FAQ: Other Accidental Injury
If you are able to, call 911 immediately and report the accident. Before you dial, think about where the accident has occurred, so that you can provide the accurate, detailed information that will let emergency responders know exactly how to reach the accident scene. Be ready to advise if you or any other persons seem to be injured and appear to require emergency medical assistance.
Try to move to a place of safety, particularly if the accident occurred on a highway, road or street. Be mindful of existing traffic conditions and other vehicles that may be approaching the scene. Turn on your vehicle’s “4-way flashers” if you can safely do so. Then, stay out of the roadway if at all possible.
If you are injured, seek immediate medical attention. Ask that you be transported by ambulance for medical care if you feel that you need this service. Err on the side of making sure you receive prompt medical attention for any injuries you may have sustained. The shock of being in an accident may make you uncertain if you should be transported by ambulance. The better course of action in this instance may be to be transported and let health care professionals determine the extent of your injuries and what treatment you may need.
Follow the instructions of law enforcement and emergency responders, and cooperate with any law enforcement or emergency personnel who may respond to the scene. Do not move any vehicles unless instructed to do so by law enforcement or for purposes of safety to prevent imminent danger to yourself or others at the scene. Use extreme caution if you should attempt to move any vehicles before the arrival of law enforcement or emergency personnel.
If a motorist has fled the scene, try to record identifying information about the motor vehicle and driver, but do not try to follow or chase anyone. Try to promptly report any such information to law enforcement, such as direction of travel and any identifying information, both as to the motor vehicle and the driver.
As soon as you can, try to write down or record any information as to the details and specifics of the accident, including date, time and location, how the accident occurred, the identity of the parties involved (name, address and telephone numbers), the identity of any witnesses (name, address and telephone numbers), and any other details you believe may be important.
If you are able and have access to a camera, such as on a cell phone, and can do so safely, try to obtain photographs showing the damage to the vehicles involved and the scene of the accident.
If you receive a call from a loved one or friend who has just been in an accident, above all try to remain calm. Panic will not help, and you may well have better access to these instructions and be better able to think things through.
In many instances, yes, although it depends upon the specific circumstance that are involved. You may have a duty under your own insurance policy to report being in an accident to your insurance company in a timely manner, particularly if the accident involves a motor vehicle and you were the driver, even if you were not at fault. You also likely have a duty under your policy to cooperate with your insurance company in its investigation of any such accidents. If you have questions about this, or about just what your duties under a policy may involve, please contact us, as we may be able to help.
“The insurance company keeps calling me. Should I talk to them?” This is a question we hear with some frequency from prospective clients. If you have been injured in an accident and you think you may have a personal injury claim, then our advice is typically that you should not speak with the insurance company for the party causing your injury.
In our experience insurance companies are often aggressive in contacting injured parties following an accident because there is typically only one settlement of a personal injury claim, and if they can get a claimant to accept a small amount of money in settlement of a claim, then the claim may be closed out forever.
In addition, keep in mind that claims representatives handle claims for a living on a daily basis, whereas injured claimants often have no experience with the claims process at all. Adjusters can sometimes be very savvy in obtaining recorded statements from injured persons, and in getting them to say things that can be used against them later on.
Our preference is for our clients not to give such recorded statements. We also typically advise clients against giving insurance companies blanket authorizations for release of medical or employment records, which they can then use to go on a fishing expedition for information to use against you in your claim. Good attorneys will control the information which the insurance company is able to obtain in the claims process, making sure that only relevant information is provided, and in a manner so as to try to make sure that cannot be taken out of context and against you improperly.
Contact Goss & Fentress concerning your personal injury claim before you speak with the insurance company. We are here to help.
If another motorist was at fault for an accident but does not have insurance, in most instances we can still be successful in obtaining a recovery for our client. In such instances, as long as our client has automobile insurance, such insurance usually includes a form of coverage known as “uninsured motorist coverage”, which is provided for just such a circumstance.
Unfortunately, statistics show that there are many motorists operating vehicles these days without auto insurance, and the availability of uninsured motorist coverage under one’s own policy, or under the policy on a vehicle one is riding in, such as a passenger, can provide coverage for such claims where there would otherwise be none at all. Where a recovery is obtained from the insurance company under uninsured motorist coverage, the insurance company then often pursues the uninsured motorist personally in an effort to get its money back.
