If you have been involved in a car accident, you likely have a lot of questions about your rights, your obligations, and what to expect when you file a personal injury claim to recover compensation for your damages. It is always best to discuss any questions you have with your attorney because he or she can answer them with consideration of the unique circumstances present in your case. Use the following guide as a starting point for your conversations with your attorney rather than an a complete set of answers about your claim.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident Claim?
The answer depends on the type of claim you plan to file. For injuries sustained in a car accident, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of the accident. For property damage, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the accident. It is very important that you file your claim before the statute of limitations expires. Otherwise, you forfeit the right to seek compensation.
What Types of Damages May I Seek Compensation to Cover?
If you have been injured in a car accident, you may seek compensation for the following losses through a personal injury claim:
- Medical bills;
- Lost wages; and
- Pain and suffering.
If you file a wrongful death claim after a loved one is killed in a car accident or dies as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident, you may seek compensation for the following:
- Funeral expenses;
- Loss of his or her income and contributions to the household;
- Medical expenses for the victim leading up to his or her death; an
- The loss of his or her companionship and consortium.
If your vehicle is damaged or totaled in a collision, you can also seek compensation to have your car repaired or replaced.
What if I Am Partially at Fault for my Accident?
Tennessee courts follow the doctrine of modified comparative fault when determining negligence and liability in car accident claims. This means that as long as a claimant is found to bear less than half of the responsibility for his or her accident, he or she may recover damages through a personal injury claim. However, the amount of money he or she may receive is reduced in accordance with the percentage of fault he or she has in the accident. For example, an individual who seeks $100,000 in damages and is found to be 20 percent at fault for an accident may only recover up to $80,000 as a settlement.
How Long Does a Car Accident Claim Take to Resolve?
This can depend on many factors. Generally, an insurance provider offers a claimant a settlement within a few weeks of receiving a claim. If the claimant accepts this settlement, the case is closed. But in many cases, this settlement amount is not sufficient to cover the claimant’s needs and the claimant instead works with an attorney to conduct a full investigation of the case and negotiate a higher claim amount. This can take a few months, but generally takes less than a year. Sometimes, an appropriate settlement amount cannot be offered until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), which can be months after your accident.
If your attorney cannot reach an acceptable settlement agreement with the insurance provider, you might need to take the case to court. When this happens, resolving it and receiving your settlement can take even longer, possibly months longer or even beyond a year.
Can I Appeal a Claim Settlement?
Yes. If your insurance claim is denied, the provider should have an appeals process in place that you can follow to have it reconsidered. Work with your attorney to determine why your claim was denied, which is likely one of the following reasons:
- You missed a filing deadline;
- You did not have sufficient evidence to support your claim;
- The coverage has lapsed;
- You were at fault for the accident;
- The type of damages you are seeking are not covered by the policy; or
- The amount you are seeking exceeds the policy’s limits.
Determine what you need to change about your claim and resubmit it to the company for another review. You may need to show why your claim is legitimate and provide a stronger body of evidence to have it reconsidered. If your claim continues to be denied and you feel it is the fault of the provider, you can file a bad faith claim alleging the fault of the insurance company.
What Should I Do After a Car Accident?
Immediately after a collision occurs, pull off the road if it is safe to do so. If it is not safe, do not.
If you, anybody in your vehicle, or any other party involved in the accident is in need of emergency medical attention, call 911 to have an ambulance sent to the scene. Otherwise, call the non-emergency line to have a police officer sent to evaluate the situation and file an official police report.
Take photographs of all damage done to the vehicles and injuries you have sustained. It is important that you have evidence to prove your damages in the event you choose to file an insurance claim.
The next step is to exchange insurance policy and contact information with the other parties involved in the collision. Be sure to get their insurance policy numbers and providers’ contact information. If there were any witnesses to the accident, take down their contact information as well.
Do not leave the scene without a copy of the official police report and the attending officer’s badge number and contact information. You might need to contact the officer again during the claims process. Once you leave the scene, seek medical attention within a timely manner. This will not only tie your injury to the accident concretely, but show that you were truly in need of medical intervention and that show the extent of your injury. Once you have received a diagnosis and begin your treatment, contact an experienced car accident attorney to handle your case.
Why Should I Hire a Car Accident Attorney?
Hiring a Memphis Car Accident Attorney gives your case a greater chance of success than it would have had if you were to file and represent the claim yourself. Working specifically with a car accident attorney ensures that your claim is handled by an individual who has experience representing car accident victims and understands the challenges that are specific to this type of case.