Injured in a Car Accident? We Can Help
At Sabbeth Law, we represent people who have been involved in all sorts of car accidents and vehicle collisions in Vermont. In fact, we represent the injured in all types of vehicle accident cases, from passenger-car to dirt bike to motorcycle accidents to tractor-trailer collisions. We even represent people injured through the negligence of others in boating and snowmobile crashes.
As Vermont car accident attorneys, we have learned quite a bit over the years about how best to deal with car accidents from a personal and legal standpoint. Here are some tips to help you if you or a loved one has been involved in any type of vehicle crash:
What to do if you’ve been injured in a car accident
The Immediate Aftermath
From the outset of a car crash, the most important tip we can give you is to keep calm. Easier said than done, and maybe not particularly helpful if you’re reading this after an accident. However, on the chance this helps even one individual, we include it here as it is truly one of the most important tips and can affect many other aspects of the events that follow. If you can remain calm you will be much more effective in helping yourself, dealing with the current situation, and assisting those around you that may have been injured in the car crash (if you are safely able to do so).
Of equal importance, make sure that you’re okay before assisting your passengers or anybody who may have been injured in the car accident. Despite our gut reactions and instincts, it truly is most important to make sure you’re okay before reacting and trying to help others. This can be tough to swallow, and we absolutely understand why. However, if you’re not okay, you almost certainly will not be able to help anyone else. In fact the situation could be made worse.
If you or someone else is injured after a car accident, call for medical attention. Though, like many of us (myself included) you might hate the idea of calling for medical attention, even when you’re obviously injured, it is extremely important to do so. Read my “what to do when you’ve been injured” page for detailed information on why this is so much more important than we’re likely to realize.
Why You Should Always Get a Police Report
If you’re involved in a car crash in Vermont, get a police report — especially if someone has been injured as a result of the car crash. While most of us know to exchange insurance and contact information with people we’ve been involved in a car collision with, we don’t always get all the information we need. Not because people don’t care; but because, hopefully, being in a car accident — resulting in an injury or not — is a very rare situation for most people.
A police report also protects you from when another party all of a sudden says the car accident didn’t happen the way we know it did (which our firm has witnessed on several occasions). When there’s no police report to document what actually did happen in the car crash, it is often the injured victim that pays the price.
It takes minimal time to get a police report and it truly safeguards all parties. Let the pros do their job. Get a police report to make sure all necessary info is exchanged and all evidence as to how the collision happened is preserved.
What You Should Document to Protect Your Rights
Like any other instance when you’ve been injured through the negligence of another party in Vermont, it’s important to document the outcome of the car accident and any resulting injuries (though it is FAR more important to make sure you and others involved are okay first!). While most people who commit negligent acts that injure others truly do feel bad and do want to do the right thing to make the injured person whole, some people (and more importantly, the insurance companies that will be calling all the shots) don’t. So evidence (such as damage to vehicles) that existed might all of a sudden become unavailable, despite our better hopes for humanity.
Most of us now have cameras on us at all times. Take photos of any damage or other evidence that might be important. These types of photographs can make big differences in cases when the negligent party, or insurance company that calls the shots and provides lawyers for them, argue that something didn’t happen the way you know it did.
What Happens When Fault is Contested?
Sometimes, a police report (if one was made) or the recollection of the drivers don’t tell the whole story. It’s not completely uncommon that the people involved or having witnessed a car crash don’t observe or remember things the same way. It’s also not out of the norm that an officer doesn’t document all necessary evidence in a car crash case that is contested.
In these cases, we employ accident reconstruction experts — who, through extensive training, experience and a remarkable command of math and science — are able to put together pieces that accurately depict how and why the car crash that occurred, happened.
When involved in or witnessing a traumatic occurrence like a car accident, witnesses and those involved often have a distorted perception of they observed. This has everything to do with adrenaline, cortisol, and other physiological triggers and reactions that are meant to (and do) help with self-preservation. For example, it is extremely common that we hear from people involved in accidents, that time “slowed down” during the crash. Well, of course, time didn’t actually “slow down,” but the individual’s body allowed them to create that perception so they could think and react accordingly in a dangerous situation.
