What to do After a Sideswipe Collision?By Gabriel Levin on August 27th, 2019
Sideswipe collisions can happen on any type of roadway. They most frequently occur when one driver is driving in another driver’s blind spot, though sideswipe collisions can also happen outside of blindspots if one driver is not paying attention to the road. Also, if someone is weaving in and out of traffic or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may also end up the victim of a sideswipe accident. If you were in a sideswipe collision that was not your fault, here’s why you should contact a car accident lawyer.
When to Call an Attorney
It is imperative that you or a loved one contact an attorney as soon as possible after a sideswipe accident. First, personal injury cases have a statute of limitation, which means that if you fail to file a claim before a certain period of time, you will be barred from collecting compensation. Secondly, your memory of what happened is always better just after the accident. Something that you may think is just a minor detail may significantly affect the amount of compensation that you receive.
Types of Injuries
If you are sideswiped, you stand the chance of sustaining serious injuries, especially if the other driver pushes your vehicle off the road. In other cases, the accident may seriously damage your vehicle, but you may not suffer any physical injuries. However, always keep in mind that a piece of machinery that probably weighs over a ton just struck the vehicle in which you were riding. You may not feel pain from injuries immediately because of adrenaline. Regardless of whether you believe that you are injured, you should see a medical professional immediately following any injury. Some of the types of injuries that you may experience in a sideswipe collision include:
- Bumps, bruises, scrapes, cuts, and abrasions. These types of injuries generally take a few days to heal, unless they are severe or unless you have an underlying condition that results in slower healing. Deeper cuts may require stitches.
- Pulled muscles, strains, and sprains. These types of injuries may take several weeks to heal, depending on the severity of the injury. Muscle injuries often require surgery if the muscle is disconnected or torn. With or without surgery, you may need physical therapy to strengthen the limb after the injury heals.
- Fractures. You may suffer a minor fracture or a compound fracture. A compound fracture breaks the skin and could become infected. Compound fractures usually require surgery. These wounds will take longer to heal if you have underlying issues.
- Amputations. If you suffer a serious enough injury to a limb, your injury may require amputation. Additionally, if you have an open wound that becomes infected and turns gangrenous, you may have to have that limb amputated.
- Burns. Burns could take weeks or months to heal, especially if you have an underlying condition that slows or prevents healing. Burns can easily become infected. In many cases, you may know you’re burned, but the burn may not seem serious until the next day. Always seek immediate medical attention if you’ve sustained a burn injury.
- Head, brain, shoulder, and neck injuries. Any of these injuries could be catastrophic, especially brain injuries. Brain injuries, such as concussions, can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) later in life. If you suffered a concussion in an accident, you should tell your attorney.
- Back and spine injuries. These could take weeks or months to heal, depending on the type of injury that you’ve sustained. A spine injury could also cause long- or short-term paralysis. With or without paralysis, you may need months or even years of physical, occupational, and/or psychological therapy, and depending on the circumstances of your case, you should seek compensation for future medical expenses and future lost wages.
If your doctors expect your injuries to last for a significant amount of time or permanently, your attorney will work with your doctors to determine the best guess estimate as to how long these injuries may last—and what further treatment you may need down the road—so that you can seek adequate compensation.
Always tell your attorney about any underlying conditions that you have, even if you’re not sure or don’t believe those conditions will affect your healing. Your attorney will consult with doctors to determine if your condition is something that needs to be taken into consideration when negotiating for future medical expenses or when requesting an amount at trial.
Compensation Following a Sideswipe Collision
Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, which means that if you are in a car accident, you collect from your own insurance company first. If your injuries and other claims exceed the limits of your insurance, you then can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for additional compensation.
Punitive damages may exceed what the insurance pays out for your claim. If we think you are entitled to punitive damages, we may have to take your case to trial, especially if your insurance company and the at-fault driver’s insurance company are not able to cover the amount.
Working With Insurance Companies
If you’re involved in an accident, one of the first things you should do is to call your insurance company. However, you should only give the insurance company limited information, including your name, the year, make and model of your vehicle, and the accident location. Advise the representative for the insurance company that your attorney will contact him or her regarding anything further.
Keep in mind that insurance companies are out to make a profit. If they have to pay for your sideswipe claim, that cuts into their bottom line. Even if it’s your insurance company, and you’re sure that you pay all of your premiums on time and have been a customer for years, the insurance company doesn’t care about that. It’s just thinking about the bottom line. Your insurance company will try to get you to settle for the lowest amount possible to make you go away. Instead, let your attorney deal with the insurance company; he or she will be able to negotiate a better settlement.
