If you were involved in a minor car accident, you might wonder, “Do I need a lawyer for a minor car accident?” While you may think this isn’t necessary, you want to consult a qualified car accident lawyer to ensure you understand your options and rights. This consultation can also help you avoid legal pitfalls; we’ll outline these below.
Why You May Require an Attorney’s Services
One of the biggest reasons you want to retain a car accident attorney following a crash of any severity and size is hidden injuries. You may think your body is just trying to tell you you’re shaken up following the accident, but you could have a soft tissue back injury or hairline fractures. Unfortunately, when you figure out your minor car accident caused major injuries, it might be too late to have the negligent party pay for your medical costs.
Concussions are a very common injury after a car accident, and they can present with mild symptoms that get worse in the days or weeks following the collision. A child can sustain more severe and different injuries than an adult after an accident. Additionally, internal bleeding or organ damage may not be evident initially, but getting a thorough medical exam following your collision can identify these injuries before they become life-threatening.
If you were involved in a rear-end accident, you could sustain whiplash. This injury occurs when your neck and head jolt violently forward and back. The treatment process can involve significant money and time with physical therapy visits. Another possible hidden injury from a minor car accident is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). This injury happens when you sustain a sudden blow to the head or jolt, and this causes your brain to shift inside your skull. If the jolt or blow is violent enough, this can cause brain damage.
Understanding Indiana Car Accident Laws
Indiana is a fault state, which means that the driver responsible for the collision is also responsible for paying damages to the injured party. Damages can take many forms, including:
- Medical bills for anyone who sustained injuries in the crash, regardless of the vehicle they were in at the time of the crash or if they were a pedestrian
- Property damage from the accident, including damage to personal items that were in the vehicles, the vehicles themselves, and structures like fences or buildings
- Lost wages for anyone who ended up with disabling injuries
- Pain and suffering compensation
However, you should also note that there can be instances where the plaintiff and defendant share fault for an accident. In this case, the court will reduce the damages they award according to each party’s liability percentage. If the court finds you more than 50% at fault for the collision, you won’t be able to recover any damages.
For example, if one driver was speeding and a second driver cut them off, causing the accident, the court might find the speeding driver responsible for 30% of the fault for the accident. The driver that cut them off is 70% at fault. If the court awards the speeding driver $10,000, they will get $7,000. The driver that cut off the other car can’t claim compensation because they’re more than 50% at fault. Retaining an experienced auto accident attorney can help you reduce your degree of fault to ensure you get the most compensation possible for your accident.
The Accident Wasn’t My Fault, But the Other Driver Is Blaming Me
Being blamed for a car accident that wasn’t your fault can be frustrating and overwhelming. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for the at-fault driver to try to shift the blame onto the other driver, even when they know they are responsible for the accident. Sometimes, the court may find both parties partially responsible for the collision. This is why you must gather evidence to support your claims, including getting a copy of the police report after the accident. You can also take pictures and videos of the accident scene and get any witnesses’ contact information and names.
If the other driver is blaming you, staying calm and avoiding getting into an argument is essential. Instead, exchange insurance and contact information. You also want to contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident and let them know that the other driver is blaming you.
If an officer issues you a ticket but the accident wasn’t your fault, take the proper steps to dispute it. As for the insurance company, you want an experienced car accident attorney who can also help you gather evidence, prove fault, and protect your rights to ensure you get compensation.
Can I Get Sued for a Minor Car Crash?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s very common for people to file a lawsuit over minor car accidents, and it happens every day. Your car accident may seem minor to you, but it can be a huge deal to the other party. They could start adding up their losses, including missed work days and lost wages, mental health treatment costs, and ongoing pain and suffering from the accident.
So, it’s a good idea to consider retaining a lawyer after a car accident of any size. This is especially true if the other party wants you to be responsible for expensive repairs, medical bills, or insurance claims. Ideally, you’ll get in touch with a local car accident lawyer as soon as you can, and they can usually advise you on whether or not you have a case or what you should do if the other party decides to sue you.
Do I Need to Report a Minor Accident to the Indiana Police?
The full statute in Indiana regarding car accidents and the reporting requirements to the local police is available in IC 9-26. Generally speaking, this law says that you have a legal obligation to report a car accident when:
- There is entrapment, or the accident causes death or injuries.
- There is a minimum of $1,000 in property damage.
- The crash involved unattended or unoccupied property, and you can’t find the owner.
So, if anyone sustained injuries, you can’t find the vehicle’s owner, or there was moderate to severe damage to property, Indiana law requires you to report the crash. The only exception to this law is if you were on a snowmobile or off-road vehicle.
Why the Insurance Companies Cannot Be Trusted
Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and one way they can do that is by minimizing the amount they pay out in claims. Here are some common tactics they use to avoid paying car accident claims:
Delaying the Claims Process
Insurance companies may repeatedly drag out the claims process by asking for additional information or documentation. They may also claim they need more time to investigate the accident, even when the facts are straightforward.
Denying the Claim
Insurers may deny a claim outright, arguing that the policy does not cover the specific type of damage or injury sustained in the accident. They may also argue that you allowed the policy to lapse or canceled it before the accident.
Underestimating the Claim’s Value
Insurance companies may undervalue a claim, offering lowball settlements that do not reflect the full extent of the damages. They may also try to persuade you to accept payment quickly before you have time to consult an auto accident lawyer.
Insurers may argue that you were partially or entirely responsible for the accident, reducing their liability for damages. However, they may also try to shift the blame to you by claiming that you failed to take the proper precautions or follow local traffic laws.
Disputing How Severe Your Injuries Are
Insurance companies may hire investigators to conduct surveillance to catch you engaging in activities that suggest you are not as injured as you claim to be. They may also dispute the medical evidence or argue that the injuries were pre-existing or caused by something other than the accident.
It’s essential to be aware of these tactics and seek the advice of an experienced car accident attorney who can help you navigate the claims process and negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company.
The Importance of Acting Quickly
A statute of limitations in Indiana gives you a time limit to file your lawsuit after a car accident. If you miss this limit, the courts may reject your case. Generally, you have two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit if you want to seek damages. If you miss the deadline, you won’t be able to recover compensation for your losses.
However, the statute of limitations differs from the deadline to file an insurance claim. You do want to notify your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident, but you might have more time to file a claim with them than you do to file your lawsuit.
Car Accident Lawyer in Fishers, Indiana
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what steps to take next. At SLG Accident Attorneys, our experienced team of attorneys, led by Hasan A. Shah, has the knowledge and expertise to guide you through the claims process and ensure that we protect your rights.
We have a proven track record of success, having helped many clients recover the compensation they deserve for their losses. So don’t wait to seek legal help after a car accident. Contact SLG Accident Attorneys today to schedule your free consultation and learn how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.