A car accident reconstruction expert is able to distill the evidence of what happened into a factual narrative, while removing potentially inaccurate perceptions. It’s not uncommon that our clients learn significant facts about their car crash that they didn’t know, such as that they struck an object they didn’t even know they struck.
When the facts are in dispute, and witnesses and physical evidence fail to provide counsel with the information needed, we bring in accident reconstruction experts to make sense of it all and allow us to present evidence as to what actually happened so we that can prosecute our clients’ cases credibly and vigorously.
“Who’s Gonna Pay My Medical Bills?”: Medical Payments Coverage in Vermont
The first questions most people have after being injured in a car accident is, “who is going to pay my medical bills?” If you have retained a Vermont personal injury lawyer, you will have already learned that most cases should not be settled until most, if not all, of the medical treatment has been finished, or until future medical expenses can be formulated.
Most people nowadays have large deductibles on their personal health insurance, if they have personal health insurance at all. So how are you supposed to pay your bills in the meantime?
Most automobile insurance policies in Vermont have provisions for what is called “medical payments coverage.” If your injured in your vehicle — no matter who is at fault — and you have medical payments coverage, it will pay for all related medical treatment up to the amount allowed by your policy. That includes copays, prescriptions, and all types of medical treatment. And that also applies to anyone else injured in the vehicle with the medical payments coverage. One of the first things we do at Sabbeth Law is check if our clients have medical payments coverage, be sure it is used to satisfy our clients’ medical bills.
You might quite correctly wonder, why should my insurance pay for medical treatment caused by the negligence of another? The first and easiest answer is that you have paid for that protection when you pay your premiums every month or year. The second is, in states like Vermont, they will be reimbursed by the negligent party’s insurance company when the case is settled or if a jury issues a verdict.
Medical payments coverage’s most important function is that it allows you to be able to pay for your medical treatment resulting from a car accident in Vermont as you get the treatment. You don’t have to wait for your case to settle or a jury verdict, and you don’t have to use your personal insurance and get slammed by the large deductibles that often accompany those policies.
What If The Person Who Injured Me Doesn’t Have Any (or Enough) Insurance?
This is a very common and worrisome issue that Sabbeth Law regularly confronts in Vermont car accident cases. In these cases, we look to what is called “underinsured” and “uninsured” bodily injury motorist coverage (also known as “UM” or UIM” coverage).
If you or a family member that you live with have an insured vehicle, you’re likely covered by UM/UIM coverage. This coverage provides invaluable protection that allows you to maintain a Vermont personal injury cases against someone who negligently injured you, even if the person who caused your injury doesn’t have insurance. How? It will pay for the damage that the uninsured driver caused in the car crash, including your medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Of course, you have to prove damages just the same as you would if the case was being brought against the person who injured you through their insurance company.
For example, what if a driver who has no insurance causes a car accident resulting in injuries, and we prove you sustained losses valued at $100,000.00? Your insurance will pay that amount of money to you through your uninsured motorist coverage, if your limits are $100,000.00 or higher. If you have less uninsured motorist coverage (for example, your limits are $50,000), it will pay out up to the amount of your limits.
What if you’re injured by an “underinsured” driver in Vermont? An underinsured driver is someone who causes a the car accident and injury that results in losses greater than they’re insured to cover. Like in the above example, let’s say your damages are determined to be $100,000.00, but the person who caused the car crash only had $50,000.00 in insurance. If you have $100,000.00 or more in underinsured motorist coverage, your insurance would pay the extra $50,000.00 you are rightfully due.
There are many other issues in underinsured/uninsured motorist liability law, such as: Who is covered under the policy? What types of Vermont car or offroad accidents are covered? Will your insurance company fight you? If you have questions about the complexities of underinsured or uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, call us.
There are many, many other elements to car accident cases in Vermont. If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident in Vermont, call me at 802-457-1112 or get a free evaluation by clicking here. Our promise to you is that we will always give you my best legal analysis free of charge. Whether or not we agree to take your case, we will at least be sure to set you on the right path to help to make sure you’re not taken advantage of.