Because minimum coverages for accident insurance are very low in most states, you should talk with your own insurance agent to make sure that your own coverage is in an amount sufficient to protect you from uninsured motorists.
We have handled many claims in such scenarios, and if you were struck by an uninsured motorist, we can help to evaluate your claim to determine what sources of coverage may be available for purposes of your claim.
In Virginia and North Carolina, if the driver who caused an accident in which you were injured has insurance but that insurance is not enough to cover your injury claim, then you may be able to access additional insurance for your claim under what is know as “underinsured motorist coverage” provided as part of your own coverage or as part of the insurance coverage on the vehicle you were in at the time of the accident. The methods of calculating underinsured motorist coverage vary somewhat from state to state, and whether there may be underinsured motorist coverage will depend on the specific circumstances and the insurance policies of the parties involved. We have handled many claims involving both uninsured and underinsured motorist issues, and we can help you in determining whether there may be underinsured motorist coverage applicable to your claim and, if so, in what amount.
Yes. Some health care providers, especially hospitals, have been known to try to get patients not to use their health insurance upon learning that a patient was injured as the result of a motor vehicle accident, as their rate of reimbursement or payment may be higher if they can seek recovery from a source other than a patient’s health insurance, however it is to you benefit for you to use your health insurance, and you should insist that they accept your health insurance and submit their bill to your health insurance company.
We can explain in greater detail why this is and how it works in your favor.
If an injury is serious, a person can always seek treatment in an emergency room, where they cannot be turned away. This is especially so if someone has suffered a loss of consciousness, a broken bone, a bleeding wound, or if someone believes he or she may be suffering a heart attack or a stroke, in which case one should seek treatment immediately. We believe that if you think you may have suffered a serious injury for which examination or treatment in an emergency room may be necessary, then one should err on the side of caution and seek treatment at such a facility.
If you do not have health insurance but may be able to afford some treatment, you might want to consider trying to be seen at an urgent care facility or by a primary care physician who is willing to accept cash or credit card payments.
If you do not have health insurance and cannot afford medical treatment at a facility which requires payment up front, then you might want to see if you meet the criteria to be treated in a community based or public health facility. Such facilities often are only available to persons who have income and assets below a certain level. Unfortunately there is often a lengthy waiting period to be scheduled and seen in an appointment, but these facilities do provide a valuable service to those who may not otherwise be able to afford medical care.
Another option for persons who have suffered injuries involving the back, neck or spine may be chiropractic care. Chiropractors treat persons who suffer from back and neck pain, and they are sometimes willing to see patients who lack health insurance and who lack an ability to pay at the present, on what is known as an “assignment” basis, whereby they will agree to provide treatment in exchange for a patient’s agreement that the chiropractic office will get paid out of any recovery that the claimant is able to obtain in a personal injury claim. This can be an option for persons who have no where else to turn for timely treatment of nagging back or neck pain.
“How much time do I have to pursue my claim?” “What are the deadlines applicable to my claim?” These are questions we hear frequently from prospective clients, and they are important questions.
You may have heard of the term “statute of limitations”. This is a legal term pertaining to the deadline for the bringing of a claim under the law. In Virginia, the statue of limitations for most claims for personal injuries is two (2) years, which basically means that if no settlement has been reached on the claim and one wants to pursue the claim in court, then a lawsuit must be filed in court prior to the two (2) year anniversary of the accident or injury in question, or else the claim will be forever barred under the law.
It is important to know that there may be other deadlines which may also apply to certain claims. For example, there are often special notice requirements that apply to claims against governmental entities or their employees. Sometimes these notice requirements are shorter in duration than the statute of limitations. And in some instances there can be exceptions to the statute of limitations. For example, in the case of an injury to a child, typically the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the child has reached the age of 18.
