A Guide to Help You Navigate Through the Pains of Car or Truck Accident
Getting injured in a car accident seems distant and unthinkable—until it happens to you. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of fatal accidents is steadily increasing. In Pennsylvania alone, the NHSA reported that over 1,888 people lost their lives because of a car accident in 2016.
With over 37,000 fatalities and an additional 2.35 million people in the United States injured or disabled in traffic incidents each year, America’s roads are filled with unseen dangers. Though you may be a cautious driver, human error and the unpredictable actions of others makes the effort of learning the best steps to take after an accident a wise use of time. This guide will provide you with the crucial steps to surviving car and truck accidents.
The First Steps to Survival
Every action taken after a traffic accident can change how much financial, physical and emotional recovery a person is able to achieve. However, the first steps of recovery begin before an incident even occurs. Having proper automobile insurance helps protect not only yourself but also shields other drivers on the road.
In Pennsylvania you are required to have the following coverage for insurance:
- Medical – A minimum of $5,000 in medical payment coverage. This benefit will pay for your medical expenses of you or anyone else involved in the accident, regardless of fault.
- Property Damage – You are required to carry at least $5,000 in coverage in order to pay for the cost of a damaged vehicle in an accident which is your fault.
- Bodily Injury Coverage – This is coverage for any personal injury damages for the opposite party if you are deemed at fault. You are required to carry a minimum of $15,000 for individual injuries and $30,000 for injuries involving more than one person.
Making sure that you have proper insurance coverage can save you from falling down the pit of financial ruin. Though it may not seem worthwhile to pay for insurance during the times it is not needed, it’s absence will be sorely missed in the event of an emergency.
Pennsylvania Is a No-Fault State
Pennsylvania is a no-fault state. This means that each party in a car accident are unable to pursue the other’s insurance for losses, regardless of fault. However, the state is one of a few that enables drivers to optout of this policy depending on which type of insurance they adopt.
- Full Tort – This type of insurance allows you to not participate in Pennsylvania’s no-fault system. It allows the carrier to legally pursue the other party in an accident.
- Limited Tort – Though it is more affordable, this insurance prevents the holder from pursuing legal action after a lawsuit. This means that those with limited tort coverage must only rely on their insurance after an incident. However, there are very limited conditions in which a limited tort insurance holder may sue for losses and personal injury.
What to Do Immediately After an Accident
Understanding what steps to take after experiencing an incident on the road can make the situation easier for every party involved. Taking the proper steps will guarantee that you are as protected as you need to be. Though it may be difficult to remember while you are feeling frightened from the jarring experience of a collision, these steps may make the difference in your time of need.
- Call for Help – If you are capable, dial 911 and alert the authorities of the accident.
- Check on Others – If you are not injured and able to move, check on the status of your vehicle’s passengers and those who are in the other vehicle. When leaving your car, it is important to be aware of your surroundings; you may be stepping out into traffic.
- Wait for Professionals – If anyone is severely injured, do not move them without the assistance of a trained professional. Moving someone with a back or neck injury may worsen their situation.
- Communicate – When responders arrive, alert them of any pains you are feeling. Doing this creates a verifiable record of any discomfort you were in at the time of accident and will be a reference point for future claims.
- Exchange Information – Exchange insurance information with the opposite party and obtain the following: their full name and contact info, their insurance company and policy number, their car's information (make, model, license plate), and driver's license number for the other driver.
- Take Photos – In the age of the smartphone, it has never been easier to snap photos of the scene of the accident. Taking photos will help establish which party is at fault and will also protect you from any false claims made by the other party.
- Obtain Information from Others – Be certain to obtain a copy of the police report. Additionally, speak to any witnesses and record their contact information.
- Do Not Hesitate to Seek Medical Help – If you feel any pain, do not wait to see a doctor. This may be a sign of a soft tissue injury that could become more severe if not treated. Additionally, any time between the accident and medical care could cause doubt in your insurance claim.
Dealing With the Claims Process
Properly following the steps above is a great start to ensuring your success during the claims process. At their core, insurance companies are businesses seeking a profit—which is at odds with your goal, which is to get as much as you need to survive. This means that you must be cautious through every step of the claims process and defend your right to maximum compensation.
