I HAVE BEEN INJURED IN AN ACCIDENT. WHAT DO I DO?
The first step after any accident is to take care of your medical needs. You may have just suffered serious physical injury and should seek medical attention as soon as possible. After an accident, adrenaline is high, and there is a lot of confusion. Do not let your physical well-being be lost in that confusion. Next, you should contact a personal injury attorney in order to learn what your rights are and how to go about recovering compensation. Most personal injury attorneys will offer a consultation at no cost to you.
THE OTHER DRIVER’S INSURANCE COMPANY HAS CALLED ME TO ASK QUESTIONS. DO I HAVE TO SPEAK WITH THEM?
You are not obligated to speak to the other driver’s insurance company. Remember that they are the ones who will likely have to pay out the claim if their driver is determined at fault. Many will tell you that they will not be able to move forward without a recorded statement of the accident. This is company policy, not the law. While this statement does not have legal force, they may use it against you to create doubt as to liability or deny your claim. While this may slow the progress of your claim, the risk in speaking to them without knowing all your rights is far greater. Before speaking to any insurance representative, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.
HOW MUCH COMPENSATION CAN I EXPECT FROM MY ACCIDENT?
Each accident and injury are different. No one can guarantee that you will recover or how much you may recover for your injuries. Recovery is going to be primarily dependent on the severity of injury, medical bills arising from the injuries, and pain and suffering from the accident. These amounts may be negotiated between you (or your lawyer) and the insurance company or in a court of law through a jury verdict, but there are some basic things you can know that may affect the value of your case. Alabama’s minimum policy requirement is $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident. This means that the only insurance a driver is required to have is $25,000 per person injured or $50,000 overall to cover multiple injured parties in one accident. These amounts function as limits on the money which you can recover from these policies.
WHAT DO I DO IF MY CAR OR OTHER PROPERTY HAS BEEN DAMAGED?
In most accidents, the vehicle has been damaged to some extent. After the accident, if the car is drivable, you are free to take it home or to the hospital with you. Normally, opposing insurance will contact you to send out an adjuster to review the damage and make an estimate. If the car is not drivable, it will likely be towed to a tow yard. Here it will be reviewed to be fixed, or it may be declared a total loss. A car will be declared a total loss by the insurance company usually if it costs more than a certain percentage of the fair market value of the vehicle to fix it. If it is declared a total loss, the insurance company will pay you their determination of the fair market value of your vehicle.
You may keep the car if you wish. This will affect how much is paid by them for the damage, though. You can keep the car, but they will subtract a salvage cost (the money they would have gotten for selling the car to salvage) from the total loss payment to you for the damage of it.
DO I HAVE TO FILE A LAWSUIT, AND WHEN DO I HAVE TO FILE IT BY?
In many cases of personal injury, a lawsuit may not have to be filed, though you should still consult a legal professional as to your rights. When it comes to auto accidents, the state of Alabama requires all vehicles to carry a liability insurance policy. This policy is there to compensate those injured by the driver of said vehicle should an accident occur. Yet many insurance companies will dispute liability or may even outright deny your claim. In that case, a lawsuit may be the only way forward. The statute of limitations on personal injury claims in Alabama is two years from the date of the accident or injury. If you have an unresolved claim and do not file suit before that two-year mark, you will lose your right to pursue the other party for compensation.
THE PERSON WHO HIT ME DOES NOT HAVE INSURANCE. WHAT CAN I DO?
If you are hit by a driver without liability insurance, there are several options. One, you could pursue the individual driver personally for your compensation. Though it is often expensive and fruitless, the thought being that someone who is not paying for car insurance likely has very little funds. The other way to go is to cover yourself with UM and UIM.
WHAT ARE UM AND UIM COVERAGES?
UM and UIM are coverages that you can get on your own insurance to protect you should you get hit by someone with no insurance or a minimum policy. UM stands for Uninsured Motorist coverage. This coverage will cover you should you be hit by a driver without insurance. If a liability policy would have paid out in the accident, the UM should pay out in its place. UIM stands for Under Insured Motorist coverage. This coverage applies should the policy of the other driver not be sufficient to adequately compensate you. These are both coverages that you should ask your insurance company about in order to ensure that you are fully covered.