Whenever a person or company is legally injured, due mainly to another person’s fault, the law provides that the person responsible is to pay for the damages resulting from those injuries. This principle applies to wrecks involving automobiles, minivans, pickup or light-duty trucks, vans, motorcycles, SUVs, RVs, and large trucks. The injuries may be sustained by a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or passerby. The principles are easy to state, but moving from these legal principles to proving and collecting adequate money damages is often difficult.
Traffic accidents happen unexpectedly. Vehicles must be repaired or replaced, and unfortunately people are injured. Sometimes, the injuries are minor, and sometimes they are severe. When the other driver is mostly responsible for causing the wreck, the law and the courts provide a remedy, but proving who is mostly at fault may be a challenge.
Money damages provide compensation for injuries. Courts may award money damages to people who were injured due to others’ negligent or reckless conduct. In other words, the other driver must be more at fault than the injured person. Damages include the costs of medical treatment, whether it involved an emergency room, a hospital stay, and/or a doctor’s office as well as physical therapy, prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and more. Damages also may include the pain and suffering related to injuries caused by the wreck, lost income because the injured person could not work due to the wreck, and more. If the wreck is mainly the other driver’s fault and the person or persons who are hurt will lose some physical or mental abilities, the law provides damages for those injuries as well.
Damages may include the costs to repair your vehicle plus its diminished value and the loss of use of your vehicle. When your vehicle is being repaired, you may have to pay for a rental car during that time. That cost also may be recovered. At times, other property is lost or damaged by a wreck, and said property also can be recovered.
Not surprisingly, the amount of money that people ordinarily recover in a vehicle accident generally depends on how extensive and severe the injuries and damages are. Remember: Money damages are designed to restore injured individuals to their pre-accident health and condition, or how they felt before they were injured, and to compensate for loss of property. Damages usually are perceived as remedies, not as punishments for defendants. Sometimes, a court will impose additional damages, called punitive damages, on a reckless driver.
An injured person, however, cannot recover damages automatically. Frequently, cases are settled outside of court, but often a lawsuit must be filed. Under the laws of most states, drivers are required to carry liability insurance. In Tennessee, the required policy limits are low. In Tennessee, an injured person cannot learn the policy limits of the driver who caused the wreck. During negotiations, or discussions, insurance adjusters are often polite, but know this: They work for an insurance company and represent the driver who caused the wreck. They are highly trained and experienced in how to negotiate and how to keep settlement payments as low as possible. They often try to get statements from you and other witnesses. In short, they prepare and are paid to prepare. Do not underestimate them.
Before trying to negotiate with an insurance adjuster, be prepared. Preparation is critical. All past and anticipated future medical, hospital, and health-related records, bills, and invoices must be gathered. In addition, be sure to have the treatment and prognosis set forth, all related invoices gathered, any lost wage claim computed and documented, pictures of the wreck and accident scene collected, witnesses identified, and more, much more. These tasks are time-consuming, but essential. When personal injuries or significant property damage is involved, my strong suggestion is to seriously consider hiring a lawyer. Do not try to do this alone.
In my experience, a lawyer probably will be able to negotiate a higher settlement amount – even after you pay his or her fees – because he or she knows the ropes and has experience. If the amount offered is not sufficient, lawyers know how to file suits and move cases along.
If you were injured in a vehicle accident, know: You have rights, and you have options. If you have questions or concerns, talk to a lawyer. For more information, contact Nashville Attorney Perry A. Craft.