If you have full-tort insurance, establishing fault is an important factor in being fully compensated for your losses. Clear documentation, from the scene of the accident to your most recent medical appointment, will assist in proving your entitlement to being reimbursed for any damages and medical bills. If you failed to collect witness accounts, police reports, and other crucial information, you will have difficulty proving your case, and the insurance adjuster will take advantage of it.
No matter how pleasant an insurance adjuster may be, do not instantly accept any early offers from them. It is an adjusters job to minimize the monetary responsibility of their company and they may be taking advantage of your eagerness to resolve the situation and return to your normal life. Instead, speak to an attorney as soon as possible and resist any attempt by the other party’s insurance with having you make a statement that would limit their liability.
The Claims Process
The claims process may take anywhere from a few months to multiple years to reach completion. Why so long? Because insurance companies have made it their practice to prioritize the lowest-paying claims. If someone settles for less than they deserve, they get their money faster. If you stand your ground, the insurance company may attempt to pressure you into submission by delaying your claim.
This process can be summarized in the following steps:
- Investigation – The initial period of information gathering. Police reports, witness testimony, and medical histories are reviewed to build a case on both sides.
- Initial Settlement – At this stage, an initial settlement may be offered by the insurance company. This early offer is typically low and designed to maximize profits for the insurance provider. An agreement accompanies the acceptance of this settlement stating that you are giving up the ability to pursue further compensation.
- Demand Letter – This is the letter that is submitted as a counter offer after receiving a settlement offer which is insufficient. A demand letter must be thorough in outlining the reasons why it is being sent. These reasons include medical bills, cost of repairs, time lost from work, and mental or physical anguish.
- Negotiation/Litigation – If your demand letter is not accepted, your attorney may attempt to negotiate with the company. After negotiations fail, litigation may be necessary. This part of the process is a necessary component of a complete recovery.
- Final Settlement – After a lawsuit, a settlement is only reached with the client’s final approval and any outstanding payments are made toward medical bills and legal fees. Once a settlement is agreed upon, a release of claims is signed, eliminating the possibility of further litigation.
Post-Accident Mental Health
The process of recovery is often expedited after receiving a settlement. Having the finances needed to pay medical bills lends valuable assistance to the healing process. However, recovering mentally from an accident can be a process that lasts for years after the incident. Research has found that those who suffer from an accident may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as much as a year after the incident. PTSD causes victims to be mentally plagued by an event from the past, seemingly.
Symptoms of PTSD after an accident include the following:
- Flashbacks – Incidents where the survivor is overwhelmed by the shock and emotions of their experience. Flashbacks may be caused by triggers as simple a sound which is like one the survivor heard during the accident.
- Depersonalization – The process in which the survivor feels emotionally and physically numb.
- Derealization – Feeling unfamiliar with your surroundings, having a distorted sense of time, and being emotionally distant from loved ones.
- Anxiety – The overwhelming sense of feeling out of control, worried, nervous or uneasy.
Though they are not seen, mental and emotional injuries such as PTSD must be handled with as much urgency as physical injuries. Seeing a medical professional soon after an accident is necessary for a safe and effective mental recovery. Even if symptoms do not initially present themselves, seeing a doctor for preventative reasons is always a best practice. If you suspect you may be suffering from an emotional injury, consider reaching out to those around you.
Speak with a Pennsylvania Car Accident Lawyer
After a car or truck accident, the clock immediately starts counting down on the survivor’s ability to achieve the appropriate recovery. If not meticulously handled, the recovery process may be hindered by opportunistic insurance companies looking to protect their profits. Talking to an attorney protects your future, plain and simple.
In instances of a truck accident, an experienced truck accident attorney can provide crucial assistance. As the trucking industry has its own set of complicated rules and regulations, it can be very difficult navigating your rights. Additionally, injuries may be more severe because of the large size of commercial vehicles and semi-trucks. A truck accident attorney will be prepared to fight for you maximum recovery.
The Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers at Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC believe that victims injured due to the negligence of an individual or company deserve to be financially compensated for their losses. Since 1922, we have fought for the wellbeing of our clients in the state of Pennsylvania. We are proud to have nearly a century of victories and are ready to apply this experience to your case today.