Car accidents happen in an instant but can impact your life for years to come. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you’re probably incurring medical expenses and may even be losing wages due to your inability to work. By hiring an experienced car accident lawyer, you’ll be able to recover your financial losses and receive compensation for your pain and suffering.
What Kind of Compensation Can You Receive?
You may receive money in an out-of-court settlement from the other party’s insurance company. If the insurance company refuses to settle, the next step is file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. The insurance company’s attorneys will handle defending the lawsuit.
Whether the money comes from a settlement or verdict, you may be able to receive money for the following:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage (and diminished value)
- Lost earnings or wages
- Pain and suffering
- Other non-economic damages
Is It Possible to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer Without Paying Any Fees?
When you’re already facing medical expenses, property damage, and/or lost income, the last thing you need is another bill. The good news is that you can hire an auto accident attorney without spending a single penny until your case is won.
If we agree to take your case, we will enter a contingency fee contract with you. “Contingency” means “conditional.” You will only pay us if we win a judgment or settlement on your behalf. Once the case resolves, our fee is a pre-agreed percentage of the award or settlement. Contingency fees work both ways. If we take the case to trial, and a jury does not agree with your side of the case and awards nothing, we don’t get paid. If that happens, we’re risking our time and money (case costs) to take the case to trial.
How Much Money Can I Receive After a Car Accident?
Your insurance claim settlement value, or how much your case is worth, depends on many factors. During your FREE case review, expect to review these case value factors:
The extent to which you were at fault.
Ideally, the other driver was 100% at fault, but you can be compensated for a car accident if you were partially at fault. However, being partially at fault for an accident will cause your compensation to be reduced by that percentage of fault.
Your medical bills and expenses.
Car accident victims can be compensated for a range of medical expenses, including surgery, ambulance rides, prescription drugs, physical therapy, hospitalization, and medical equipment like crutches or wheelchairs.
The severity and permanence of your injury.
You can generally receive a higher amount if you suffered a long-term or permanently disabling injury and are unable to earn income as a result. Settlements for minor injuries, such as sprains (torn ligaments) and strains (muscle tears), are lower because of the lower medical costs and recovery. Settlement values also factor future expected medical costs, pain and suffer, and lost income.
The type of treatment you received.
Insurance companies will only reimburse medical expenses they deem “reasonable and necessary.” It’s a common tactic for insurers to say that certain treatments fall outside of this description, particularly if the car accident victim is seen by multiple doctors for the same type of injury.
The duration of your treatment. Insurers consider factors like how many doctor appointments you made (“too man” or “not enough”), how many weeks or months of medication you were prescribed, and how long you will need medical care.
What to Look for in Hiring an Oklahoma City Car Accident Lawyer?
The decision to hire an attorney is an important one. Here are some factors to look for:
1) Does that attorney actually try cases?
A lot of firms don’t like to try cases. It’s hard work, and with a contingency fee, the attorney doesn’t always get paid. Insurance companies track which firms that go to trial, and which law firms are “settlement mills.” This can affect the value of a case.
2) Who at the law firm will be handling your case?
A lot of large firms have paralegals or “case managers” handling the bulk of a claim. Is an attorney handling your case? Who will talk with you at the law firm when you have questions?
3) Do you get along with that attorney?
Lawsuits are especially stressful for clients. If you don’t like or don’t feel comfortable with the attorney, that just adds to the stress. You don’t need to hire the first attorney that you see. Feel free to talk with several attorneys before you hire one. Just because you meet with one, doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to hire that particular attorney.
4) What kind of cases, besides car accidents, does the attorney handle?
There are good attorneys that handle a wide variety of cases, but it’s generally a good idea to have someone that concentrates their practice on car wrecks and personal injury law.
Finding The Best Lawyer For Your Car Accident Case
If you’re injured in a car crash, it’s advised that you consult an experienced personal injury lawyer about the possibility of getting compensated for your expenses. With over 75 years of combined experience, the Oklahoma City car accident lawyers at Hasbrook & Hasbrook stand ready to fight for the compensation you deserve.
Your attorney will represent you during settlement negotiations, compile evidence of your injuries and their causes, and handle all of your legal paperwork, so that you can focus on resting and making a recovery – not fighting with an unreasonable insurance company.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Oklahoma City, OK, contact us now for a FREE consultation.
What Kind of Compensation Can a Plaintiff Receive?
In Oklahoma City, individuals involved in motor vehicle accidents generally have two years to file a civil lawsuit.
Injured plaintiffs may be able to receive compensation in the form of monetary damages for the following:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost earnings or wages
- Pain and suffering
- Other non-economic damages
Car Accident Legal Proceedings
If the insurance company refuses to settle, the next step is to file a lawsuit. In state court, this is called a “Petition” and in Federal Court, a “Complaint.” We then have the defendant driver served, and his or her insurance company will then defend the case. Next, the “discovery” phase occurs where both sides will take depositions, and exchange interrogatories and request for productions (documents, photos, videos) relevant to the case. At some point the court will enter a “Scheduling Order” setting all the deadlines for the case. Generally, all discovery on the case must be done by the Pretrial Conference. At this conference, the judge will review any of the issues with the case, and set the trial date. A case can settle at anytime throughout any of the stages. The most common times are:
- Before suit. A demand packet is sent to the insurance company with a letter summarizing the facts of the accident, medical treatment, medical bills, lost income, and any other damages the accident victim has incurred.
