If you were in a car accident, you may be severely injured. Even if you feel as if you are uninjured, medical costs from even a minor injury can really add up, and some injuries don’t present until days or even weeks later.
The financial pain that victims of car accidents suffer, on top of the physical pain they experience while they attempt to heal from their injuries, can cause feelings of despair and overwhelm them. As the bills pile up, many people end up filing bankruptcy, using credit cards or taking loans to escape the pressure. In fact, in the United States, medical bills are the number one cause of individuals filing for bankruptcy.
However, don’t lose hope. California law allows you to demand financial compensation for personal injuries from a negligent driver. However, you should not wait too long to pursue your claims as there are strict time limits to do so.
In California, you generally must file your car accident lawsuit within a short period of two years after the date of your accident if you want a court to consider it. This time limit is called the statute of limitations and is a firm date. If you miss it, the court will throw your lawsuit out (dismiss it) and you’ll be left with no legal recourse to recover damages (monetary compensation) for your injuries. Often times it is better to see if the case can be settled before filing a lawsuit, so having sufficient time to do that before the statute of limitations expires is another reason to act soon. If you think you’re eligible to file a personal injury claim, contact a car accident attorney as soon as you can.
Types of Damages
The amount of damages that you can potentially recover will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case. An experienced car accident attorney will be able to evaluate your case and help you determine what type (and the amount) of damages that you should seek, including those described below.
- Medical expenses: This includes costs associated with both your initial hospital stay and any other past or future medical expenses you incur for treatment of your injuries, such as follow-up doctor’s appointments, surgeries, therapy (physical, occupational, speech, or mental health), rehabilitation, or medical supplies and equipment.
- Lost wages: If your injury causes you to miss work, you should attempt to recoup the wages you lose from being unable to work. You can also recover any tips, commissions, or retirement contributions that you miss out on.
- Property damage: If you are seriously injured, your vehicle may also have been significantly damaged. Don’t forget to consider damage to any property that you had inside the vehicle at the time and not just the vehicle itself.
- Pain and suffering: Although it is more difficult to predict pain and suffering awards, because injuries affect people differently, it is often the most significant aspect of any accident. Pain and suffering compensation is intended to compensate victims for physical discomfort as well as emotional distress. Severe injuries can cause pain or limitations that continue for the rest of a victim’s life and can affect the victim’s ability to work or perform activities of daily living. Emotional pain and suffering may include compensation for a new fear of driving, nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder, distrust of others, overwhelming grief, or extreme anger. If individuals experience disfigurement or severe scarring, they may be able to receive compensation for both the disfigurement and scarring as well as the emotional trauma that often results from such injuries.
- Loss of consortium: If a victim has a spouse, that person may be able to file a claim for loss of consortium at the same time that the victim files his or her lawsuit. The losses the spouse of a victim may suffer include reducing the quality of the because of the injured spouse’s inability to participate in and enjoy activities that the couple used to engage in together. This could take the form of lost leisure activities or sexual relations. The victim may also have provided benefits to the spouse that he or she can no longer provide; things like child care, home maintenance, driving, or household chores.
File Your Insurance Claims
You should always file claims with your automobile and health insurance companies for your property damage that stems from your accident. It probably goes without saying that you aren’t going to be able to recover for any costs that your insurance has already reimbursed you for, but often your auto policy does not pay enough to fully replace a vehicle, so you may need to make a claim for the difference. Even those with health insurance can be left with piles of bills after paying co-pays, coinsurance, and deductibles, so if you have medical payments coverage through your auto insurer, it can be helpful to make a claim with your carrier to cover some of those costs.
Document Your Expenses
Because you will need to prove your damages, it is critical that you careful keep documentation proving all of your losses and document how the injury has impacted you. You don’t want to miss out on potential recovery because you can’t prove aspects of your damages. Although it’s scary and overwhelming to open medical bills, don’t just toss them aside hoping to avoid them. Open them, keep them in a safe location, and make sure to give them all to your attorney.
Documenting your lost wages may be tedious, but it is pretty simple. Keeping a spreadsheet or a notebook in which you document the date of your absence and the hours (if you are an hourly employee) of work you miss.
Keep track of any money you spent to fix your vehicle or replace property that was damaged by the wreck. Put the receipts for such costs in the same folder as your medical receipts.
How Contacting a Car Accident Attorney Can Help You
Being injured in a car accident is scary and can negatively impact your life for a long time. Take the important step of retaining a competent car accident attorney to help you on the path toward recovering compensation from the person who hurt you. You should consider retaining an attorney who will fight for your rights and seek justice in your case. Reach out right away, so you don’t miss the statute of limitations and lose your opportunity to recover anything.