The Answers You Need for the Questions You’re Forced to Ask
One of the worst aspects of pursuing a case—whether you’re fighting for injury compensation or trying to settle a divorce—is not knowing what to expect. Before you get yourself knee deep in the details of your case allow us to answer some of your questions first. We’ll help you be more fully prepared and more confident as you move forward.
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Why should I see a doctor after a car crash if I don't feel injured?
It’s understandable that you would want to go straight home after being involved in a car accident. The stress of talking to police officers, notifying family members, and spending hours at the accident scene can be overwhelming, and you just want to get back to comfortable and familiar surroundings. However, victims who fail to get medical attention before returning home may have a more difficult time with a personal injury claim.
Why Seek Medical Treatment After a Car Accident
It’s easy to make mistakes after a car accident, but refusing medical care is one of the most costly. Some victims may assume they are not seriously injured, while others may fear the cost of emergency room treatment. No matter what your condition is after an accident, it is always worth it to be checked by a doctor before you return home.
There are many reasons victims should see a doctor after a crash, including:
- Preventing further injuries. When it comes to your health, it is always better to be safe than sorry. A checkup after an accident can detect conditions that appear minor at the outset (such as hematoma or compartment syndrome) that can be fatal if left untreated.
- Collecting medical evidence. Victims are often in shock after a crash, causing their brains to block the worst of the pain in their bodies. This is why people who report minor injuries at the scene may feel debilitating pain in the days after the crash. If victims wait to see a doctor, the injury may be attributed to something other than the crash. X-rays, scans, and diagnostic tests performed hours after the crash can serve as vital evidence of your injuries.
- Protecting your accident case. The adrenaline rush of a crash can cause victims to say things that can hurt them later, even if they are not in their right state of mind. If you tell police officers at the scene that you are “fine” or refuse to be examined by emergency responders, it may be recorded and used by the insurance company. However, if you consent to medical treatment and a serious injury is detected, your initial remarks are easier to ignore because you are not a medical professional and you acted like a reasonable person by going to the hospital.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum offer free initial consultations for injury victims and do not charge for services until your case is resolved. Contact us today via our online form to schedule your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.
How can a car’s black box help my car accident case?
After a car accident in Rhode Island, you must prove the other driver’s negligence in order to obtain compensation. An important piece of equipment that help you obtain evidence is the car’s black box, which is also referred to as an event data recorder (EDR). While many people associate black boxes with airplanes, they are installed in most motor vehicles, even in some older ones. If you were injured in a car accident in Rhode Island, evidence from this box can help you obtain the compensation you deserve for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering following a car accident.
An EDR Records Helpful Information
A car’s black box records data about the vehicle’s functioning abilities in the moments before and during a collision. The specific information that is stored will vary depending on the manufacturer of the motor vehicle. Most EDRs record data on a continuous loop but will store the information for a period of time following a crash. Some of the helpful information that an EDR can provide includes:
- Speed of the vehicle and any changes in speed before the accident
- Speed of the auto at the time of impact
- Pedal use, including time spent accelerating or applying the brake
- Seatbelt use
- Airbag deployment
- Number of collisions and the time between them, which can be useful in a multi-vehicle crash
Obtaining a Lawyer to Preserve Black Box Data
One reason it is important to retain an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after a car accident is to preserve the data in the negligent driver’s black box before it is recorded over or the EDR is replaced or lost when the vehicle is repaired. Our skilled lawyers understand the importance of preserving black box and other evidence that can help to win your case before it is lost or destroyed. To learn more about how we can assist you, call our office to schedule your free initial consultation today.
Is the driver in the rear always liable in a rear-end collision?
Rear-end collisions account for many car accidents and can leave victims suffering serious injuries. It is often assumed that the driver in the rear is the negligent party. However, as with any type of accident, there are always exceptions to this rule.
When the Driver in the Rear Is Negligent in a Rear-End Crash
Under Rhode Island laws, all drivers are required to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them, so they have sufficient time to stop or slow down to accommodate the motorist in that vehicle. In most rear-end crashes, the driver in the rear is presumed not to have stayed back far enough and is considered to be the negligent driver. These individuals may have been engaged in unsafe driving practices such as distracted driving, drunk driving, or speeding. In these situations, this motorist is responsible for compensating the victims for their injuries.
