You’re a careful driver, but other motorists aren’t, or roads give way to accidents. When you do get in a road collision, you may have to follow steps to ensure your safety. You also have to follow steps to preserve and document the incident for the insurance company and if it’s the other party’s fault, for a lawsuit.
What to Do in a Lawsuit
A lawsuit is probably the last thing on your mind, especially if you’ve sustained serious injuries during the car accident. Recuperate at the hospital and home, by all means, but don’t wait too long to file a case. Statute of limitations apply for injury lawsuits, and these time limits will vary according to state.
For instance, a personal injury attorney has four years to file your case, whereas a lawyer in Colorado has two years. If you fail to bring your case to court within your state’s statute of limitations, you lose the opportunity to claim damages because the court will not hear it.
Why do you need to claim damages? You may need to do so if the personal injury protection (PIP) on your car insurance is not enough to cover your health care costs.
PIP coverage does help manage costs for your hospital bills and medication; it also covers passengers who were injured during the accident. But like most insurance policies, the add on auto insurance, which is required in over ten states, has its limitations. It doesn’t cover the pain and suffering you experience during and after the accident.
Personal Injury Claim for Pain and Suffering
Road accidents typically lead to physical injury, from the common whiplash and head injuries to the less common injuries that manifest late. But even for the most common injuries, the aftermath could be complicated.
You may recover medically, except you may have to deal with the psychological impact of a road collision with another vehicle. Psychological effects include depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, the social isolation brought about by severe burns or scarring, and even the anguish of losing a loved one from an accident. You may also have to manage pain for the better part of your life as a result of the accident, restricting your movements. And everything you used to do has changed because you’re now limited by your injuries.
A pain and suffering claim against the at-fault party may help you manage the blow of a car accident. But how do you make a case for it, especially since pain and suffering are deemed subjective?
Detailing Your Life, Before and After
The court has to know how drastically your life has been altered by the car accident. To do so would be to create a detailed account of what you’re able to do after the collision, and how those things differ from what you did before the incident occurred.
Start with the physical activities.
- Have you stopped playing sports?
- Are you still able to travel with the same frequency as before?
- Are you still going out, socializing with friends and family?
- Can you still do minor work around the house?
- Do you still go hiking or running?
Then consider your emotions.
- Are you able to sleep well?
- Do you find yourself having panic attacks?
- Do you experience fear and depression?
- Do you feel angry most of the time?
- Do you consciously avoid activities you used to love?
And take stock of your professional life.
- Are you still working, or have you been removed from the job?
- Have you cut down hours?
- Have you settled for a lesser position because it’s less physically demanding?
- Has your work performance diminished considerably?
An assessment of your life before and after requires professionals. Apart from your lawyer, you’ll need an evaluation from your primary physician, physical therapist, and maybe a psychiatrist. Their objective assessments can be used as evidence in court when you file for damages. They’ll be considered as expert witnesses as they’ll testify to your need for prolonged medication and physical therapy.
How much are your pain and suffering worth? Juries in cases like this are instructed to determine the non-economic damages according to the following:
- The degree in which the injury has interfered with your life
- The limitations on how you enjoy life now
- The type and severity of the injury
- The likelihood that non-economic losses will continue and for how long
You may be awarded the full amount of the at-fault party’s insurance, or you may receive more. Some states may implement a cap on the damages awarded to plaintiffs.
The aftermath of a car accident is challenging. Whatever changes it brings to your life, make sure you’ve got the right legal support when you file for damages.