While there are millions of traffic accidents every year, only a small percentage can be classified as a serious auto accident – those that can result in serious injuries or fatalities. According to data published by the United States Census Bureau, there are generally over 10 million accidents every year, ranging from minor fender benders to serious accidents involving catastrophic or fatal injuries. As the fourth largest city in the country, and a very “car-centric” city at that, Houston has a large number of auto accidents every year. Generally speaking, after a minor accident, most people are content to exchange information and go along their way. The truth of the matter is that everyone involved in even the most innocuous seeming car accident should allow the police to investigate the collision and contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Many car accidents involve injuries that grow significantly more painful in the hours and days after the initial collision. It is not unusual for someone involved in a car accident to walk away from the collision, and be in so much pain the next day that they cannot even comfortably get out of bed. Even if your injuries may be less serious, by allowing the police to investigate your collision and promptly contacting a personal injury lawyer that specializes in auto accident injuries, you can be sure that your legal rights are protected and that you will have the evidence necessary to assert a legal claim if necessary.
The fact is that there is no clear definition between a serious auto accident and a minor car accident. To further complicate matters, sometimes people walk away from violent collisions without a scratch, while other times simple “fender benders” can cause serious injuries. As noted above, car accidents can cause certain types of injuries that may not develop serious symptoms for hours or even days after the injury, such as whiplash. Whiplash is a non-medical term used to describe injuries to the neck or spinal column. It occurs when the head snaps quickly backwards or forwards on the neck resulting in extension and compression of the structures in the neck. Some of the more common signs and symptoms of whiplash include the following:
These symptoms may not develop for some time after the injury occurs, and failing to have whiplash properly diagnosed may make it more difficult to establish that it was caused by the accident. In more serious cases, the injury may not be simple whiplash, but a tear or bulge in the disc materials between the bones that make up your spine. People with these types of injuries may be unable to care for themselves or work, resulting in significant medical expenses and loss of income. As a result, people who develop these types of injury after a car accident are able to bring a personal injury claim against those who caused the injuries. The damages that can be recovered include medical bills and the cost of medical care that will be needed in the future, lost wages and loss of earning capacity, physical pain and mental anguish, disfigurement in the events of cuts or scars, and disability, whether temporary or permanent. You may be able to recover for damages from your own insurance coverage, even if it was a “hit and run” accident or the person that hit you did not have liability insurance.
The bottom line is simple: always contact the police and contact a personal injury attorney after every car accident. By retaining the services of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible, car accident victims can ensure that their rights are protected and that they will be able to recover for their injuries.
The Difference Between a Minor and Serious Car Accident
Fender benders happen on the road every day. Bad luck plus being at the wrong place at the wrong time could leave you with some damage to your car. More serious car accidents are less frequent, but they will leave significant impacts on your life and family. They can leave you hurting—physically and financially—for quite a while.
Every year, approximately six million car accidents take place in the U.S. Roughly 12 million cars are in crashes each year. In most of these crashes, the drivers will walk away and the only thing that sustains damage is their car. However, not all drivers are that fortunate. Between three and four million people each year need medical treatment for car accident injuries. Although the fatality rate is increasing, only about 1% of the people suffer injuries in car accidents.
While there are millions of traffic accidents every year, only a small percentage are in the category of serious auto accidents—those that can result in serious injuries or fatalities. As the fourth largest city in the country, and a very car-centric city at that, Houston has a large number of auto accidents every year.
The truth of the matter is that everyone involved in even the most innocuous-seeming car accident should allow the police to investigate the collision and contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Many car accidents involve injuries that grow significantly more painful in the hours and days after the initial collision. It is not unusual for someone involved in a car accident to walk away from the collision and be in so much pain the next day that they cannot even comfortably get out of bed.
Even if you sustained less serious injuries, by allowing the police to investigate your collision and promptly contacting a car accident lawyer, you can protect your legal rights and obtain the evidence necessary to assert a legal claim.
Houston Has More Than Its Share of Minor and Serious Car Accidents
Houston is a car city, and it has a very high accident rate. Most drivers take to the traffic-choked roads since mass transit does not have ridership that reflects Houston’s status as a metropolis. In 2019, Houston itself had nearly 70,000 crashes, and there were over 110,000 in Harris County. Most drivers walked away from these incidents unharmed. However, there were over 30,000 accident-related injuries in Harris County. Most of these injuries were minor, but over 10,000 drivers and passengers required medical attention after the crash. There were over 2,200 serious injuries in Harris County crashes.
In a minor car accident, the drivers can get out of their car and exchange insurance information. They do not have any immediate physical injury that prevents them from handling details at the crash scene. In a minor car accident, there is no immediate threat to the driver’s safety or that of their passengers. Your car may have a minor dent, and it is certainly not totaled. You may even drive away from the scene in your car without needing a tow truck. Your financial loss is likely to be more minor as it would cost less to repair your car.
Nonetheless, you should still call a police officer to the scene, even for a more minor accident. Even if the other driver seems physically fine, you never quite know what they will claim as injuries after the fact. You need a record of the accident and the conditions surrounding it because it will help when liability is determined. A police officer is a neutral third party who may make more objective observations.
You Can Gather Evidence at the Scene of a Minor Accident
You always see legal advice telling you to gather as much evidence at the scene of the accident. This is not possible when you have been in a serious car accident with injuries. However, you can take pictures and talk to people at the scene of a more minor accident. This is where you should get pictures of all angles of the damage and the conditions at the time of the crash. You should also speak with people who saw what happened and get their contact information. This is only possible when you are not dealing with your own injuries as you would in a more serious crash.
