Car Accident Questions & Answers

An automobile accident can happen to anyone at any time, and if the accident occurred due to another driver’s negligence, the question of compensation will be relevant.

However, it is natural after an accident to feel confused or scared, and worry about the steps that should be taken to protect your health as well as legal rights. If you have suffered a personal injury in a car accident in Ohio, the following set of frequently asked questions can help clear some of your doubts and concerns.

Do I need to call the police and file a report?

Yes, the law in Ohio requires that every automobile accident must be reported. If the accident is seemingly minor, a driver may tend to ignore reporting it to the police, but according to the law, you must report it. Unless you are in a physically unfit condition after the accident, it is a prudent idea to call the police from your cell phone and report the accident.

While you talk to a police officer over the phone, make sure you limit yourself to the facts of the incident, do not speculate. This is not the time to exaggerate.

How do I make a 911 call from my cell phone to report my accident?

Nearly three-fourths of all 911 calls are placed by cell phones, according to FCC figures. While making a call from a cell phone following a car accident, you could be in an area where your provider has no coverage or call does not get through. Keep these tips in mind during this type of situation:

  • If your cell phone is showing “no service” while you want to call 911 in an emergency from the site of accident, do not put the phone away. Go ahead and place a call to 911, and chances are the line will connect. The FCC has ensured that if your provider has no coverage in a particular, another network provider with service in that area will transmit your emergency 911 call. It does not matter if you do not use their service. In other words, even if your cell phone is showing it has no service, your call to 911 is likely to get through.
  • If for some reason, you cannot get your call through to 911, do not turn your cell phone off. Your attempted call would leave a data trail which gets recorded with your service provider. It will show the last time you tried to place a call (even though the call did not go through). This could enable emergency personnel to zero in on your location even if your call did not go out.
  • If you fail to get your call through 911, don’t forget to try sending a text message. A mobile text message could sometimes go through when a call may not. Texts are also more likely to go through in areas where the signal is low because a text message requires less bandwidth for transmission.

What should I tell the other driver who is involved in the accident?

It is natural to feel angry, scared, or confused after a car accident, but you must not take it out on the other driver. You need to maintain your emotions and remain calm. Avoid getting into an argument over the accident, but exchange insurance information with the other driver.

How will my family get notified if I am seriously injured?

The BMV now allows automobile drivers to have their emergency contact details registered with the agency. If you have done that, it will enable the law enforcement agents to notify your family member or guardian in case you are seriously injured or if you are not in a position to communicate directly. You can register online for this service, or visit one of the license agency locations to register.

I feel fine after the accident. Should I still see a doctor?

Yes. Auto accidents can often result in internal injuries where the symptoms do not manifest quickly. These could include an injury to the brain or damage to the internal organs.

It is always a good idea to see a doctor immediately after you have reported the accident to the police and have left the scene of the crash after the arrival of a police officer. Inform the doctor clearly that you have been involved in an automobile accident, and then follow their medical advice or instructions.

If you see a doctor after a car accident at the first opportunity, it will also help to protect your rights in case you need to file a claim later on. Maintain a record of all your medical appointments as well as medical bills, including your co-pays, costs of any medications, and transport costs to and from the physician’s office.

Should I inform my insurance company about my accident?

Yes. You are required to notify your own auto insurance company about your accident, or they could question or deny your claim. However, once you have provided the initial information about the accident, the ideal situation would be to not discuss anything further with the insurance company without getting yourself represented by a personal injury lawyer. It is critical to be aware that all insurance policies have “cooperation” clauses that require you to comply.

Although it is your own insurance company, it would be prudent to restrict your statement to the bare facts of the car accident – when it happened, where it happened, and which parties were involved. Beyond that, you should ideally hire the services of a legal counselor for further negotiations with the insurance company. On top of this, you should not speak at all with an insurance agent representing the other driver. You certainly do not want to sign any paper work with them and do not accept their offer.

You need to call up a professional and experienced law firm like Slater & Zurz.

Who pays my medical expenses while I am recovering?

Even in case of relatively minor injuries suffered in a car accident, your medical bills could potentially run into the thousands of dollars. For more serious injuries that require longer treatment, the medical costs can be crushing. Fortunately, you may not have to bear these expenses alone.