When the Driver in Front Could Be the Negligent Party
Some rear-end collisions are caused by the driver in the front. Here are some of the scenarios when this person could be found negligent:
- He reverses suddenly
- He turns on his turn signal and begins to make a turn, but changes his mind before executing the turn
- His brakes lights are not working
- His vehicle has a flat tire or other mechanical breakdown, and the driver does not pull over or turn on his hazard lights
What If Both Drivers Are at-Fault in a Rear-End Collision?
Rhode Island follows the pure comparative negligence fault system. This means, both drivers who were partially at fault in a rear-end crash can recover some compensation for their injuries depending on their level of fault. For example, if the driver in front was 20 percent negligent, he could recover 80 percent of the amount that he would otherwise be entitled to.
If you were the victim of a rear-end collision caused by a negligent driver, our experienced car accident attorneys can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more about your legal options, fill out our convenient online form to schedule your no-cost initial consultation today.
How long will it take to settle my car accident case?
If you are the victim of a car accident, you are probably anxious to settle your claim quickly, so you can pay expensive medical bills and get on with your life. While an experienced car accident attorney can give you an idea of how long it will take to resolve your claim, there are many factors that may cause your case to take longer than you would like.
Factors That Affect Settling a Motor Vehicle Accident Claim
The majority of car accident cases settle without the need to go to jury trial. Some may settle without filing a lawsuit while others must be aggressively litigated before the insurance company decides to be reasonable. Here are some factors that can determine how long it takes to resolve a case:
- Your medical recovery. How quickly you heal from your injuries will impact the length of time it takes to settle your case. It’s important to wait until you reach your medical maximum improvement—the stage of your treatment where you have fully recovered or have recovered to the point where your doctor can give you a final prognosis—before settling. At that point, you’ll have a tally of your medical expenses, have the total of your lost wages, and know the pain and suffering you’ve endured, all of which will be included in the amount you receive.
- Larger claim. If you suffered more severe injuries or a permanent disability, the value of your claim will be higher. The insurance company will investigate your claim more thoroughly and may not dispute or try to reduce or deny your claim.
- Disputes. If you have serious disputes about who caused your crash or the extent of your injuries, it will take your attorney longer to resolve them and settle your claim for what you deserve.
- Insurance company. Some insurance companies have a reputation for being more difficult to negotiate with and may take longer to respond to your attorney’s initial demand letter and other offers of settlement. They may do this in an effort to wear you down and get you to accept less than you are entitled to.
While it can be frustrating to go through this process, you do not want to settle too quickly for less than you are owed. If you suffered injuries in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, call our office or start an online chat to schedule your free consultation today.
Can I be taxed on my car accident settlement?
In general, car accident settlements and judgments are not taxable. However, as with many areas of the law, there are exceptions to this rule. Depending on what you are being compensated for, you could owe taxes on some portions of what you receive.
Example of a Possible Settlement of an Auto Crash Claim
If a negligent driver caused your car accident, you are entitled to be compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. If the at-fault motorist’s actions were especially egregious, you might be awarded punitive damages to punish him. Here is an example of what a victim could receive in his settlement:
- $20,000 medical expenses
- $35,000 lost wages
- $75,000 pain and suffering
- $12,000 property damage
What Parts of a Settlement Can Be Taxed?
The amount you receive is not treated differently if it is through a settlement or jury trial for tax purposes. Here’s what is taxed and not taxed:
- Medical expenses. Reimbursement for medical expenses is not taxable unless you took a deduction for out-of-pocket expenses on your income tax return. In that case, the reimbursement you receive is taxed.
- Lost wages. You will owe taxes on the lost wages portion of your settlement because it reimburses you for work income you did not receive while you were recovering from your injuries.
- Property damages. Compensation for your vehicle or other property repair or replacement costs is not taxable.
- Pain and suffering. Taxing pain and suffering damages is complex. If your pain and suffering is due to a physical injury, it is generally not taxable. However, if you are receiving it to compensate you for emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, this would not be considered a physical injury. You would owe taxes on this portion of your settlement.
- Punitive damages. You would owe taxes on any punitive damage award.
Do you need the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney who will protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve? Fill out our online form, or call our Cranston office to schedule your free consultation today.
Who can be held liable for the costs of a car accident?
After a car accident, victims are often overwhelmed by medical bills and unexpected costs, and often they’re unable to work following the accident. While injury victims have a number of options when it comes to getting payment for their medical treatment and property damage, the amount they can collect will depend on the specifics of their case.
