The last thing anyone wants is to get into a car accident. You cannot always avoid the negligence of another driver—things might happen too fast to react, or other vehicles could keep you from moving out of the way. Depending on the circumstances, including the size and speed of the vehicles and how the other vehicle hits you, injuries could range from minor to catastrophic, or the accident could cause fatalities. The types of injuries you sustain play a large role in determining the compensation you deserve.
What to Do After a Car Accident
If you can move around without causing further injury to yourself, you should take several steps to start documenting the accident in preparation for recovering the compensation you deserve. If you feel as though moving around might cause additional injuries, call first responders if you can get to your phone. Wait for the emergency medical technicians to check you before you move.
- Call first responders and check on others involved in the accident. Some states require you by law to check on others involved in the accident.
- Take photos of the accident scene. Be sure to take pictures from all angles and include any damage or marks on the road, including skid marks. Additionally, regardless of which vehicle caused the damage, take photos of the damage to nearby property, including fences, mailboxes, utility poles, and yard damage.
- Obtain the following from any driver involved in the accident: License information, registration information, insurance information, and license plate number. If possible, take a picture of this information. Check with the drivers to ensure the addresses on their licenses are correct and obtain a good phone number for them.
- Ask witnesses for their contact information. You can also ask them what they saw.
- Allow emergency medical technicians to check you over, even if you do not believe you have injuries. Should one or more injuries manifest later, you will have documentation from the emergency medical techs.
- Give the police officer your statement of what happened. Review the police report once the officer finishes writing it up.
- As soon as the officer releases you from the accident scene, get medical attention. Let medical professionals know that you were in a wreck and need a complete checkup.
You should also start a journal, including what happened in the accident. Write down how you feel every day throughout the recovery process. The journal can serve as a reminder when you have to recount everything to an attorney so that you do not forget pertinent pieces of the event.
Finally, contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible to help you file a claim and get through settlement negotiations with the insurance company.
Types of Injuries You Could Sustain in a Car Accident
The types of injuries you might sustain in a car accident could range from minor to catastrophic. However, even the smallest cuts could become infected and cause thousands in medical care. If an accident victim has a compromised immune system, whether from a condition or because they are taking medications or treatments, injuries take longer to heal and have a significantly higher risk of becoming infected.
- Scratches, cuts, bruises, and bumps.
- Strains, sprains, torn muscles, pulled muscles, and other soft tissue injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Road rash.
- Chemical and thermal burns.
- Amputation of a digit or a limb.
An accident could also exacerbate existing conditions and injuries. The person at fault for the accident would also be responsible for any medical care and other damages for the exacerbated conditions or injuries.
Additionally, a person might not sustain injuries, but an accident could affect the person emotionally. For example, a mother is driving with her children in the back seat. Someone T-bones the mother from the passenger side. The first thing the mother is going to think is that her children were injured or killed, even though they did not suffer injuries. As short as they might be, these thoughts could cause the mother to develop anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although neither the mother nor her children suffered physical injuries and the accident caused only minor damage, it might seem traumatic in the mother’s mind, causing her, and possibly her children, to require psychological therapy. The at-fault driver is responsible for the therapy.
Do All Accident Victims Recover Pain and Suffering?
The short answer is, No. In most cases, to recover pain and suffering, your injuries must cause long-term or permanent disabilities, or you must have lost a loved one in a car accident. While each insurance company’s definition of long-term disabilities or debilitating pain is different, the Social Security Administration defines long-term disabilities as a disability that lasts longer than 12 months or result in death.
If you suffer from emotional issues because of a traumatic accident, you could also receive pain and suffering even if you were not physically injured.
#1. What Is Pain and Suffering?
Physical and emotional pain could cause pain and suffering. Usually, physical pain must be debilitating, including limiting mobility or keeping you from working. In many cases, those who suffer from this type of pain also have emotional distress because recovery is very slow, or the doctors tell the patient that they might never fully recover. A patient might suffer from depression because they cannot work or do the things he used to do, including spending quality time with the family.
In other cases, a victim might not have a painful injury but instead could suffer from excessive scarring or disfigurement that is not very painful. Or the victim could have had an amputation. These victims often receive compensation for pain and suffering.
