Serious Injury Due to a Car Accident-What Next?
Unfortunately, car accidents can cause a wide array of serious personal injuries. Most people suffer impact injuries from the collision along with cuts and tears from torn metal or broken glass. Serious injuries include:
- Brain injuries
- Other head injuries, such as facial, eye or ear
- Neck and back injuries
- Chest injuries
- Pelvis and abdominal injuries
- Leg, knee and foot injuries
Result of Serious Injuries from Car Accidents
A blow to the head from a car accident can damage the brain, known as traumatic brain injury (TBI). When severe, this can impair critical functions, such as memory, vision, speech, movement and emotional control. Other head injuries, such as eye injuries, can result in blindness or partial vision loss. Whiplash is the most common back and neck injury suffered in car accidents. Whiplash can damage the spinal cord, discs and ligaments of the vertebrae. It may even cause paralysis or loss of function in parts of the body. The kidneys, spleen and liver can be damaged and most often occur from front-and side-impact collisions. The leg, knee and feet can be sprained, broken or even severed in a car accident.
A severe injury from a car accident is likely to result in hefty medical bills and rehabilitation expenses. Expenses are often compounded with time away from work during recovery. People who are in car crashes may also suffer emotional problems like depression when their lifestyle is altered due to serious and long-lasting injuries.
What to Do If You or a Loved One Incurred a Serious Injury from a Car Accident
Car accidents involving serious or long-term injuries typically require an attorney to achieve the best outcome. An attorney acts as your personal legal advocate and has in-depth knowledge of the relevant laws and procedural rules that may affect your case. With an attorney, you’ll get assistance in filing a lawsuit on your behalf and a professional who knows how to handle possible defenses raised by the other party. Keep in mind that you’ll be up against the experience and deep resources of an insurance company. An attorney helps level the playing field.
Whether negotiating an insurance settlement or going to trial, having an attorney in your corner will alleviate some of the stress, so you can focus on recovery. A personal injury attorney gathers all of the evidence to support your claim. This includes witness statements, police reports, medical reports, accident scene photos and lost wage information. Armed with this evidence, your attorney may prepare a settlement demand letter for the insurance company prior to attempting an alternative dispute resolution method like mediation or arbitration or going to trial. Sometimes, serious injury cases can be settled out of court. Others may require a trial in order to reach a fair settlement.
Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mediation and Arbitration
In serious injury cases that result from car accidents, most courts require lawyers and clients to attend mediation or arbitration before going to trial. Mediation and arbitration are done with a neutral third-party or judge who is not assigned to the case. Meetings takes place with all sides together and separately with the defendant and plaintiff to get the parties’ numbers closer together. If a settlement is reached, your attorney will carefully review all of the terms, including payment terms, amount of money, release of liability and confidentiality terms before you accept and sign. An attorney will also advise you of the pros and cons of a structured settlement. Once you accept the settlement offer, the case is ended. The benefits of alternative dispute resolution include cost-effectiveness, timeliness and privacy. Mediation and arbitration have a good track record for getting cases settled but doesn’t always work.
Going to Trial for Car Accident Injuries
Sometimes, insurance companies don’t want to pay more than just your medical expenses when it comes to serious car injuries like spinal cord injuries, back injuries and fractures. It may be necessary to go to trial for fair compensation that covers pain and suffering, disability and future medical expenses. It’s important to note that neither the mediator nor participants in alternative dispute resolution can testify what happened or what was said during these meetings at a court trial. If the case goes to trial, you’ll need a seasoned personal injury lawyer who has in-depth knowledge of tort laws and strong litigation skills to maximize the value of your case. Common defense strategies in car accidents include comparative negligence and contributory negligence. These factors can diminish what percentage of any verdict can be recovered. It is critical to have a good attorney who can support your version of the facts with solid evidence.
In addition, you’ll need experienced counsel to sort through the complex legal and medical issues to stand up to the insurance companies. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to work with witnesses on cross-examination, talk with police, arrange for medical experts to testify during trial and prepare a strong case for the judge or jury.
Real Life Jury Verdict
A 24-year old student was rear-ended and sustained a herniated disc at L4-5 and bulging discs a C6-7. This student has to undergo physical therapy and injections along with having had a discectomy. The plaintiff’s attorney put up three experts, including an orthopedic specialist, neurosurgeon and pain management physician. The insurance company’s experts argued that the plaintiff’s neck and back conditions were pre-existing and that she only sustained minor strains and sprains. With solid evidence from the plaintiff’s attorney, the jury awarded her $400,000.
When you’ve sustained a serious injury in a car accident, the clock is ticking. The statute of limitations limits the time period in which a case can be filed. If you don’t file a claim within the mandated statute of limitations, it may not be held up in court. Your personal injury lawyer will let you know the personal injury statute of limitations in your state and jurisdiction. Generally, there is no leeway or margin of error.
Surely, you’ve heard the expression, “A lawyer that represents himself has a fool for a client.” While there isn’t a saying for how foolish is it to represent yourself when you aren’t an attorney, you get the picture. There’s so much at stake when you’ve incurred a serious injury in a car accident. Plus, the rules of procedure and evidence are complicated, and you’ll be at a huge disadvantage without an attorney. If you’ve sustained a serious injury from a car accident, the next step is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney with a good track record of success.