If your claim involves more than one insurance company, a complicated case could get even more complicated. Your attorney will keep everything organized, so you don’t have to deal with the added stress of working with the insurance companies to make sure you get enough compensation to cover all of your expenses.
No Fair and Reasonable Settlement?
If the insurance company will not negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement, your attorney will work with the insurance company to get a better settlement. If the insurance company refuses to offer an adequate settlement, your attorney will take your case to court. Insurance companies want to avoid litigation, as it significantly increases their costs. With clear evidence stacked in your favor, insurance companies know that a court or jury will award you a higher amount than they may have settled for, even if they increase their offer significantly from their initial low-ball offer.
Types of Compensation for Sideswipe Accidents
Depending on the extent of your injuries or whether you lost a loved one in an accident, you may recover three different types of compensation: (1) economic damages, (2) non-economic damages, and (3) punitive damages.
This type of compensation covers items that have an easily determinable price, including:
- Medical expenses. Submit all bills and/or invoices that you get from all doctors and medical facilities treating the injuries that you sustained as a result of the sideswipe wreck. This includes bills for surgeries, aftercare, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and psychological care for depression or PTSD related to the accident.
- Lost wages. As long as you are unable to work, you may collect lost wages.
- Replacement or repair of personal property, including your vehicle and anything else that sustained damage while in your vehicle during the collision.
- Future medical expenses. Be sure to include any future surgeries that are planned or that being discussed, and any therapy that you may need.
- Future lost wages. Your attorney will consult with your doctors and with additional doctors that he or she may call in as expert witnesses.
Future medical expenses and lost wages technically do not have a set amount, but they are often considered economic damages. However, some may list these as general damages. Insurance companies have a formula that they follow for determining future costs and expenses.
Because insurance companies estimate how long it will take you to heal, you should let your attorney know if you have any underlying conditions that might cause accident injuries to heal slowly. Diabetes, cancer, and taking certain medications that lower your white blood cell count can significantly delay healing. Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company if your accident injuries are not healing in the average time it takes for a particular injury to heal.
In some cases, you may need the help of expert witnesses. These are usually doctors or other medical professionals that will testify in a court about your injuries and how the injuries will affect you in the future. The doctors will also testify as to the length of time in which the injuries should heal, and if they will ever heal. Generally, expert witnesses are not your doctors, as they should be impartial to the case. However, your attorney still may ask that your doctor appear to testify on your behalf.
Non-economic damages are often referred to as general damages. While you can’t erase the pain from injuries or the loss of a loved one, additional compensation can help with your monthly bills while you’re unable to work or after you’ve lost a loved one. General damages include:
- Pain and suffering. Your injury must be long-term or permanent to receive compensation for pain and suffering.
- Loss of companionship. If you’re injured and unable to engage in activities with your family that you normally would—such as hiking, working in the yard, cooking, cleaning, or even attending your children’s school activities—you should seek compensation for loss of companionship. If you lost a loved one, you should also seek compensation for loss of companionship in your wrongful death claim.
- Loss of consortium. If you are unable to have a physical relationship with your spouse, you should seek compensation for loss of consortium.
- Loss of a limb. If you lose the use of a limb because of a sideswipe accident, you should seek compensation for the loss of that limb, especially if you lose the use of your dominant hand.
- Inconvenience. If your injuries inconvenience you for a long time or permanently, so much so that you have to pay someone to assist with activities that you used to complete alone—such as house cleaning, cooking for the family or shopping—you should seek additional compensation.
Because you only get non-economic damages if your injuries are long-term and significantly affect your life, make sure that your medical professionals document all of their conclusions regarding your healing and rehabilitation.
Punitive damages are only awarded if a defendant’s behavior constituted gross negligence or involved an intent to harm. Courts award punitive damages to plaintiffs as a punishment or deterrent to the defendant. As the plaintiff, you will have to prove that the defendant’s actions qualify as grossly negligent or intentionally harmful.
For example, if a defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol when he or she sideswiped you, you should request punitive damages. Furthermore, if the defendant purposefully sideswiped you to run you off the road in a fit of road rage, you should also seek punitive damages.
If you lost a loved one in a sideswipe accident, contact a vehicle accident attorney as soon as possible. We understand that you are under a lot of stress, having to make complicated arrangements, and likely experiencing significant grief. However, a wrongful death lawsuit can secure compensation to help with funeral and burial expenses in addition to covering your loved one’s medical expenses. You may also qualify to claim non-economic damages. While the money will not bring your loved one back, it goes a long way in helping with your finances, which means you have one less thing to worry about.
If you have further questions, please call a car accident lawyer today to schedule a case evaluation.