If you weren't hurt in a car wreck, there's nothing to worry about, right? Think again. Even if you weren't hurt, you may be entitled to property damages.
There’s nothing more frustrating than being involved in a car accident. The accident is going to take multiple phone calls and a pile of paper work to resolve. And that’s if it’s a straightforward fender bender.
It’s not uncommon for accidents to be far more complex, even if you weren’t personally hurt. For example, if one of your passengers, say a child, was hurt in the accident, it could be devastating.
Read on to learn what you need to consider what to do after a car accident. You’ll discover that you may need a lawyer even if you weren’t hurt.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ACCIDENT
It’s important to know what information you need to collect after an accident and who you need to call. Thorough documentation will be crucial if you decide to sue the other driver in a car accident.
- Providing you aren’t injured, you need to exchange information with the other driver. Even if you feel overwhelmed and are struggling to process what happened, don’t apologize to the other driver — stick to the facts, and do your best to stay calm.
- Saying things like “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t see you” can imply your fault in the accident. Be cautious about your language, especially if you’re unsure about what happened.
- Call the police to the scene.
- While you are waiting, take photos of both vehicles before they are moved. If it’s safe to do so, get photos from multiple angles.
Get full insurance information from the other driver, including the company name and policy information. Additionally, make sure you know:
- The other driver’s full name and address
- Contact information and statements from any witnesses (the police should handle the statements)
Let your insurance company know that you’ve been in an accident. It’s good to let them know, but you may not need to start a claim immediately — this depends on many circumstances. The other driver’s insurance company will ultimately be issuing any compensation if the other driver was at fault. Sometimes, you will have to rely on your own company for things like property damage, medical expensive and the cost of a rental car, at least at the onset. When you let your company know about the accident, you are establishing good-faith reporting as well.
To read more about what to do after a car accident, read our full blog post What to Do After a Car Accident That Wasn't Your Fault in WV or download our free Auto Accident Checklist below.
UNINSURED DRIVERS AND UNDERINSURED DRIVERS
When your vehicle has been severely damaged in an accident, you assume that your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company will cover the damage. But what happens if the other driver doesn’t have a valid insurance policy or doesn’t have enough insurance?
You should have uninsured and/or underinsured motorist coverage, which will help you cover the damages from an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver who is at fault for the accident. These coverages aren’t required in every state, and they may not always cover the full extent of your expenses for vehicle damage or other losses. It’s a good idea to check your policy with your insurance provider — with an estimated 1 in 7 drivers being uninsured, you need to protect yourself. Even more drivers are underinsured, meaning they carry some coverage but not enough.
West Virginia is a traditional negligence state, which means that you may file a lawsuit against the other uninsured or underinsured driver. Of course, you can only do that if you can prove the other driver was at fault for the accident.
It’s important to hire an experienced lawyer who has worked on cases involving uninsured and underinsured drivers before. Often, uninsured and underinsured drivers don’t have a lot assets, meaning that even if you win the lawsuit, recovering damages may be difficult.
INJURY OF A FAMILY MEMBER
Serious injury or death of a spouse, parent or child is considered Loss of Consortium. Consortium means association, partnership or union. Loss of Consortium claims are serious — you cannot file a claim if a family member breaks an arm or suffers a concussion.
Loss of Consortium claims are generally for long-term, severe injuries that drastically effect quality of life. These injuries include amputation, brain damage, paralysis — or death. It’s hard to quantify these claims. Your loved ones are completely invaluable, and putting a price on their life or health is impossible.
Spouses, partners, children and parents can file loss of consortium claims. An expert lawyer will know how to evaluate your claim, although, the award is ultimately decided by a jury or judge.
Emotional damages, like emotional distress, mental anguish and shock fall under general damages. Loss of Consortium also falls under the category of general damages.
Emotional distress damages are generally only awarded when there is a physical injury. It’s rare to see damages awarded for emotional distress without an injury involved. But these claims are possible under some circumstances.
Punitive damages are not awarded to you to compensate you for a loss from the accident. They are intended to punish the driver at fault for particularly unacceptable behavior, like drunk driving or excessive, reckless speeding through a school zone.
Punitive damages are paid to the plaintiff (in this case, you). They are awarded to punish the defendant beyond the other damages they may have to pay, or in the case of a drunk driving accident, beyond the legal ramifications they will likely face.
STEALEY LAW & MEDIATION | PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER IN WEST VIRGINIA
Navigating the law alone is confusing. If you think you may need a lawyer for your car accident case, even if you weren’t hurt, we advise you to get in touch with our law firm. Not all information you find online is accurate, nor is it all specific to West Virginia.
If your case involves an uninsured or underinsured driver, if a family member was severely injured or killed, if you believe you’re suffering from emotional distress or if you think the defendant should pay punitive damages, get in touch with us.
We offer a free consultation and can help you determine if you need a lawyer to represent you. We will honestly and objectively evaluate your claim without charge.
Below you will find our free Auto Accident checklist: