If you have been in a car accident, you need to understand the car accident legal process to ensure that you protect your rights. The car accident legal process can be complex and full of twists and turns, and you must have the right support throughout the process. Here is everything you need to know about the legal process and the steps you should take to ensure you are protecting your rights after a car accident.
1. Legal Framework
The first thing you need to consider after a car accident is that every state’s motor vehicle accident law may have different caveats. This information you find here is general information that will apply in most states, but you should check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to better understand laws specific to your state. In every state, car accident law is a complex and multifaceted legal framework designed to address the various issues that arise when individuals are involved in automobile collisions.
Also commonly known as traffic accident law or car accident law, this legal domain encompasses a wide range of statutes and regulations to ensure the safety and protection of drivers. The cornerstone of motor vehicle accident law is the concept of negligence. Negligence occurs when a driver fails to exercise the level of care expected of a reasonably prudent person under similar circumstances. Establishing negligence is crucial in determining liability for an accident. The person liable for the accident is liable for the cost of the accident.
If you live in a “no-fault” state, accident laws are different from if you live in an “at fault” state. In a no-fault state, a party does not have to be charged with an accident in an at-fault state, someone will be charged with causing the accident. Insurance plays a pivotal role in the car accident legal process. Insurance companies lobby for laws that protect their interests, which can result in tougher driver penalty laws following an accident.
2. At Fault
You must understand what it means if you are found at fault for an accident. Suppose you are found at fault in a car accident. In that case, the legal process unfolds in a series of steps designed to determine liability, assess damages, and ensure fair compensation for the injured party. You may face criminal charges if you are under the influence.
If you have been charged with a crime that resulted in the accident, you need to speak to an attorney. You may need different attorneys to handle the criminal charges and the civil liability for the accident. A dui attorney can help with the criminal charges if you are charged with a DUI that resulted in an auto accident.
The first thing you should keep in mind if you have been charged at fault for a car accident is that a charge is not a conviction. You will have your day in court to explain what happened. Keep in mind that in an at-fault state, someone needs to be charged with the accident. A good accident law firm will fight for your rights and help you fight any tickets you receive for the accident.
Once fault is established, the injured party may file a claim against your insurance. Insurance companies often engage in negotiations to settle. This process involves assessing the damage, including medical bills, property repair or replacement costs, and other relevant expenses. If an agreement is reached, the case may be resolved without going to court.
3. Universal Rules
The car accident legal process can vary from state to state, but everyone should follow some universal rules. If you are in a car accident, report it, and wait until the authorities arrive. In most states, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident. If you do leave the scene of an accident prematurely, you can be charged criminally. You will need the police report to turn it into your auto insurance group.
While most states don’t have a mandatory reporting window for reporting the accident to the insurance company, it is widely accepted that the sooner you report the accident the better. The car accident legal process can take some time to fully play out. The sooner you report the accident the sooner the wheel of justice begins to turn.
In every state you must keep good records of the accident. Get a copy of the police report, keep all medical records, and if you have had any out-of-pocket expenses like accident towing charges, be sure to keep the receipts for those things as well. Your insurance company should cover all the accident-related costs. However, you will need to provide documentation of the costs. If they don’t want to cover all expenses related to the car accident, don’t be surprised. Most people choose to hire an attorney to help with costs.
4. Cost Coverage
A big part of the car accident legal process is dedicated to negotiating the costs of the accident. One of the biggest costs of a car accident is personal injury costs. Personal injury attorneys are experts in the car accident legal process and ensure that your medical care costs are covered. Insurance companies have one primary goal, and that goal is to save money.
Unfortunately, because of the insurance company’s goal to save money on your claim, you may run into some problems getting them to cover some expenses. It is essential to have a car accident law firm on your side that will ensure that the insurance company honors your claim. Being injured in a car accident can affect every area of your life. Having the right legal support to navigate the car accident legal process is essential.
While getting the medical care you need, other expenses are also associated with a car accident. For example, you may need a car for rent. If your vehicle is seriously damaged and undrivable, you should not have to sacrifice transportation until it is repaired. The insurance company should pay for the rental but may deny coverage. The car accident legal process may not be followed to the letter of the law by the insurance company; your attorney can ensure they do.
