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Personal Injury Settlements

If you have been injured in a car accident, you can receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and related expenses from either your car insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company, depending on who was at fault.

The following information can help you get the most out of your personal injury claim after an accident.

Types of Car Insurance Coverage for Personal Injury

Before you seek compensation, you should understand the types of car insurance that cover personal injury. Which one you use will depend on your policy and the nature of your car accident.

  • The negligent driver's bodily injury liability coverage.
    • This applies when the accident was the other driver’s fault.
    • NOTE: Your own liability policy will NOT cover you.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP), also called “no-fault insurance.”
    • Unlike liability, PIP insurance will pay for your medical costs, up to the policy's limits, even if you were at fault.
  • Medical payments coverage, which pays for medical expenses regardless of fault.
    • This policy is similar to PIP insurance; however, unlike PIP it does not cover lost income, funeral expenses, and loss of services; medical payment only pays for medical bills.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which pays your bodily injury expenses if you’ve been:
    • The victim of a hit and run accident.
    • Hit by a driver who possesses no insurance or limits that don’t meet your expenses.

Fault and Your Claim

In some situations, such as rear-end collisions, the other driver will almost always be considered at fault. However, other types of accidents are not so clear.

The best way to help your car insurance company determine fault is to present your claims adjuster with a thorough explanation of what happened. If you don’t feel you’re at fault, present a reasoned argument detailing why and provide supporting details.

Any careless behavior that contributes to a car accident is called negligence.

Contributory Negligence

A small number of states apply contributory negligence when determining whether you are entitled to compensation. Under contributory negligence, if you are even partly at fault for the accident, you will not receive any payment for a personal injury claim.

Comparative Negligence

Most states use a comparative negligence system when deciding how to compensate victims of car accidents. Under comparative negligence, your compensation may be reduced if you are partly at fault.

The exact rules depend on your state’s laws:

  • Pure comparative negligence: You get compensation in proportion to the amount of the accident that was not your fault.
    • So, if your injuries totaled $60,000 and you were considered 50% at fault for the accident, your damages will be reduced by 50%, so you’ll receive $30,000.
  • Modified comparative fault: You get compensation in proportion to the amount of the accident that was not your fault, but only if you are responsible for LESS THAN 50% of the accident (or 51%, depending on your state).

Factors that Affect Compensation for Personal Injury

You can shorten the amount of time to have your claim settled if you contact your auto insurance company as soon as possible after you are in an accident. Your insurance company will assign you a claims adjuster who will get the claims process moving.

Factors that the claims adjuster will review include:

  • The police report.
  • Whether and how quickly you sought medical attention.
    • Visit the emergency room or your physician as soon as possible after an accident if you are injured.
  • Any pre-existing injuries that you are claiming became worse as a result of the accident.
    • Ask your physician to take new x-rays or ultrasounds of those injured areas. Comparisons in the pre-accident and post-accident scans can help show that the accident caused additional damage to the area.
  • DUI/DWI charges and other citations related to the accident.
  • Statements that you make to other drivers or passengers after the accident.
    • Keep in mind that although your emotions might be intense following a car accident, you should avoid making promises or statements of blame.
  • Witness testimonies.
  • Photographs taken of the accident scene.
  • Records and documents that validate the number of days and wages you lost due to the accident.
  • Personal injury limits written into your car insurance policy.

Evidence and Documentation

Solid evidence makes your claim stronger. You want to prepare as much documentation as possible when preparing to submit a claim to the car insurance company. You can gather evidence in the days following a car accident.

  • Take notes on anything you can remember about the accident as soon as you are physically able.
  • Return to the scene of the accident to search for and take pictures of evidence.
    • You may notice something, such as a dirty traffic sign, that led you to make a driving mistake and get into a car accident.
  • Preserve physical evidence, such as a torn piece of clothing or a rock that was in the middle of the street, causing you to lose control.
  • Contact witnesses.
    • If you collected witness contact information at the time of the accident, contact them as soon as possible to get their observations down on paper.
  • Document your injuries.
    • Take photographs and get medical attention to provide evidence of the seriousness of your injuries.

Damages in Personal Injury Cases

The “damages” in a personal injury case refer to the cost of your injuries. They consider the following as they relate to your injuries sustained in an accident:

  • Direct financial cost.
  • Emotional and indirect costs.

Compensatory damages are most common. They include the following:

  • Specific damages. This refers to the specific valued amounts related to accident-related injuries or loss. They include:
    • Cost of medical bills.
    • Lost wages.
    • Loss of earning capacity.
    • Property loss.
  • General damages. These damages are those that do not have easily calculated dollar amounts and are subjective. They include:
    • Pain and suffering.
    • Emotional distress.
    • Inability to have children as a result of accident-related injuries.
    • Loss of an extremity.
    • Loss of consortium, if the accident caused a strain on your relationship.

If the defendant was especially careless when causing the accident, you may also receive punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant, and are imposed by the court.

If you have questions about damages or your personal injury case in general, speak to your auto insurance agent or ask a personal injury attorney.

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