- Shortly after a lawsuit is filed. A lot of insurance companies have a different adjuster or “claims team” that will takeover the file once a lawsuit is filed. This adjuster/team is usually more experienced than the initial claims representative, and usually has more settlement authority (can pay more). This also gives the insurance company a second look at the case before they get their attorneys involved.
- After the insurance company takes the plaintiff’s deposition. This give the insurance company a chance to evaluate the plaintiff and any of the other facts of the case.
- Mediation. Most judges require car accident cases to go to mediation before trial. This gives both sides a chance to try to get the case settled. Both parties will split the cost of the mediator’s fees, and these are paid whether the case is settled or not.
- Right before trial. If all previous attempts to settle the case haven’t worked, there is still a chance the case will settle. It’s expensive (and unpredictable) to go to trial, so both sides will usually try to factor in the cost of trial with where the negotiation dollar amounts are at.
- During trial. This happens, but usually only if there is some type of surprise to one side or the other. For example, a witness or doctor may have more information than initially believed.
The Main Thing We See That Causes Car Accidents
Rear-end collisions. The “legal” action is based on negligence which requires the injured party to prove that they suffered an injury as a direct result of the defendant’s negligent act. Negligence occurs when the driver failed to do something like see what was in front of them while driving.
In Oklahoma City, an individual’s own negligence or carelessness does not automatically prevent them from collecting damages. However, Oklahoma does bar a person from recovering damages if the degree of fault they bear for an accident is greater than 50 percent. Any of the plaintiff’s negligent acts that amount to less than 50 percent of the total fault for the accident results in their damage award reduced proportionally.
For example, if a jury finds that the plaintiff was going 5 mph over the speed limit and decides that the driver was 5% at fault in contributing to the accident, the verdict will be reduced by the judge by 5%. Or, if the jury finds that the plaintiff was 51% at fault, that plaintiff would recover nothing.
What About Drunk Driving Accidents?
Drunk driving car accident injuries differ from other cases in that they can be more severe. Where sober drivers typically slow down when they see a car in front of them, drunk drivers tend not to slow down. A drunk driver might not even notice a vehicle in front of them. The result is that the impact of the crash is much worse.
- If the injured person is also a drunk driver, it may be difficult for them to receive any compensation for the crash. We have witnessed several cases where insurance companies claim that the driver could have avoided the accident had they not been under the influence. There are cases where an individual who is drunk while driving is not at fault for an accident. An example would be if the drunk driver is sitting at a red light when they are rear-ended.
Should a Car Accident Victim File an Insurance Claim or a Lawsuit?
There is no law to stop you from filing a lawsuit immediately after being injured in a car accident. However, most people regard litigation as a last resort, and will typically attempt to file an insurance claim first.
If you intend to file a claim, be prepared for the possibility of going through some tough negotiations or hard to reach adjusters. Remember, insurance companies are ultimately profit-first, and will use just about any tactic available in order to minimize their payouts. The adjuster might make a settlement offer which is much lower than the amount you are seeking (or even less than your medical bills), and furthermore, might flip the argument around to say that you were actually the party primarily at fault for the crash.
Before you attempt to negotiate with a claims adjuster or accept a settlement, you should consult with one of our experienced attorneys.
How Long Do I Have to Make a Car Accident Insurance Claim?
Generally, two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit, so the insurance claim will need to made earlier. Note that the time limit is less if a government vehicle was involved.
Oklahoma is a “fault” state with regard to auto insurance. Drivers in fault states typically make a third-party insurance claim with the other driver’s insurance company.
If an insurance company is pressuring you to accept an early settlement offer for your injury claims, you should contact an attorneys right away. Resist the pressure to accept the initial settlement offer – which is likely to be way less than what you deserve – until you have reviewed your options with a qualified legal representation. Insurance are trained to pay as little as possible instead of maximum compensation to claimants.
Will Insurance Pay for a Rental Car?
Oklahoma law requires all motorists to carry minimum insurance coverage for bodily injury and property damage to others. You may also have collision coverage to pay for any physical damage to your vehicle. But this does not help you when you need a rental car immediately after an accident. Oklahoma doesn’t require the at-fault driver’s insurance to pay for a rental car, but the expense is recoverable if incurred at trial. Most insurance companies tend to provide the car accident victim with a rental car until the repairs are made on the vehicle, or the insurance company makes an offer if the vehicle is a “total loss.” Insurance companies have pre-negotiated rates with rental companies, so this saves them money versus having to reimburse you later for the normal rental rates.
Most auto insurers offer rental reimbursement coverage as an option to their policies. Often, it costs as little as $1 per month. It is important to check with your insurance company to see if you have this coverage. This can speed up the process in getting you a rental car. Reimbursement coverage generally continues only until either your car is repaired or it is declared a total loss. In the latter case, your insurer is only obligated to pay for your rental car up until the day the decision was made to declare it a loss. Otherwise, benefits continue until the repairs are complete, subject to any maximum limits on your rental coverage.
