Whether it's a relative or friend's past experiences, media exposure or general assumptions about lawsuits, no one can predict the outcome of an auto accident case. Many drivers would probably be surprised to learn just how different auto accident law is from any other type of law in this country. This unique area of law indicates that predicting the outcome of an auto accident case is impractical as experienced lawyers explain some of the common myths associated with these types of injury cases.
Myth 1: Each state's auto injury laws are the same
Insurance rates are regulated by state-run agencies and vary widely from state to state. Some states require that you purchase liability insurance, some do not. Some states have no-fault law, while others have at-fault laws. No-fault laws tend to be widely misinterpreted by residents who find the details of who pays for what fairly confusing.
No-fault in its simplest terms means that regardless of fault, a car accident victim is entitled to certain benefits. For example, a person's own auto insurance company pays for the economic loss from his injuries (medical bills and lost wages) after an auto accident, regardless of which driver caused the accident.
At-fault states take into account who was at fault for an accident, and to what degree, when determining what each person (and their insurance companies) will pay for injuries and property damage.
All of these factors affect an auto accident case including settlement offers, jury verdicts and even appeals.
Myth 2: I can collect pain and suffering damages simply from being in pain
Some states have specific requirements that an injured car accident victim must first pass before she can recover non-economic (pain and suffering) damages from any automobile accident. This means that being in pain is not enough to receive compensation beyond your limited economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages. In order to qualify for additional non-economic damages in some states, the injured party has to have suffered any of the three types of injuries:
2. Permanent serious disfigurement
3. Serious impairment of body function
"Death" is pretty self-explanatory. A "permanent serious disfigurement" is the loss of a body part, scarring, burning or any other type of injury that affects one's outward appearance. A "serious impairment of body function" is an injury that generally affects the victim's ability to lead his normal life. Still, the interpretation of serious impairment varies by case. For example, a broken finger may not negatively impact most people's lives, but for a professional bowler or violinist, it would be considered an important body function.
Myth 3: Million dollar settlements are easy if you have severe injuries
Auto accident attorneys have seen plenty of cases thrown out with zero compensation for victims who had serious, life-altering injuries. With so many interpretations of the law and the impact of recent activities with key cases before each state's Supreme Court, auto accident law is continually evolving. With the poor economy resulting in huge losses for many insurance companies, auto insurance defense teams are using dirty tactics and becoming more aggressive with challenging injuries. Every case is different and a good attorney will not guarantee you a specific award.
Myth 4: If I hold out long enough, my insurance company will settle for a higher amount
A victim's injuries and circumstances can have a dramatic affect on an insurance company's willingness to settle an impending lawsuit. There are numerous factors that can affect an insurance company reimbursement offer including their internal company protocol, the reputation of the victim's attorney and the track record of the assigned judge. Discussion with an auto accident lawyer on your unique set of circumstances will help you have a better understanding of the viability of your case. Even then, auto insurance companies' display of unpredictable behavior is making auto accident law one of the most challenging areas of law to interpret and predict.
Myth 5: Any personal injury lawyer can handle my case
The law defining what's required to have a successful automobile accident case is always changing. With constant changes to car accident law in each state, there is a great deal of legal uncertainty for general practice lawyers seeking to understand what is necessary to have a "good" car accident personal injury case. There is no dependable body of case law to guide attorneys handling automobile accident cases today. This lack of a dependable law has left many personal injury lawyers confused by conflicting decisions interpreting each state's automobile negligence laws.
That's why it's vital to have a personal injury lawyer who specializes in car accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents. Keep in mind, in some states, one who markets himself as a personal injury lawyer does not need to hold any special qualifications, training, certification or licensure to say he is indeed, a personal injury lawyer. But a lawyer who specializes in auto accidents and has experience with these types of cases will be aware of the latest judgments and how they affect future litigation. Car accident lawyers also have more experience dealing with auto insurance companies and understand how to challenge their delay and deny tactics unjustly and routinely used on accident victims trying to make claims.
Good legal advice from the start will help you avoid devastating loss of your legal rights, medical benefits and ability to receive the best compensation for pain and suffering. Whether you go through a friend or find a reputable attorney through your states' Bar Association, make sure you choose one who specializes only in auto accidents with a proven record of success.