Getting into a car accident is one of the most jarring and emotional experience many people will endure in their lifetime. Not to mention that immediately following the accident, there is a great deal of information that must be documented and several legal authorities and insurance professionals to get in touch with. All the tasks associated with a car accident can leave someone reeling, lost on what compensation they may be entitled to and, further, what their rights are in such a situation.
In the event of an auto accident , knowing your rights can prevent the event from going from bad to worse. The state in which you reside will be a direct influence on your rights in relation to the accident regarding what type of compensation you can receive, whether you will have to pay for damages and coverage for any medical complications. Depending on your location, you will be given a certain timeframe in which you must report the accident as well.
There are a few main categories into which your rights are recognized pertaining to an accident. Depending on the severity of the accident, there may be exceptions to laws such as a statute of limitations (a government-determined timeframe in which plaintiffs can file a claim for compensation to damages attributed to an accident). In states that enforce “at-fault” laws, if you are found to be responsible for the accident, you may be required to compensate for any property damage and injuries.
Your rights as they pertain to car accidents are very much determined by the context and details of the event itself along with the state you are driving in. The following is a breakdown of the rights you need to be aware of to protect yourself in the event of an accident.
The Time in Which You Are Allowed to File a Claim
Many states enforce a statute of limitations in which claimants are restricted to a two- or three-year period to file their claim for compensation. Texas, for example, requires that these claims are filed within two years of the event, but make exceptions up to one year for wrongful deaths. This is, at its core, intended for the protection of the defendant, as it protects them from having to take on the blame of injuries that may not have been attributed to the accident at all.
If you were at fault during an accident, this law can work very well in your favor. Any evidence that will be brought to the legal system after the specified period runs the risk of being inaccurate or incomplete due to a person’s recollection of the accident being compromised over time. It also eliminates the possibility of someone maliciously trying to fabricate a story of medical complications to your fault when they may have had nothing to do with the accident at all.
On the other hand, as the victim, the two-year period is an abundance of time for you to closely observe your medical conditions after the accident. Many complications take time to either develop or begin to show symptoms, especially when those symptoms are highly circumstantial. With this law, you will have time on your side to work with legal and medical professionals to determine the best course of action for your injuries.
In the same thread as the last point, if you are the victim of a car accident and are left with injuries (minor or severe, they both count) or property damages, you have the right to receive compensation for these things. Factors that contribute right to receive such compensations include:
- If your injuries prevented you from going to work and thus resulted in lost wages
- Extended or chronic pain due to injury
- Altered physical/medical condition due to accident
- Permanent disability
- Property damage (this is not exclusive to your vehicle, but includes any of yours or passengers’ belongings stored inside at the time of the accident)
By no means should you be covering your own medical expenses or property replacements or repairs after an accident. This should all be covered by the other party’s insurance company.
In some states, such as Florida, anyone who has been in a car accident is entitled to medical attention under Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. Fortunately, this is not determined by whether you are at fault or not, but whether you were involved in the accident at all.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is if your medical expenses exceed the amount you are provided to you by your coverage, you have the right to take legal action.
In any event, whether you have such protection or not, you are urged to seek medical attention soon or immediately after a car accident. This is not only for the assurance of your physical safety but will help your case if there is a medical condition that develops. Obtaining treatment records and bills from physicians, specialists, neurologists, and/or surgeons can strengthen your claim once filed.
Do Not Admit Fault
Even if you believe you are at fault or are unsure of your part in an auto accident, do not by any means admit fault or apologize for it. Just as all law enforcement officials recite, “you have the right to remain silent” until authorities arrive. You are free to write down your perspective of the incident, along with gathering photos of all vehicles involved, but it is best that you wait until officers arrive to provide your full recollection of the event. This way, the other party has no opportunity to twist any of your words against you.
In no way are you legally obligated to speak to the other party at all, in fact. You can simply exchange the necessary information and wait by your vehicles until officers show up to the scene. Liability will be determined after the event and when all information – yours, the other driver’s, and the officer’s – have been considered.
It can be difficult to keep a clear head immediately following a car accident. Have this information listed somewhere in your vehicle or another practical method of reminding yourself of your rights in the event of a car accident for your strongest chance at protecting your health, property, and finances.