I’ve Been Injured in an Auto Accident: What Are My Rights?
When someone gets behind the wheel of an automobile, they are expected to exercise reasonable care not to hurt others, and the failure to do so may be considered negligence. Justifiably, a person who drives in a negligent manner may be obligated to pay for any damages that he or she causes, and the injured party has certain rights, including:
As a party to the auto accident, you likely have a right to a copy of the police report generated, and you should request one as soon as possible. The police report can give you a wealth of information, including:
- The other driver’s automobile insurance information
- A narrative and diagram of the accident
- A description of weather and road conditions
- Witness contact information
- An analysis of fault, if law enforcement personnel who investigated the accident did one
Insurance companies rely on accident reports when settling property damage issues, making them extremely important documents.
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, you should seek medical care immediately. If you have Medical Payments (Med Pay) coverage on your automobile policy, you have the right to use that coverage to pay your accident-related medical bills, even if you have health insurance.
If you bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, his or her insurance will not pay your medical bills until the case is resolved. Med Pay will pay your bills until the limits of your coverage have been exhausted.
Then, if you still have unpaid medical bills, you may be able to get them paid through several other sources, including:
- Health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Generally, health insurance will not cover accident-related medical bills unless you prove that you do not have Med Pay by requesting a “No Med Pay Letter” from your auto insurer.
- Letter of Protection. If the accident was the fault of another person and you do not have Med Pay or health insurance, some physicians will accept a Letter of Protection from an attorney. When an attorney signs a Letter of Protection, he or she is obligated to pay your medical bills with the proceeds of your lawsuit or settlement.
- Your Own Pocket. If there is no other source of payment, you may have to pay your bills yourself. Be sure to keep copies of all the bills you pay, as these expenses can be claimed in a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
If someone else caused the accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company should pay for the cost of repair of your car. You should also either get the use of a rental vehicle comparable to the one you were driving, or if you don’t get a rental, reasonable compensation for the loss of use of your vehicle. Reasonable compensation typically means equal to what you would have spent on a rental car for the time necessary to repair your vehicle.
You have the right to have your car repaired at the repair facility of your choice. According to Edmunds.com, you should consider word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends when choosing a repair shop. Get several estimates and ask a lot of questions, especially about things like labor rate, warranty, and whether the shop intends to use new or after-market parts.
Any time you suffer an injury that was caused by someone else, you should consult with an attorney. If you caused the accident, your insurance company will provide you with an attorney at no cost to you, as part of your insurance contract.
Your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company may offer you a settlement, but it is usually not a good idea to accept early settlement offers, as the full extent of your injuries may not be known.
Discuss your situation with an experienced personal injury attorney who will advise you about whether a settlement or a lawsuit is the best option for you.
Image by Milton Tan.