Car accidents are very common in the U.S. According to the NHTSA, more than 6 million occur every year, and of these, 6% result in at least one death, whereas 27% result in nonfatal injuries.
If you end up injured from a car accident, it can have many knock-on effects on your life: from expensive hospital bills to the time taken off work to recuperate and the less obvious effects, such as the strain on your mental well-being.
If the accident wasn’t your fault, it’s likely that you’ll be filing a claim for compensation from the liable driver.
While every claim is different and it can be difficult to predict an “average” settlement amount, there are several things that can help you get the most from the claim.
Some things in life you can’t put a price on - particularly if you’re the victim of a catastrophic injury - however, walking away from a settlement with the highest amount possible is at least some form of compensation for the damages and injuries incurred.
So, how do you get the most money from a car accident? Let’s take a look…
Remain at the scene
Different states have different rules about whether or not you should call the cops if you’re involved in a minor accident, however, usually, it’s a good idea to do so, and if you’re in a more serious accident, you’ll definitely want to do this if the accident has caused injuries, fatalities or damage to property.
You’ll need to swap contact information and registration details with the other drivers and responding law enforcement officers. While you’re waiting for the cops to arrive, it’s important to stay at the scene of the accident, and the other driver should do so too.
Do not leave the scene until the responding officers have conducted their investigation and give you the green-light to leave. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, it’s illegal to leave the scene of an accident or leave before providing information to the authorities.
Remember, how you act immediately after the accident can have a big impact later on - as the police report may be used in support of your claim.
Gather the necessary information
Obviously, if there are serious injuries to yourself and others it will be difficult to do this at the scene of the accident, but you should try to gather as much information as you can if you’re not seriously injured.
You should get the contact information of other drivers and occupants involved in the accident, as well as any witnesses. This is especially important when it comes to the at-fault driver as if they commit a hit and run and you fail to take down their information, the cost of any injuries or damages incurred may fall into your hands.
It can also be a good idea to take photographs and video footage if possible. Do this from every possible vantage point to get the most complete image possible of what the scene looked like.
Seek medical treatment
If you’re involved in a serious accident, you’ll probably be rushed to the nearest emergency room by first responders.
However, in minor accidents, you may feel fine and presume you are uninjured, in which case it can be tempting to walk away. However, some injuries such as whiplash can only become apparent days after the accident, which is why it’s a good idea to seek medical attention regardless.
Getting compensation relies on proving that the accident caused your injuries, and proving the extent of these injuries, and delaying a medical examination is an easy mistake many people make when involved in minor car accidents.
Report the accident to your insurance company
Even if you weren’t “at-fault”, you still need to report the crash to your own insurance company. Postponing this notification or failing to do so completely could result in the cancellation of your policy or other losses of legal rights.
Be honest with your insurer, but also watch your words, as even your insurance company will be looking for ways to avoid losing money. Stick to the facts alone, and leave discussions around who was “at-fault” for meetings with your attorney.
Keep all of your bills as evidence
The more evidence you can provide to support your claim, the more likely you are to be fully compensated. For this reason, it’s important to keep all of your medical bills relating to the accident from the moment it happens.
If the accident prevents you from working temporarily or permanently, you should also save any payroll documents that prove you’ve lost part of your salary or had to use paid leave to recuperate.
You should keep any documentation of any other expenses relating to the accident and the injuries incurred as a result. These can include things like modifications to your home if you’ve been left disabled, or for example, having to hire someone to help take care of daily chores.
Keep a record of your injuries and feelings
The damages resulting from a car accident are not just economic, and for this reason, you should keep a record (such as a journal) of exactly how difficult things are for you since the accident.
For example note down things such as your pain and suffering, how your personal relationships have been affected, and even the strain on your mental health.
Keep going to the doctor
Attend all of your doctor appointments and therapy sessions to ensure you always have the most up-to-date information on your injuries.
Medical records and opinions can help predict the extent of your injuries and how the injury will affect you in the future, too, which could help you get more compensation if the impacts will be felt in the long term.
Always speak to your attorney before accepting an offer
This is super important. If you accept an offer before consulting with a legal professional, you give up your legal rights and are likely to have lost out on a lot of money.
At-fault parties may insist on keeping lawyers “out of it”, but this is usually them just trying to get away with compensating you less money than you deserve.
Avoid speaking to others about your accident
It can be tempting to speak to friends and family about your accident, but you should avoid doing this, as when insurance companies and attorneys investigate a car accident they speak with the victim’s friends, families, and colleagues.
It’s also important that you don’t speak with investigators without first consulting your attorney.
Insurance company representatives and investigators obviously want to avoid paying you the maximum amount of compensation, so they may scour your social media profiles hoping you’ve “put your foot in it” by posting something that will jeopardize your claim.
Keep information and opinions regarding your accident and injuries OFF social media.