While money can’t replace the time and enjoyment lost after a wreck, it can make things easier — especially if you miss work or incur expenses due to car crash injuries. Even a minor car crash injury, like whiplash, can be painful and disruptive. Here’s how you can get compensated and move forward after an accident.
Get Information and Evidence
The first step to receiving compensation for car crash injuries is filing insurance claims. Those claims are more likely to be successful if you have information ready.
Start with the basic information you need for an insurance claim:
- The other driver’s name and contact information
- Insurance information
- Names and contact information for witnesses
- Name and badge number of law enforcement reporting to the scene
Also, consider taking photos, especially if you feel shaken and worry about forgetting important details. Examples of compelling car crash photos include:
- Damage to both vehicles
- Personal property damage, e.g., broken laptop screens, spilled drinks on devices, stained upholstery, activated airbags, etc.
- Street signs and other landmarks near the accident site
- Vehicle license plates
- Injury signs, including bruises, cuts, scratches, burns, and abrasions
Later, you can request accident reports, including anything filed by a law enforcement officer. The report may include facts you don’t remember and, more importantly, any tickets issued to other drivers.
Record what happened while it remains fresh in your memory and note any pain or distress. You can write these observations down, but you might find it easier to record a short video or audio account on your smartphone after the accident.
Seek Medical Attention for Car Crash Injuries
Seeing a doctor after a car accident documents your injury. Your injury claim is more credible if you seek medical attention immediately than if you linger in pain for days or weeks. If hidden injuries present themselves later, you at least have a pattern of establishing medical treatment and seeking care.
Unfortunately, accident victims frequently overlook medical and mental health treatment as an important step to receiving compensation. Many drivers lose insurance claims because they downplay soreness or brush it off as ‘not that bad.’ Seek treatment for these common car accident injuries if you are sore, unusually distressed, or feel simply “off.”
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries include sprains, strains, and bruises to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Symptoms can be immediate or show up days after an accident. However, without treatment, these injuries become extremely painful. Examples include whiplash and back pain after an accident.
Scrapes, Cuts, and Abrasions
Accident victims may sustain bruises and cuts from broken glass or impacts with the steering wheel, door panel, dashboard, or flying objects. Also, deployed airbags cause abrasions, especially with shorter drivers who sit closer to the steering wheel.
You can suffer burns if your car or anything inside it accidentally catches fire. Airbag deployment can also cause burns on your hands and face. Drivers may also sustain burns if vehicle fluids or hot drinks splash on them at impact.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
If you sustained whiplash or experienced a headache after a car accident, it may be a good idea to have a doctor evaluate you for traumatic brain injuries (TBI). They can happen when accident victims hit their head on a dashboard, door frame, or steering wheel — but the jerking back-and-forth motion of a whiplash accident can also cause brain trauma. You don’t have to lose consciousness to sustain a TBI; if you feel dizzy, tired, confused, nauseous, or “foggy,” see a doctor immediately.
Bad car crashes may result in broken bones, often hands, wrists, arms, ankles, and ribs. Drivers may suffer a fracture when they brace against the steering wheel or floor.
Blunt force trauma is another cause of fractures. But you may not notice the fracture right away. For example, “dashboard knee” is usually a soft tissue injury resulting from the knee hitting the dashboard. However, further investigation can reveal cracked knee caps along with ligament swelling.
Internal injuries are frequently hidden and you may not feel them until they become serious and life-threatening. It is a good idea to head to an emergency room or urgent care center as soon as possible after an accident so doctors can check for internal injuries before they become serious.
Mental Health Conditions
There are instances where people develop PTSD from a car accident. Even minor accidents can lead to anxiety disorders, phobias, and other disruptive mental health conditions.
File an Insurance Claim
You have two options for filing an insurance claim for car crash injuries: filing it with your insurance or filing with the other driver’s insurance. It’s normal to want the at-fault driver to cover your damages, but there are good reasons for using your own insurance.
Using Your Insurance Coverage
Your insurance policy may include personal injury protection (PIP), which covers medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs when you sustain injuries in an auto accident.
PIP pays these bills regardless of fault, so it keeps your expenses paid and under control. It’s also helpful if you miss work since it covers lost wages.
Another benefit of PIP is its replacement services coverage. If pain, recovery, or immobility make life matters unmanageable, PIP will cover basic services like house cleaning, landscaping, and extra child care.
Besides PIP, you may also carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage pays medical bills, property damage, and noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering. It activates after hit-and-run accidents or when the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay your damages.
Pursuing the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance
You may wish to skip your insurance and go straight to the other driver’s insurance if:
- There is no dispute about liability
- You carry liability-only insurance and do not have PIP coverage
- You face high medical costs and do not have health insurance
- Your claim only involves property damage
Claims limited to property damage are the easiest to settle with another driver’s insurance policy. Insurance companies typically don’t dispute property damage after they accept liability. Also, repair receipts or estimates make property damage objective and easy to prove. If the insurance declares your car is a total loss (totaled), it will reimburse you for the car’s actual cash value (ACV).
Itemize Your Damages
Car accident injury damages fall under two categories: economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages include medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses. Noneconomic damages are less tangible and they involve placing a dollar amount on things like “pain and suffering” and “reduced enjoyment of life.”
You need to take different approaches when proving these damages. Here is how to start itemizing damages from a car crash injury.
Proving Economic Damages
Economic damages are easier to prove in a car crash injury claim if you keep receipts and invoices. Once you start medical treatment and the claims process, you can likely get reimbursement for expenses arising from the accident.
Medical care will likely make up the largest share of your economic damages. You can prove these expenses by keeping the following:
- Medical bills
- Copay receipts
- Prescription drug prescriptions and receipts
- Cost estimates for future medical care
- Mental health counseling invoices
- Physical, occupational, or vocational therapy invoices
Medical payments will likely pay out directly to your providers, not you personally. So, when you submit bills to the insurance company, ensure you provide the most updated statements. Otherwise, you risk still owing a balance after your case settles.
For lost wages, take a compare and contrast approach. Start with pay stubs showing your income before the accident, and then pull up pay stubs after the accident. The comparison shows your wage loss and determines your compensation amount.
You can take the same approach with diminished earning capacity. Sometimes, people can’t return to their previous profession due to disabling injuries. Head trauma, for example, may make it impossible for an accident victim to continue working as an accountant or attorney. Likewise, a physical disability may remove a car crash victim from a heavy-duty job into a lower-paying light-duty one. You may establish diminished earning capacity by comparing your previous pay to your current salary.
Proving Noneconomic Damages
Noneconomic damages are difficult to prove because they are subjective and vary between individuals. Your compensation amount can depend on how much your injuries change your life.
Proving noneconomic damages is challenging but not impossible. The trick with these types of damages is contemporaneous records; you’ll need a history of what you were feeling or experiencing. These records are much more persuasive than recounting memories of your experience when you discuss them after your recovery.
Consider keeping a journal of your recovery, either written, video, or voice recorded, and document your challenges. Even the most mundane details will help your case. For example, note any time you miss a vacation or a long-anticipated event or if you have severe pain one day that prevents you from grocery shopping.
Other people can help you prove noneconomic damages, too. Your family, friends, and other loved ones can submit statements of what they witnessed. If you have mental conditions like PTSD from a car accident, psychiatric and counseling notes could help.
Do You Need a Lawyer After Car Crash Injuries?
A car crash injury case is not always straightforward. Liability disputes, denied claims, or adjusters who quit communicating are some barriers arising in car accident claims. If you face these challenges, consider contacting a local attorney for an auto accident case evaluation.