Serious automobile accidents occur on a daily basis across the United States. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nationwide in 2012:
- More than 2.5 million Americans sought treatment in hospital emergency rooms due to injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents, and
- Nearly 200,000 of them were hospitalized.
The CDC estimates that automobile accidents result in:
- Americans spend over a million days in the hospital each year,
- At a cost of $18 billion dollars (in 2012),
- With a lifetime economic cost to crash victims of $33 billion.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that in 2013 nationwide 32,719 people died in vehicle accidents while:
- 1,208 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in Pennsylvania, 44 of them in Bucks County, and
- 542 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in New Jersey, 36 of them in Mercer County.
Negligent operation is the single biggest factor leading to automobile accidents. Today, with smart phones, texting, even onboard computer displays for everything from phone calls to music selection, there are more causes for distraction and driver inattentiveness than ever. The economic costs to an injured person and his or her family can be staggering when job loss and loss of future earning capacity are compounded with medical expenses. Then there is always the difficult-to-quantify component of pain and suffering.
Prompt legal representation is essential after an accident occurs for several reasons. First and foremost, it is crucial to collect and preserve evidence to demonstrate the cause of the accident. Accident scenes can change within hours due to weather conditions or other vehicular traffic. While you or your family member may be hospitalized and healing, critical physical evidence may be lost. An attorney can accomplish the following:
- Photograph the accident scene and involved vehicles
- Collect and preserve physical evidence
- Obtain police investigation reports
- Obtain witness statements
- Contact insurance companies and deal with them for you
Even if the other driver’s liability is clear, only a qualified personal injury attorney will be able to sort through the complicated insurance coverage issues including possible Medicare or Workers Compensation liens, tort threshold selection, and the steps to take if the driver responsible for causing the accident does not have enough insurance, or has none at all.
While most states afford injured persons two years from the date of the accident in which to file a lawsuit, your attorney should be working from the outset to gather records and build your case for compensation. This may include hiring experts to analyze the cause of the accident and quantify economic losses, contacting physicians and other healthcare providers to establish the severity of your injuries, and communicating with your employer to obtain wage loss data. In short, there is much work for the attorney to accomplish before a lawsuit is filed. If the other party’s responsibility for the accident is clear, it may be possible to settle the case without having to file a lawsuit. However, each case is different and an attorney’s legal knowledge is necessary to make the decisions to protect your rights and prepare your case to receive the greatest possible compensation.