As an attorney with over 30 years’ experience, I have taken on hundreds of auto accident cases. Helping my clients recover is my highest priority, but often I wish these victims had known their rights prior to an incident. If you don’t know what to do ahead of time, the chaos and shock following an accident can jeopardize your case. The affirmative steps you take following an accident can make a huge difference is your case.
Ohio laws are particularly unfriendly to victims, as legislators in recent years have passed so-called tort “reforms” which limit the amount an injured person can recover. However, there are some simple steps you can take ahead of time and after an accident to make the most out of an unfortunate situation.
Knowing your basic legal rights when involved in an accident is crucial in order to negotiate and get fair compensation, whether through a settlement or lawsuit. Ohio is an at-fault state, which means victims must contact the at-fault driver’s insurance provider with a demand for damages. Keep in mind that an adverse insurance company has no duty to be “fair” or act “in good faith” toward an accident victim. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses and will save their own money whenever possible. That is why you have to fight for your rights when an at-fault driver injures you or damages your vehicle.
Opposing insurance companies will often fight tooth-and-nail to avoid paying out to victims. When dealing with insurers, know that you are not required to give a recorded statement. In fact, it is usually better if you do not. However, if that has already happened, you are entitled to a copy. In addition, do not release more medical or employment records than those directly related to the accident, such as hospital bills or wage loss from the injury. Also demand to know who the insurance company states is at fault, and why. Whether or not a settlement is reached, this interaction is important.
Ohio law only requires that drivers’ have coverage of up to $25,000, but many accidents cost thousands more. If you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, your insurance company can help cover the costs when the at-fault driver cannot provide in full.
If you cannot settle with the insurance company, you case may proceed to litigation. Let’s begin with the basics. To recover for an auto accident, you as the victim must prove negligence, proximate cause, and damages. Negligence is carelessness, and can be shown when the at-fault driver violates the law, which may be shown by direct or circumstantial evidence. Generally, the at-fault driver must pay for injuries and damages caused by the accident, including but not limited to, medical bills, wage loss, and pain and suffering. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to prove these elements with witness and expert testimony, medical records, and more.
Studies have shown that accident victims who hire lawyers typically recover over three times the amount that self-represented parties obtain from insurance companies. Whichever route you chose, knowing your rights is essential.