower the amount you are owed.
Normally, medical expenses specifically related to the accident are recoverable. However, it’s very important to maintain all documentation and provide it to your accident attorney. This documentation should include the following:
- Name, address and telephone number of every medical professional who sees or treats you
- All medical bills and records (e.g., ambulance, emergency room, hospital, x-rays, physical therapy, etc.)
- Car rental bills
- Repair bills
- Photographs of the accident scene
- Witness information
- Anything else that might be relevant
What happens when your medical bills arrive in the mail? This is where things get problematic for many people. This should not be the case if you have retained the services of an experienced accident attorney. Your attorney will instruct you to tell the medical professionals who have treated you to send their billing directly to your attorney.
They will be paid later out of the settlement of your case. Your experienced accident attorney will most likely negotiate down the amount of your accident-related medical expenses once your case has been settled. Many medical providers will then file a lien with your accident attorney to protect their interest in the proceeds of your settlement.
This is a normal process and will not affect your attorney’s ability to negotiate a reduction in your medical bills.
More Information About Automobile Insurance
Some states provide “no-fault” insurance provisions. This is where you can receive money to pay your medical bills, whether you or another party was responsible for the accident. The state of Illinois does not provide this option, however.
If this sounds like an unpleasant state of affairs that you would rather avoid, you can prevent some serious problems down the road by augmenting your auto insurance policy. Medical Payments Coverage (MPC) is an insurance option that pays your medical bills as well as those of anyone in the car with you at the time of the accident. This is no-fault coverage, so you don’t have to wait for an official determination regarding who is responsible for the crash.
Incidentally, another useful insurance option is rental reimbursement coverage. This lets you rent a vehicle for a certain length of time while your damaged car is in the shop. Don’t allow the rental company to pressure you into buying their insurance—your existing auto policy should be sufficient.
If your car is damaged by the accident, then you may qualify for a payout from your insurance company. This will depend on which party is determined to be at fault, as well as the type of insurance you and the other driver have. One common hitch though is that the cash value of a vehicle, as calculated by the insurance company, is less than the amount owed on the loan.
In this case, you will owe your lender more money than you will receive from your insurance. This is certainly not a good position to be in. However, there is a type of insurance that can resolve this issue for you. Guaranteed Auto Protection insurance or GAP insurance, is an optional policy that will cover the difference between your insurance payout and the balance on your car loan. However, this may be mandatory for many car loans and leases.
If You Or Someone You Know Has Been Involved In A Car Accident,
Contact Us at (800) 722-9744 NOW To Speak To An Experienced Injury Lawyer For FREE.
Since 1996, the Law Offices of Marc J. Shuman & Associates, LTD have been helping car accident victims and their families navigate the complex legal process. As experienced personal injury, workers’ compensation, auto accident, compensation, and wrongful death attorneys, we can help you evaluate the facts, assess your options, navigate the legal challenges and advocate on your behalf.
Marc J. Shuman & Associates has over 77 combined years of experience advocating for over 20,000 injury victims and their families, recovering over 50 million dollars on their behalf. We advocate on your behalf so you can focus on the task of recovery.