Car accidents happen unexpectedly. One minute you can be driving down the road running errands, visiting friends, or headed home from work, and the next you are a victim of what could be a serious and even life threatening motor vehicle accident. Steady increases in the number of drivers on the roads today have resulted in increases in the number of car accidents, and figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that over two million people in the United States are injured as the result of these accidents each year. People in the San Francisco Bay Area are no strangers to traffic, and whether you are headed to business on Interstate 80 or taking a scenic ride along the 49 Mile Drive, any time you are behind the wheel you are potentially at risk. Car accidents can cause severe and potentially disabling injuries, and if you are injured as the result of an accident, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages you have suffered. Knowing how to prove your injuries in a car accident is crucial in order to get the compensation you need to recover.
The High Cost of Automobile Accidents
According to car accident statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of both death and serious injury in the United States. Aside from the physical toll in terms of suffering and lives lost as the result of these accidents, there are heavy costs and expenses for injured victims as well for their employers and society at large. The CDC states that medical costs as the result of non-fatal crashes and collisions are so high as to make car accident injuries a major public health concern, and people injured in these accidents can expect to spend, on average, over $3,300 for emergency room visits and close to $57,000 in the aftermath of an accident. The CDC estimates that in the majority of cases, accident victims can expect to continue to incur medical costs for as long as 18 months after the actual accident.
Proving Your Injuries and Damages
Under California Motor Vehicle Code Section 17150, drivers are liable for injuries and damages they cause to other drivers by their wrongful or negligent acts. People who have been injured in a car accident where the other driver is at fault may be able to receive compensation through the at-fault driver’s insurance policy, or by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the driver. The amount of compensation you may be entitled to will depend both on the circumstances surrounding the accident, as well as the severity of the injuries you sustained. Under California Civil Code Section 3333, the types of compensation for car accident injuries available by law includes:
- Medical Damages: You may be entitled to receive payment for the medical expenses as the result of your injury. To increase your chances of getting the maximum amount compensation, you would need to provide copies of all medical records and doctor’s notes in regard to your injuries, as well as providing hospital and doctor bills and receipts for prescription and over the counter drugs you were prescribed. You would also want to get a statement from your doctor in stating your prognosis, the amount of time your doctor estimates it will take for you to make a full recovery, and the procedures or treatments you will likely need in the future.
- Lost Wages: If you missed work as the result of your injuries, be sure and get a statement from your employer stating the amount of days you missed, as well as your rate of pay and your typical work hours. You would also want a statement from your doctor stating that your injury prevented you from working, and indicating when and under what circumstances you would be able to return to work.
- Compensation for Scarring and Disfigurement: You may be entitled to compensation for any scarring or disfigurement caused by your accident. Again, you would need a statement from your doctor regarding your prognosis and any future treatments that may be likely, as well as your own personal statement regarding the impact of your injury.
- Pain and Suffering: Under the California Civil Code, compensation for pain and suffering may be awarded in cases where an accident resulted from the negligent acts of another party. To prove pain and suffering, your own personal statements, statements from your family or close friends, as well as doctor statements can attest to the physical pain emotional discomfort and general inconvenience caused by your injury.
- Property Damages: You may be entitled to claim property damages, including the cost of replacing or repairing your vehicle, as well as the cost of transportation while waiting for your vehicle to be repaired or replaced.
- Permanent Disability: Even a seemingly minor car accident can result in permanent disability. Your disability may be partial and result in a limited capacity to perform simple tasks, everyday activities, and job functions, or it may be total, rendering you unable to work or to care for yourself. This would require additional statement from your doctor, copies of medical records, and proof of any state or federal benefits you have applied for.
Consult With An Attorney
Before making statements to an insurance company or accepting any type of settlement offer, consult with an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney. Oftentimes the insurance company will undervalue the amount of damages you have suffered or even use your statements to deny your claim completely. Be sure to be seen by a physician immediately after any type of car accident, and do not downplay the injuries you have suffered. A seemingly insignificant injury could potentially cost you quite a bit of money, and have a lasting impact on both your health and your ability to support your loved ones. Take the steps necessary to prove your injury and help ensure you get the compensation you deserve.