While the money does not remove the physical pain and emotional trauma, it can reduce the financial stress upon the accident victim and their family.
#2. How to Prove Pain and Suffering
Physical pain and emotional distress are often objective, which means they are difficult to prove. One person might be able to handle more pain than another, so how do you show that the amount of pain is debilitating to you? Or, how do you show that an accident was so traumatic to you that you live with post-traumatic stress disorder?
An experienced car accident attorney understands that it is often difficult to “convince” the insurance company that his client is suffering.
Thus, the attorney and his team work with you to prove pain and suffering by providing subjective information, including:
- Your medical records show your doctor’s diagnosis, a description of the pain, why you have the pain, and the prescriptions you have to take because of the pain.
- Your attorney will obtain testimony from expert witnesses regarding your emotional and/or physical pain.
- Photos and videos that show your injuries. Videos might include a video showing that you cannot walk properly or that your injuries require you to use ambulatory aids.
- Copies of your journal can also help if you wrote down how much pain you were in every day and how you struggled with doing daily tasks while emotionally overwrought.
- Testimony from friends and family who can give the court details about your emotional well-being as well as your physical limitations.
This type of evidence usually causes a jury to empathize with you. Your attorney might even show this during settlement negotiations or arbitration to show the insurance company the extent of your pain and suffering.
#3. Documenting a Case
Just telling the insurance company or a jury that you are suffering is never enough. You must show that you are in pain or suffering emotionally. It is suggested to start a journal immediately after the car accident. In most cases, one form of evidence of pain and suffering is not enough to convince an insurance company or a jury.
#4. What Not to Do After an Accident
While the list of things to do after an accident is long, what not to do is relatively short. But, breaking any of these “rules” could negatively affect your case.
What not to do after a car accident includes:
- Never admit you are guilty, even if you think you might be.
- Do not discuss the accident or your recovery on social media.
- Never miss a doctor’s appointment, including appointments for physical therapy, surgeries, and psychological therapy.
Finally, you should never discuss the accident with an insurance adjuster—even your own. If you give any information to an insurance company, it should only be your name, contact information, the date and location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information.
#5. How Attorneys and Insurance Companies Calculate Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is a non-economic damage, which means that it does not have a monetary value. Lawyers, insurance adjusters, and jurors use other methods to determine what your pain and suffering is worth, though there is no set formula.
They look at:
- The extent of your injuries and other damages.
- The length doctors expect you to suffer from physical injuries.
- The length doctors expect you to suffer from emotional injuries.
- The effects of physical and emotional injuries on you and your family.
- Whether your injuries will result in your death or have resulted in the death of a loved one.
Your attorney might compare your previous activities to your current activities to help paint a picture of your pain and suffering. For example, if you worked a full-time job that was physically demanding and can now not work or work only part-time at a job that allows you to sit at a desk. They might also look at family activities, such as whether you spent a lot of time playing with children or grandchildren and are now stuck watching them play.
Some insurance companies also use formulas to calculate the amount of pain and suffering you have, though these formulas are often not accurate. The multiplier method adds up medical expenses and lost wages, then multiplies that total by a number based on the severity of your injuries.
The per diem method allows a certain amount of money per day from the date of the accident through the time you fully recover from your injuries. However, even if you fully recovered, who is to say that the $100 per day that the insurance adjuster picks out of thin air is enough?
Damages That Could Affect Pain and Suffering
Looking at the future damages that you might receive as a whole can help determine whether a pain and suffering award is fair. Some of the other damages you could recover after a car accident include:
- Future medical expenses.
- Future loss of earning capacity.
- Expenses for the death of a loved one.
- Loss of companionship if emotional and physical injuries prevent you from spending quality time with your family.
- Loss of consortium if physical injuries prevent you from having a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Lost quality of life, generally awarded if you have to make life-altering changes, such as using ambulatory aids or taking prescription medications for the rest of your life.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do everyday chores, such as grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, or house cleaning.
- Loss of use of a body part such as a hand or foot.
- Loss of use of a bodily function such as bladder control or your eyesight.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement, such as that received from burns or road rash.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident, contact a car accident lawyer for a free case evaluation.