What You Must Know Before You Can Settle Your Car Accident Claim
If you have been in a car accident, you know that it can cause a lot of damage. First, there are the injuries, which are painful and can range from minor to severe. And then there are the financial losses, from medical bills to lost wages. Your car will have been damaged too and may well have been totalled. In addition, there are losses that can go far beyond those more immediate ones I just listed.
So how can you receive compensation for all those losses? Can you just go to the other driver’s insurance company and ask for a settlement? That’s not the wisest first step. There are a number of things you need to know before you should even think about settlements.
Ohio Car Accident Laws
First, you should know that Ohio is an at-fault state when it comes to car accidents. This means you don’t have to go to your own insurance first to recoup your losses. Instead, you can claim compensation from the insurance company of the party that caused the accident.
Unfortunately, insurance companies are not really in the business of paying out money. So if you approach them for a settlement, they will try to pay you as little as possible. Not that most drivers have a lot of insurance in the first place.
In fact, in Ohio, drivers only need to have $25,000 in insurance for injuries per person, $50,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident. It’s a very good idea to have uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage for as much as you can afford.
In addition, Ohio also has a modified comparative fault rule, so if you had damages of a certain amount, for example $100,000, and you were found to be 30% at fault, 30% would be deducted from your award and you would only receive $70,000. If you’re found to have been more than 50% at fault, you won’t be able to collect anything at all.
Ohio also has a 2-year statute of limitations for personal injuries and car accident claims. This means you have to take action quickly if you want to take your case to court. If you miss that deadline, you’ll be out of luck.
With all these legal complexities, you can see that it is important to get help when it comes to winning adequate compensation for your losses. This is why you should talk to an experienced Ohio car accident lawyer right away.
Different Kinds of Damages in a Car Accident
There are two different types of damages that are caused by car accidents: First, there are economic damages, which can be quantified. They include bills for treating your injuries, diagnostic procedures, surgery, prescriptions, and the cost of various assistive devices you may need. They may also include the cost of renovations to make your house accessible if you now have more limited abilities.
The damages also include loss of income for the time you were not able to work, and possibly the loss of future income. After all, you may not be able to return to work for some time. You can prove those losses by presenting bills for your medical expenses and pay stubs to show your normal earnings as well as the lack thereof after the accident.
But then, there are also the so-called non-economic damages that are not so easily quantifiable. They include pain and suffering, loss of mobility, and even loss of consortium and enjoyment of life. These kinds of damages are harder to quantify and recover. They also require expert testimony by medical specialists and a lot of work by experienced Ohio personal injury attorneys to win a case against those stingy insurance companies.
In addition, Ohio places strict limits on non-economic damages, as you can see here: compensatory damages in tort action.
The Problem With Settlement Offers
You may think that getting settlement offers is a great thing, but there are two major problems with most of those offers. First, they are generally too low to cover your real losses.
And then, they usually come too soon. Now why would a fast offer be a problem? It generally takes quite a lot of time until you are sufficiently recovered from an accident to have a full understanding of just how serious your injuries were and what it will take to make you whole again.
Yet once you have accepted a settlement, you cannot go back for more, no matter how serious the long-term effects are that you’ll discover only later.
What You Need to Do
First, you’ll need to gather evidence, right at the scene of the accident. Start by calling 911. Then take photos and/or videos of the scene as well as of the cars and your injuries. Gather police reports, witness reports as well as names, contact information, and insurance information of all drivers that were involved in the accident.
Next, you’ll need to seek medical treatment immediately and follow your doctor’s orders. Be sure to collect all your medical records and documentation about your treatments and give them to your lawyer.
Contact your own insurance company and report your accident. Also get a copy of your police report if you haven’t received it already. And turn it all over to your Ohio car accident attorney. They will guide you through the process and help you recover compensation for your injuries and losses.