While today’s cars do a fantastic job of keeping us safe, a car accident can still result in severe injuries and even death. A car accident can leave you unable to work, unable to pay your bills, and unable to care for your family. Despite all of that, people are often reluctant to contact an attorney. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, there are some things you should know before deciding whether you should hire a Billings car accident attorney.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been in a Car Accident in Montana?
The very first thing you should do is take steps to ensure your safety. Move your car out of the way of traffic (if possible) and get yourself to a safe location.
If you think you need immediate medical attention, have someone call 911. If not, call the non-emergency number for the police. An officer can direct traffic to keep you safe, as well as take down information concerning what happened and who was at fault – you may need the police report later if you decide to pursue a claim.
Of course, you should also exchange information with the other driver. If they are angry, do not get into an argument with them, but do not admit fault. You should also get contact information for any witnesses at the scene.
I Felt Fine After the Accident But Now I’m in Pain. What Should I Do?
Many injuries do not manifest themselves until after the accident, sometimes several days. Even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms, you should get a thorough medical exam after your accident just to make sure you don’t have any injuries. If you find yourself in pain, you should seek medical attention immediately. Even if you previously saw a doctor, don’t be afraid to schedule a follow-up visit.
You can still pursue a personal injury claim even if your injuries didn’t manifest themselves right away. If you start experiencing pain after your accident, we recommend that you consult with an experienced Billings car accident attorney after getting treatment.
The Insurance Company Offered Me a Settlement. Should I Accept it?
Many people are surprised by how quickly the insurance company wants to settle their claim, often before they even know they have a claim! The reason for this is that the insurance company wants to pay as little as possible on claims that they may be obligated to pay. By making an offer early on, they’re hoping that you will sign away your rights in exchange for a quick cash settlement. Unfortunately, many people later discover that their settlement doesn’t cover all of their expenses and they wind up with bills they can’t pay.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, a Billings car accident lawyer can review any offer you receive from the insurance company and advise you as to whether or not it’s fair.
The Insurance Company Keeps Calling Me. Do I Have to Talk to Them?
You are obligated to cooperate with your insurance company if you make a claim. This means that you will have to provide them with the basic facts surrounding the accident, such as when and where the accident happened. However, you need to be aware that anything you say may be used against you when they decide to pay your claim. As a result, you should avoid discussing any of the following:
- The cause of the accident
- Whether you caused the accident in any way
- The extent and severity of your injuries
- Whether your vehicle was damaged
You should tell them that you were injured but limit your comments to the fact that you are seeking medical treatment.
Discussing the accident with the insurance companies can be tricking. One of the advantages of hiring a Billings car accident attorney is that they can speak with the insurance companies on your behalf so as to avoid any misstatements that can cause problems with your claim later on.
What Will I Have to Prove?
Most car accident cases are based on proving that the other driver was negligent. Negligence is when the other driver fails to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. This is determined by comparing their actions against what would be considered ordinarily prudent. Here are some common examples of negligence in car accident cases that we have handled:
- Driving while distracted
- Driving while intoxicated
- Running a red light
- Unsafe lane changes
- Failing to pay full time and attention
Negligence can take on many forms and seemingly insignificant facts can help prove that the other driver was negligent. An experienced Billings car accident attorney can help you determine whether the other driver was negligent and should therefore be held accountable for your injuries.
What Evidence Will I Need to Pursue a Claim?
The evidence you need will depend on your case. In general, you will need the following to prove your case and recover compensation:
- Your medical records and bills
- Proof of any lost income
- Accident reports
- Statements from any witnesses
If you go to court, you will also need to have witnesses testify on your behalf. Even if you don’t go to court, the insurance company will scrutinize your claim. A skilled car accident attorney can assemble the evidence you need to put forward the strongest possible case to ensure that you get the compensation you need.
How Long Do I Have to Pursue a Car Accident Claim in Montana?
Under Montana law, you have up to three years from the date of your car accident to file a lawsuit seeking to recover compensation for your injuries. This is referred to as the “statute of limitations.” Three years may seem like a long time, but three years can pass faster than you think. The longer you wait to pursue your claim, the harder it will be to prove your case.
If you do not file your lawsuit within three years, you will lose all of your rights. This means that you will not be able to recover any compensation for your injuries no matter how strong your case is. Even if the other driver was grossly negligent, you will not be able to pursue your claim outside of the three year time period.
Even if you don’t plan to file a lawsuit, the statute of limitations is still important to your case. Once the statute of limitations has expired, the insurance company will refuse to pay your claim because they now have no legal obligation to pay.
What is My Claim Worth?
Generally speaking, the value of your claim is the sum total of the following components:
- Your medical expenses
- Your lost income
- The repair or replacement cost for your vehicle
- Your pain and suffering
Non-lawyers typically undervalue their claim by a significant margin and, as a result, wind up settling for far less than what their claim is worth. A knowledgeable Billings car accident lawyer can give you a reliable estimate of what your claim is worth so that you can make an informed decision as to how to proceed with your claim.
Am I Required to Hire a Billings Car Accident Attorney to Pursue a Claim?
There is no legal requirement that you hire an attorney to pursue your claim. However, you should be aware that the other driver’s insurance company will certainly get their lawyers involved. If you decide to file a lawsuit, the insurance company will even provide the other driver with an attorney to defend them. As a result, you will be at a distinct disadvantage if you choose to represent yourself. The claim process and the legal system can be notoriously difficult for non-lawyers to navigate. Hiring an experienced Billings car accident attorney is the best way to get the compensation you need.
The Other Driver Claims the Accident Was My Fault. What Do I Do?
The other driver may be blaming you as a way to protect themselves and avoid accepting responsibility. However, you should be aware that this could affect your claim even if you think they’re wrong. Under Montana law, your claim could be reduced or even barred if you are even partly responsible for the accident. If the other party is blaming you for the accident, it is critical that you speak with a Billings car accident lawyer. They can evaluate the facts of your case and formulate an aggressive strategy to prove that you were not at fault in the accident.
The Other Driver Was Charged with DUI. Can I Still Pursue a Claim?
A criminal prosecution is a separate and independent matter from a civil claim for damages. If the other driver is being prosecuted for DUI, you can still pursue a civil claim for your injuries and other losses. If the other driver is found guilty of DUI, it could help your case tremendously – there is now a legal ruling that the other driver was driving while under the influence and therefore negligent. However, the fact that they were charged with DUI is usually sufficient for proving that they were negligent, even if the case is not yet resolved.
Contact a Billings Car Accident Attorney if You’ve Been Injured
If you’ve been injured, don’t rely on the insurance company to make things right – you need someone on your side. With over 30 years of experience, Billings car accident attorney Jim Ragain has the knowledge and skill you need to get the compensation you deserve. Call us at 406-651-8888 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and how we can help.