I’ve been in a crash. What do I need to know about car accident compensation?
Navigating compensation after a car crash is complex and often overwhelming. As the experienced personal injury attorneys at Cohn & Swartzon can attest, partnering with a lawyer familiar with the car accident compensation process is vital to safeguard your rights and attain the settlement you deserve.
Understanding Accident Compensation
Car accident compensation refers to the financial settlement a victim receives due to a car accident caused by another person’s negligence. This compensation may involve the at-fault party, their insurance provider, or their own insurance company if dealing with an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim.
To file a successful claim for compensation, however, there are steps that you will need to take – both in the moments after the accident and in the days that follow.
We’ll start with the former: what should you do when an accident happens to give yourself the best chance at compensation?
What to Do After a Car Accident
According to California Highway Patrol data, there were nearly 28,000 collisions in Orange County alone in 2022. While the circumstances of each accident are unique, remembering a few essential steps in the moments after a car accident can both keep you safe and maximize your chances of compensation as the claims process proceeds.
Get to Safety
What’s most important in the moments after a car accident is your safety and the safety of your passengers.
If your car is still operable, turn on your emergency lights and pull safely over to the shoulder or side of the road. If your car can’t move, or if traffic won’t allow you to pull off the road, stay in the vehicle until emergency services arrive.
Also, do not get out of the vehicle to inspect the damage or exchange information if your car is still in active traffic. This puts you and everyone else at the scene at risk for additional and unnecessary injuries.
Call for Help
If you are alone in your car when an accident happens, call 911 as soon as your immediate safety is secure. If you have passengers, one of them can call for emergency services while you drive your vehicle to a safer space.
If you have been in a serious crash, it’s important to call for a law enforcement officer even if you are in a minor accident. As we’ll discuss below, the officer’s incident report will be an important point of reference during the claims process.
When you are able and/or law enforcement arrives, the next step is to collect information.
When you interact with the other driver, make sure to get:
- Names, addresses, phone numbers, and driver’s license numbers from all drivers
- Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of other passengers and any witnesses
- License plate(s) and vehicle identification numbers. Ask to see the other driver’s license and registration to verify the information is accurate and up-to-date.
Also, you will want to take photos of the scene, the damage to the vehicle(s), and your injuries. You will also need the officer’s incident report information, as both your insurance and your attorneys will need that data to proceed with your claim.
“Thorough documentation and photographic evidence is always the best foundation for a car accident claim, but that isn’t always possible in an emergency situation. That’s why working with a personal injury attorney after an accident is so important – one of our tasks is to fill in any information gaps to make sure our clients’ rights are protected throughout the process.”
– Jason D. Cohn, Founding Principal, Cohn & Swartzon
NOTE: In hit-and-run cases, you will still need to remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives to provide a statement, which should include any relevant details about the hit-and-run driver. This will be essential if your insurance company tries to get away with an insufficient settlement.
See a Doctor
After you have collected all of the information you need and you are cleared to leave the accident location, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible.
If you have suffered serious injuries, but a medical evaluation is necessary after any accident – even a minor one. As we’ll discuss below, securing a diagnosis and treatment for what you’ve gone through will be a vital part of your car accident compensation claim.
Filing a Claim for Car Accident Compensation
Filing a claim for car accident compensation starts with two phone calls – one to your insurance, and another to a personal injury attorney.
You need to notify your insurance carrier as soon as possible that you have been in an accident so that they can start the claims process on their end. And if you were injured in an accident caused by the other party’s negligence, partnering with an attorney sooner rather than later will increase your chances of being fully compensated for the accident.
Finally, California states that you must report an accident to the DMV within 10 days if anyone is injured or vehicle damage exceeds $750. Your insurance adjuster can file the report on your behalf, but it’s important to follow up as failing to notify the DMV may result in the suspension of your driver’s license.
Investigation & Education
As we mentioned above, the earlier you can retain a personal injury attorney to help you with the claims process the better.
The two primary reasons for working with an attorney on your car accident claim are investigation and education.
When a personal injury firm takes your car accident case, their first order of business is to do a deep dive into the details of your crash. This investigation phase includes establishing who is at fault and who is liable for damages to support your claim for compensation.
The second most important reason to work with knowledgeable personal injury attorneys is the education and guidance that they can provide. It’s a well-known fact throughout the legal profession that insurance companies will use every tool and opportunity at their disposal to deflect blame and minimize payouts. And that doesn’t just apply to
Economic & Non-Economic Damages
A qualified personal injury attorney will never promise you a specific amount of compensation after an accident, but you should be able to get a rough estimate after your representative reviews the facts and assembles the components involved.
The two categories under consideration in any car accident claim are economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages can include property damage, physical injuries that require treatment and recovery, lost wages, and other ramifications of the accident that can be calculated in dollars and cents.
One important element of economic damages that many victims aren’t aware of is future medical costs, which can include the need for surgeries or ongoing treatment after the accident. This category is important because once a settlement is finalized, the insurance companies and at-fault parties are under no obligation to provide additional compensation – even if your medical costs are still piling up.
Finally, non-economic damage covers the emotional trauma or ‘pain and suffering’ caused by the accident. This can manifest as symptoms like anxiety, depression, emotional outbursts, or stress. Other challenges that are often tied back to car accidents include insomnia, lack of appetite, loss of consortium, and other challenges related to mental health and quality of life.
Because the circumstances of every accident are unique, it will be your attorney’s responsibility to assemble the evidence necessary to present a credible claim – and advise you on what the other side is doing so you can make the right decisions for your future.
Cohn & Swartzon: Your Legal Guide to Car Accident Compensation
If all of these strategies and recommendations for car accident compensation seem like a lot to remember, you should know that we have only scratched the surface.
Certain circumstances like rideshare accidents, multiple vehicle accidents, and uninsured motorist accidents – to name only a few – can make your claim more complex and the obstacles between you and compensation harder to overcome.
With a personal injury firm like Cohn & Swartzon by your side, however, all of those concerns are no longer your responsibility.
“Because we have spent years negotiating with insurance companies, we have a deep understanding of how they try to deny or reduce payouts for accident victims. And that isn’t just the at-fault party’s insurance – we often have to negotiate with our client’s insurance carrier to ensure an acceptable settlement too. We tell people all the time that the insurance companies don’t have your best interests at heart, which is one of the main reasons you need legal representation after a car accident.”
– Saar Swartzon, Founding Principal, Cohn & Swartzon
Our attorneys have represented car accident victims and their loved ones for decades. Choosing Cohn & Swartzon means that you will have proven advocates to protect your rights and aggressively pursue the compensation you are entitled to.