Even in a more minor crash, you may begin to experience physical symptoms in the hour or days after the crash. One of the most common delayed onset accident injuries is whiplash. This happens when your head snaps quickly backward or forward but your body remains in the same place. This could affect much more than just your neck. Whiplash can even cause a traumatic brain injury such as a concussion. Its effects can linger for months or years, especially when it affects your head and neck.
This is why it is always better to see a doctor the second you notice any accident-related symptoms. If your crash was anything other than the most minor fender bender, go to the doctor after the crash to make sure that you are not injured. Otherwise, you may have a hard time recovering because the insurance company may argue that your injury came from something else.
More Serious Accidents Require Medical Attention at the Scene
When the car crash is more serious, you can not get out of your car on your own and begin to establish what happened. Instead, you will require medical attention at the scene, and that will be your major focus. Your injuries will be more serious, and they will require treatment right away. You may even need life-saving care.
Serious car crash injuries could include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Neck and spinal cord injuries
- Damage to internal organs
- Internal bleeding
Severe Car Accidents Pose Short and Long-Term Threats
Serious car accidents will have a long-term effect on your life because the damage is to more than just your car. The accident is just the start of both the legal and medical processes.
Here are some of the challenges that you may face after a severe car accident:
- You could suffer injuries that could put your life in danger.
- Your injuries may require a long hospital stay.
- Medical bills could mount over time as you need continuous care and treatment.
- Your injuries could keep you from working for a prolonged time—if you can even work again
- Your car is likely seriously damaged, and you have suffered significant property damage.
Damages From a Serious Car Accident
When you were in a bad car crash, you may suffer:
- Medical bills for both your past and future treatment
- Lost wages for the time that you missed from work or your inability to earn what you once did
- Pain and suffering for what you went through and are still experiencing
- Emotional distress
- Wrongful death (if a family member died in an accident)
What Happens After a Serious Car Accident
After the accident, your time will fill with much more than just taking the car to the insurance adjuster for a damage estimate. The problem is that you are dealing with your injury and are probably not in any condition to handle any of the details of the accident. Major car crashes mean that you do not easily go back to your daily life.
Even if your injuries are not severe enough to keep you out of work for an extended time, you may deal with:
- Constant calls from an insurance company that is trying to get out of paying for what may be significant damages
- Work on your vehicle or purchasing a new one
- Seeing a steady stream of doctors and specialists to help treat your injuries.
- Financial difficulties because of steep bills and missed work
- Stress on your family if the accident incapacitated you
Make medical issues your foremost concern after an accident. You need to recover to the fullest extent possible. Not only that, but prompt medical treatment can help when you file a claim.
Your Capacity Is Limited After a Serious Crash
The problem for accident victims is finding any bandwidth to deal with the other issues. Your medical issues can be all-encompassing, leaving you with no ability to deal with the legal process. However, you must address legal issues at the same time. Moreover, you do not have the expertise to handle the claims process on your own. There is nothing that says that you have to have a lawyer, but it certainly helps.
The most immediate challenge is gathering the evidence necessary to back up your side of the story. The other driver will rarely admit to being the responsible party for the accident. Therefore, you need witnesses and other proof to put yourself in a position for financial compensation. An attorney will contact possible witnesses and work with experts to reconstruct your accident if necessary. After a severe car accident, this is not something that you can do.
What Your Attorney Does After Extensive Car Accident Damages
Your attorney will handle the details of your claim. This means that they will be your voice and advocate in dealing with the insurance company. The insurance company is not always the easiest to handle. They have their own profit motive at work, and your interests are not their interests. They have their own infrastructure in place that solely aims to protect their bottom line. This includes lawyers and adjusters whose job it is to save money by not paying out claims.
Especially after a serious accident, you need someone to narrow the disparity of power between you and the insurance company. This is where we come in as attorneys. We are here to safeguard your interests and fight for your legal rights. Left alone, others may think that they can take advantage of you. After all, every penny that they pay you is one less penny for their bottom line.
The first way that your attorney helps you is by gathering the evidence that you need to help prove your claim. When you are involved in a serious crash, you cannot do this on your own. There is no way to piece together your own claim when you are dealing with medical and other issues. Hire an attorney to investigate your car crash. This is what they do for a living, and they know how to prove that someone else was at fault.
Research shows that accident victims with an attorney are far better off financially than those who do not have one. They have a better chance of proving liability. They also usually receive more money because they know when to say no to a low offer from the insurance company. Many people do not even know that they can turn down a settlement offer and negotiate. You do not have to take the insurance company’s offer, and they are not the ultimate arbiter of how much money you legally deserve.
You Need Someone Who Can Fight the Insurance Company
After a catastrophic accident, you will need someone who can impress upon an insurance company or jury the extent of your injuries. Even if you need extensive medical treatment, you may have difficulty articulating how badly the accident hurts you and the effect it has on your life. Much of the strength of your claim lies in the documentation and presentation. You must make it clear to the insurance company how much you have suffered because they will never miss an excuse to try to cut your payment.
The more serious your accident, the greater your need for an adequate settlement to compensate you. This is not something the insurance company will just give you. Instead, you need to fight for it by bringing an aggressive attorney onto your case. This will hold the insurance company’s feet to the fire.
When you are in a serious auto accident, you need every penny that you can get. You may find you cannot work in the future and face a reduced ability to earn money. This is why you need to fight now. An attorney will represent your legal interests.
Car Accident Lawyers Helping Clients in Texas
Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers have been fighting for people injured in car accidents for over two decades. We work to maximize your recovery because we are not afraid to put legal pressure on the insurance companies. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a car accident, we offer a free case evaluation. Call us today at (800) 898-4877 or contact us online to talk to us about your claim.