If the accident occurred due to the wrongful conduct or negligence of another driver, according to Ohio law, that driver’s insurance company is required to reimburse your medical costs related to the accident, provided you can prove the fault of the other driver. Even if you were partly responsible for the accident, the other driver could still be liable to pay for your injury costs.

The costs of medical services that would be typically compensated by the negligent driver or their insurer may include:

  • Visits to the emergency room or the doctor’s office
  • Surgery expenses
  • Costs of medical devices and products
  • Prescription and over the counter drugs
  • Physical therapy

While your healthcare provider will expect to be paid right away, the insurance company is not likely to pay until you sign a release of liability against the at fault driver. Meanwhile, you may have the following options:

PIP Coverage or Med Pay: This optional coverage is available on your automobile insurance policy, which will pay for your medical costs on a no-fault basis.

Medical Insurance: If you are medically insured through your employer or independently, you may explore this option. Although medical insurance firms are usually reluctant to reimburse costs of car crash injuries, it is their duty to cover your healthcare costs, irrespective of how your injury occurred.

But the bottom line remains that your own auto insurance policy is your first line of payment. This insurance provides you coverage, regardless of whether you were injured in your own vehicle, in another’s car, or as a pedestrian.

However, the insurance company could deny you compensation after a car accident, and it would always be astute to speak to an Ohio car accident attorney instead of negotiating with your insurance company directly.

What if the doctor refuses to see me after an auto accident?

According to the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which applies to all US hospitals, the hospital E.R. staff is required to offer medical treatment to anyone with an emergency medical condition, irrespective of their ability to pay or furnish proof of health insurance.

EMTALA defines a medical emergency as a condition that shows acute symptoms, including severe pain and/or psychiatric disturbance, such that absence of urgent medical aid could seriously compromise a bodily function.

However, once the condition of the patient has stabilized, the EMTALA allows the medical facility to deny further medical care based on a legitimate reason. It is also crucial to note that private doctors are not subject to EMTALA provisions. Barring discrimination, they can deny medical attention for almost any reason.

Do I have to pay back any medical costs that were paid by my health insurance company?

The first payments in an auto accident will usually come from your auto insurance policy. Once the policy limit is exhausted with your medical bills, your health insurance policy comes into the picture. Contrary to what many people mistakenly believe, the at-fault motorist’s insurance company will not pay for your medical costs as you incur them. They are not there to protect you, the injured party, but to protect their insured driver.

However, remember that you are under an obligation to repay any entity that may have paid your medical bills out of the proceeds of your settlement that you ultimately obtain from the insurance company of the at-fault driver.

I don’t have insurance. What are my options?

If you are uninsured, and get injured in a car accident due to another’s negligence, you may still have the following options:

  • If your income is limited, you might qualify for your medical bills to be discharged by the hospital as part of the HCAP federal program.
  • If you were injured by a drunk driver, the Ohio’s Victims of Crime program could pay for your medical costs.
  • Some treatment providers may agree to wait for payment of medical bills until the settlement of your case, if your attorney provides a lien or Letter of Protection, which says that the treatment provider will be paid once the settlement payment from the case is received.

I want to be compensated for my damages, but don’t want to sue anybody. Can I still get a recovery?

Possibly, yes. Ohio is an at-fault auto insurance state, which means that the driver who is at fault in a car accident will be responsible for any loss or damage. Therefore, if you are involved in a car accident and suffer personal injury due to the other driver’s fault, you can file a claim for insurance under your own auto insurance policy. Alternatively, you may also file a claim directly with the insurance company of the other driver.

If your amount of loss or damage exceeds the policy limits of the at-fault driver, he or she will be legally responsible to pay such damages that cannot be covered by the insurance company. When you file your insurance claim for damages, the insurance adjuster will assess your claim and make an offer of settlement. If you think the offer is too low or unfair, you will have an opportunity to file an appeal with the claims supervisor of the insurance company.

If you believe that even the decision of the claims supervisor is unreasonable or unfair, you may file a written complaint about the insurance company’s decision with the Ohio Department of Insurance. In this case, the Department will determine whether or not the insurer has acted in an unreasonable or unfair manner.