5. Total Loss
If your vehicle has been badly damaged, and the insurance adjuster has calculated that the repair cost exceeds the vehicle’s value, they may write it off as a “total loss.” You will be paid what the insurance adjuster believes your car is valued. Many people are unaware that when your vehicle is considered a total loss, you can still buy back the vehicle from the insurance company for a small sum.
It is perfectly legal under the car accident legal process to purchase your vehicle back, and many people do. They then repaired the car and put it back on the road. The best auto junk yard is a good resource for used auto parts. Fixing your car that has been totaled can be an affordable way to have a car that you own outright.
You can make money off a car you buy back from the insurance company by using a scrap metal recycling company to manage the waste that is generated from the repairs. For example, if you have a metal bumper that needs to be replaced, you can bring the old bumper to the scrap metal recycling plant and get paid for the metal. Any metal parts that need to be replaced can be recycled and put a few dollars in your wallet.
6. Court Date
In a high percentage of accident cases, the car accident legal process ends when the insurance company and the claimant agree, before ever stepping into court. However, there are times that the insurance company simply will not budge and the claimant can’t settle because there are costs the insurance company doesn’t want to cover. When this happens, you may have to go to court.
In some cases, the insurance company will only offer to pay a fraction of what the actual cost is for small things like windshield replacement, in other cases, the refusal to pay is for big things like necessary medical care. In all cases, if you have an attorney, they are the best judge of whether the car accident legal process needs to continue and bring the case before a judge. It’s essential to have an attorney on your side.
If your case makes it to court, the attorney will brief you on what to expect. They will provide you with guidance and explain the entire car accident legal process and how it plays out in your state. You may have a jury trial, or you may have a trial with just the judge. Your attorney will gather all the evidence and present it to the court.
7. Time Frames
The duration of the car accident legal process can vary significantly based on several factors, including the case’s complexity, the extent of injuries and damages, and the legal procedures of the jurisdiction involved. In other words, the more complex the claim, the more time it will take to settle. There is no time limit for settling a claim but a time limit for reporting a claim.
We discussed the importance of quickly reporting your claim to the insurance company. Reporting the accident to the police and insurance companies should occur in the days immediately following the incident. Initial investigations, insurance claims, and preliminary negotiations can also begin during this time. However, before you decide to accept a settlement offer, you should seek the advice of an attorney.
The insurance claim process can take weeks to months. If a court case is necessary, that can take years. If you must appeal the court’s decision, that could take several years. However, keep in mind that a high percentage of cases never go to trial because they are settled out of court. If you have experienced a personal injury, your claim can’t be settled until your doctor declares you have reached maximum medical recovery. This means that the duration of your case could be longer depending on how much time you need to recover. Time frames will vary, but in most cases, the claim is settled within six months to a year.
8. Legal Counsel
Anyone involved in a car accident shouldn’t go into the legal process blindly. There will need to be paperwork filed, the case must be thoroughly documented, and you will need help navigating the process. You must have experienced guidance during the entire process, or you risk losing some of your rights.
An attorney who is experienced in car accident law will ensure that all your rights to compensation are protected. Unfortunately, many car accident victims mistakenly believe that the insurance company has their best interests as a priority. The fact is, many victims are vulnerable to insurance adjusters who portray themselves as being interested in your best interest when they prioritize the insurance companies’ interest. These victims leave many benefits on the table by prematurely settling their claims without the advice of an attorney.
Protecting yourself and your rights to compensation after a car accident starts with consulting with an accident attorney who can effectively navigate the car accident laws. The insurance company has a team of attorneys working for their interests. All you need is one good attorney to work with to protect yourself. Please don’t enter the claim process on your own; it’s a risk you shouldn’t take.
You will need to deal with many things after a car accident. Worrying about the car accident legal process shouldn’t be one of them. If you were injured, you will not only need to recover but ensure all legalities are taken care of. Trying to take care of your well-being while simultaneously caring for other matters can be difficult. Let the attorney worry about the legalities while you recover from the accident and get your life back on track. Learn more about the legal process following a car accident by connecting with an experienced car accident attorney today.