Do OKC Car Accident Claims Ever Expire?
Yes! The sooner you begin the process of making an insurance claim after a car accident, the sooner you will have the opportunity to recover the compensation you deserve. But acting quickly is more than just a good idea – it’s essential to maximizing your odds of success. If you wait for too long, you could lose your chance at getting compensated forever. If you, or one of your family members, was recently injured in a car collision, you should contact Hasbrook & Hasbrook to review your case in a free consultation.
What Are the Legal Rights of a Passenger Who is Injured in a Car Accident?
When a passenger gets injured in a car crash, there are a few ways he or she can go about getting compensated. In most cases, the first step is to make an insurance claim. This may involve:
- Filing a third-party claim against the driver at fault for the accident. The at-fault driver could be the driver of the other vehicle, or the driver of the vehicle the passenger was riding in. All drivers must have certain levels of coverage under the minimum auto insurance requirements ($25k/50k) in Oklahoma.
- Filing a first-party insurance claim with his or her own insurer. If the at-fault driver was not insured, or if the costs of the passenger’s injuries exceed the at-fault driver’s coverage limits, the passenger can turn to their own UM (Uninsured Motorist) or UIM (Underinsured Motorist) insurance.
Alternatively, the injured passenger could file a lawsuit against the person who caused the accident.
- Before you make a decision, you should speak with us today. You may also be interested in reading our article on insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits.
Common Injuries in Side-Impact Collisions
In the absence of side-impact airbags (SABs) – and sometimes, even with SAB protection – side-impact collisions can inflict devastating injuries upon passengers. A common example is traumatic brain injury (TBI), which NHTSA researchers estimate affects up to 60% of all passengers killed in fatal side-impact accidents.
Other common injuries resulting from side-impact crashes include:
- Thoracic/Pelvic Injuries
- Leg and Foot Injuries/Arm and Shoulder Injuries
- Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)
What is the Statute of Limitations, and How Does it Affect Injury Compensation?
If negotiating out of court does not resolve the matter, try not to get too discouraged. As an accident victim, you may decide that you wish to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. In this scenario, a legal deadline called the statute of limitations comes into play.
Put simply, the statute of limitations is how long you have to file a lawsuit.
The Oklahoma statute of limitations on personal injury cases is two years. The clock starts counting down on the date the injury occurs, which means time is ticking while you go through the out-of-court negotiations process. The earlier you make your insurance claim, the more time will remain to prepare a lawsuit in the event that negotiations fail.
Yet there’s an even more critical reason to get started early: if the statute of limitations elapses, or “expires,” your case will not be able to move through Oklahoma’s court system. It will simply be discarded for going over the deadline, which means you will permanently lose your chance to get compensated.
What Are the Different Types of Damages Awarded in a Civil Case?
In the context of car accident law, the term “damages” describes a monetary award for a loss or harm (“tort”) suffered by the injury victim. However, damages are divided into several categories, each of which serves its own distinct purpose:
– Economic Damages. Economic damages cover monetary expenses and losses, such as the car accident victim’s medical bills or projected income losses while he or she recovers.
– Non-Economic Damages. Non-economic damages cover subjective hardships, such as the pain and suffering caused by a whiplash neck injury. Some states call non-economic damages “general damages.”
Punitive Damages – Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where evidence shows that the defendant engaged in “gross” (extreme) negligence. As the word “punitive” implies, punitive damages are more than just a means of compensating the victim: they are intended to punish the defendant and to prevent the dangerous behavior from happening again.
If you’d like to see some actual, real-world examples of awards and settlements resulting from car accident injuries in Oklahoma, you may be interested in reading our articles on:
- How much a traumatic brain injury is worth
- How much a hand injury is worth
- How much a neck injury is worth
What Happens if a Car Accident Aggravates an Existing Injury or Medical Condition?
The negligent driver’s insurance company will probably fight tooth and nail to show that the accident had nothing to do with the pain and limitations you are now suffering from. They will call for an “Independent” Medical Exam (IME), which is in fact conducted by doctors that are paid by the car insurance companies.
Fortunately, it is possible to recover compensation for the aggravation of pre-existing injuries, depending on the injury victim’s ability to establish a before-and-after deterioration in function and health, generally through MRI scans and testimony from the doctors that treated the patient.
If your back, shoulder, or neck injury is aggravated by an accident for which you were not at fault, you could have a right to compensation for your care costs, losses of income, pain and suffering, and other hardships you’ve experienced as a result of the crash. However, it’s important to act quickly, before you miss critical deadlines.
Call an Injury Attorney Today
Being in a car accident can lead to many questions about what your options are and what you should do next. Your first priority should always be to visit a doctor to address any injuries you may have sustained in the crash, but if you are wondering whether you may be able to collect damages as a result of your accident, a lawyer’s office should be the next stop you make.
We can review your case and give you any advice and assistance you require. An experienced attorney has generally seen a wide variety and types of car accidents and related injuries and can use that knowledge to help you. If you have been injured in a car wreck, call today to ensure you do not lose out on any reimbursement you are entitled to.