However, the Ohio Department of Insurance will not make a determination of the value of your claim, nor compensate you in any way. You should always engage the services of a stellar and proven law firm, such as Slater & Zurz, to fight on your behalf for fair and reasonable compensation.

Are there any monetary limits on damages I may recover by pursuing a personal injury lawsuit?

Compensatory damages in a personal injury case are classified into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages will include medical expenses, loss of wages, and damage to property. Non-economic damages will include compensation for suffering and pain. Punitive damages may be awarded if the other driver intentionally or recklessly caused the accident.

Damages caps in Ohio refer to the limitations on the amounts of damages that you might recover through a personal injury lawsuit. Damages caps in Ohio include:

  • Economic damages: No limits
  • Non-economic damages: $250,000 or triple the amount of economic damages, whichever is higher (with a maximum limit of $350,000 per plaintiff)
  • Non-economic damages in case of a catastrophic injury: No limits
  • Punitive damages: A maximum of double the amount of economic and non-economic damages

Can I recover damages if I am partially to blame for my own injuries?

Yes. In Ohio, you may still recover damages if your personal injury occurred partially due to your own fault. Ohio applies the rule of Modified Comparative Negligence, which lets you recover damages subject to the condition that you were not more than 50 percent at fault. If you are held liable for over 50 percent of the damages, you will not receive any compensation.

How much time do I have for filing an auto accident lawsuit in Ohio?

The law in Ohio gives you a time limit of two years from the time of the accident to file your claim for personal injury as well as property damages. If you do not file your claim within this timeframe, you will not be permitted to file a lawsuit in Ohio.

Who will handle my property damage after an accident?

A claim for property damage in a car accident includes:

  • Expenses for towing the damaged vehicle
  • Costs of repair to the damaged vehicle or complete vehicle replacement
  • Expenses of car rental while the car is under repair or being replaced
  • Damage to other property stemming from the car accident
  • Damage to any personal goods inside the vehicle
  • Possible additional claim for value reduction if the car has received extensive damage

If you have suffered personal injuries and property damages in an Ohio car accident, you may engage the services of a personal injury lawyer who is also prepared to handle the claim for property damage for your convenience.

My insurance company has recommended a repair shop to repair my car. Can I choose my own repair shop instead?

Yes. The law in Ohio allows you to choose a repair shop that you prefer. Your insurance company could make a recommendation to use their certified facility, but they cannot force you to follow their suggestion.

My car has been deemed a total loss by my insurance company. Do I still have the option to have it repaired instead?

No. Your insurance company will pay the lesser amount of the value of your car or the cost of repair. Auto insurance companies typically consider the vehicle as a total loss if the costs of repair are about 75 percent of the actual value of the vehicle.

How do I pick the right lawyer for my case?

To select the right personal injury lawyer in Ohio for your needs, you may consider these tips:

Search Online

You may begin your search for the right lawyer on the seemingly ubiquitous Google search engine (there are a couple of others as well such as Bing and Yahoo Search). Review the websites of a few law firms to get an idea of their depth of experience and the scope of their practice. If you want to perform further due diligence about track record of the law firm, you may visit the Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel to learn about any regulatory issues related to the personal injury lawyer.

Seek Personal Recommendations

Sometimes a personal recommendation from a family member or a friend may prove to be useful in your search for the right personal injury lawyer in Ohio. However, you should rely on the recommendation of only someone whose judgment you can trust. Secondly, you should know that every case is unique and the outcome of your case may not be the same was that of the person making the recommendation.

Schedule a Consultation with the Attorney

Prepare a list of questions in advance, and carry it with you for your first consultation with the attorney. Provide all the pertinent facts related to your case when speaking with them. You should ask what percentage of a verdict or a settlement they will take as a contingency fee and how long the case might continue before a conclusion is reached.

During your initial consultation, you should carry the contact details of any treatment providers from whom you have received medical care, contact details of eyewitnesses or others involved, a copy of the police report, a copy of your auto insurance policy and contact details of any insurance adjuster you may have talked to, copies of your health and disability insurance policies, and copies of medical bills related to your accident that you may have paid thus far.