If the accident or injury occurred in another state, then that state may have a different period of time for its statute of limitations pertaining to personal injury claims. Although Virginia recognizes a two (2) year statute of limitations in most personal injury matters, in some states it is only one (1) year, while in some others it may be as long as three (3) years. North Carolina recognizes a three (3) year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. This is where the assistance of an attorney can be very helpful, and it is a primary reason why it can be important to contact an attorney sooner rather than later.
Once a deadline has passed, it may well be too late. Don’t wait to give us a call at Goss & Fentress. We can help evaluate the legal deadlines and notice requirements that may apply to your claim.
Try to bring with you any documents and paperwork you may have, and also any photographs. This should include the Accident Information Exchange Sheet provided by the investigating law enforcement officer, the formal Accident Report if you have one, any notes you may have made, any discharge paperwork or other records provided by any hospitals, doctors or health care providers, and any work notes, school notes, work restrictions or the like that you may have received from any hospitals, doctors or health care providers.
Please also bring your driver’s license, your health insurance card(s), your auto insurance card, and your auto insurance declarations page if you have it (this is the page that shows your coverages, and it often comes with your billing statement).
Your right to be compensated for damages for personal injury in an accident depends on whether the accident was the fault of the other party. The legal term for this is “negligence”.
Negligence is generally defined as the failure to use ordinary care. Ordinary care is the care a reasonable person would have used under the circumstances involved. It may vary from case to case, depending on the specific circumstances.
Some common examples of negligence in the motor vehicle setting can include failure to keep a proper lookout, failure to yield the right of way, failure to obey a traffic light or a stop sign, or following too closely.
Carelessness is another term which is often synonymous with negligence.
Recklessness is another term for conduct which falls within the realm of negligence, and sometimes may include extreme or egregious behavior, such as drinking and driving, or vehicles racing on a public street or highway.
Most other states have adopted what is known as comparative negligence, but Virginia and North Carolina still follow the doctrine of contributory negligence. This may apply if you yourself are considered to have failed to use ordinary care for your own safety at the time of an accident or injury. If your own lack of care is determined to have contributed in any way to causing the accident, then under the law in these two states there may be a complete bar to any recovery for you as an injured party.
For example, a common admission that causes this issue to arise is when an auto accident victim estimates that he or she may have been going faster that the speed limit when the accident occurred.
You should be careful about acknowledging fault when speaking to anyone investigating your accident. The legal fault of the respective parties in an accident is a matter of law that is best left to your attorney to work through for you.
Generally speaking, in most personal injury cases, damages which can be sought, if applicable, are as follows:
- For any hospital, doctors and medical expenses incurred in the past and any that may reasonably be expected to be incurred in the future;
- For any loss of earnings and employer provided benefits in the past and any that may be reasonably be expected to occur in the future, to include past and future;
- For any injuries themselves and their effect on one’s health according to their degree and probable duration;
- For any physical pain and mental anguish in the past and any that may reasonably be expected to occur in the future;
- For any physical scarring, disfigurement or deformity, and any associated humiliation or embarrassment;
- For any inconvenience caused in the past and any that may reasonably be expected to occur in the future;
- Reduction in earning capacity resulting from an injury;
For some of these damages, there is a way to calculate or try to determine their value. Adding up the medical bills, for example, gives a verifiable number to make up part of your award. There is no guideline or formula to be followed by a judge or a jury in assessing the value other elements of damage at a trial. In other words, the value of the damage is entirely up to the finder of fact (judge or jury) at a trial.
Keep in mind that not all elements of damages are recoverable in every case. For example, most cases do not involve physical scars or disfigurement. As another example, many cases involve medical treatment and associated medical bills in the past, but no expectation of any additional medical bills in the future.
Rarely are any two cases alike, and we can assist you in determining what the damages in your claim may be and what elements of damages should be sought.
Punitive damages, which are also sometimes called exemplary damages, are reserved for certain categories of cases where a party has engaged in certain outrageous or egregious conduct. Such damages are in addition to any compensatory damages, and are intended to punish the defendant for such outrageous or egregious behavior. The most common examples of cases in Virginia or North Carolina where punitive damages may be recoverable are those involving drinking and driving. Recovery of punitive damages is generally not allowed in cases involving what is known as simple negligence, such as some form of ordinary carelessness which does not involve some aggravating factor such as drinking and driving.