Potential Sources of Compensation After a Crash
To determine how much you could be owed for car accident losses, you need to know who is responsible for the accident and how much compensation is available through insurance. Rhode Island law requires all drivers to purchase at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage and $25,000 property damage coverage. If the negligent driver purchased only minimum coverage and you sustained severe injuries, $25,000 may not be enough to compensate you for all of your losses.
However, you may be able to get additional payment for your car accident costs from:
- Other forms of insurance. If you purchased enhancements to your own auto insurance such as personal injury protection (PIP), insured motorist (UIM) coverage, or MedPay, you may be able to obtain compensation from them. Your own health insurance may also be used to offset the medical costs of your injury.
- A defective auto parts manufacturer. If your accident was caused by a tire blowout, malfunctioning airbag, defective seatbelt, or other faulty auto part, the manufacturer may be liable for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.
- The at-fault driver’s employer. If you were struck by a commercial trucker, delivery driver, or someone else driving a company vehicle, the driver’s employer could be held liable for your injury costs.
- A negligent third party. Rhode Island’s dram shop laws allow victims of drunk driving accidents to file lawsuits against an establishment that over-served alcohol to the driver. A social host can also be liable for the damages that ensue after he gives or serves alcohol to a minor.
Our attorneys can examine the facts of your case and the limits of relevant insurance policies to determine what compensation is available to you. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation at no cost.
How much is my car accident case worth?
Crash victims are often eager to know if the financial compensation will be worth the time and effort required to file an accident lawsuit. The answer is different for every injury client, but there are ways to estimate the amount of damages that a victim could receive by taking legal action against an at-fault driver.
Factors That Affect Damages in a Car Accident Case
In Rhode Island, car accident compensation follows a fault-based system. Instead of each driver filing a claim with his own insurer, the person who is legally at fault for the accident is liable for paying injury costs. It is the at-fault driver’s insurance company who must pay for damages, but the provider may be unwilling to pay for the full extent of your suffering. In this case, you may need to file a lawsuit to get what you are owed.
The amount you could receive in your injury case will depend on:
- The direct costs of the crash. The first step in estimating your case’s value is the amount of economic losses you have suffered. Economic damages compensate a victim for the direct financial costs of the accident, including hospital stays, emergency care, physical therapy, medications, follow-up care, and property damage to a vehicle. In addition to recouping the full amount of medical expenses, victims are owed full payment for the wages they lost while they were injured. If victims are no longer able to continue working at their current job, they may be owed an amount for their reduced earning capacity.
- How much you have suffered due to the crash. Pain and suffering damages are awarded by a jury and are not subject to the same limits as economic damages. If the accident caused you prolonged trauma, lost quality of life, or permanent limitations or disfigurement, you may be entitled to this additional compensation.
- Your percentage of fault for the accident. Rhode Island negligence laws allow a car accident victim to file a lawsuit even if the other driver was just one percent at fault. However, the damages the victim receives will be reduced in proportion to his percentage of negligence.
- Whether the case goes to trial. Your attorney may be able to secure a fair payment for your injuries by negotiating with the insurance company. However, if you and the insurer cannot agree on a settlement amount, you can take the case to court and fight for a verdict at trial. While going to trial often yields higher payment for victims, it is a long and expensive process—and there is always the chance that you will lose.
If an insurance company is refusing to pay for the costs of your crash, our attorneys can work to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you.
What is the statute of limitations to file a car accident lawsuit in Rhode Island?
If you suffered injuries in a car accident caused by another driver, you should understand the basic laws that govern your case, so you can protect your legal rights. These include the types of compensation you are entitled to, what you need to prove the other driver’s negligence, and how your own partial fault in causing the wreck could impact your case. Another crucial law to know is the statute of limitations.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Civil Lawsuit After a Car Crash
The statute of limitations is the deadline you have to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. In Rhode Island, the rules are:
- A personal injury lawsuit must be filed within three years of the date of the accident.
- If a victim died as a result of the wreck, a wrongful death action must be filed within three years of the person’s death.
Failing to comply with the statute of limitations deadline can have harsh consequences for your claim. You will be most likely barred from pursuing your lawsuit, and your complaint would be dismissed by the judge.
Don’t Wait to Retain an Experienced Car Crash Attorney
Even though you have three years from the date of your accident to file your lawsuit, it would be a mistake to wait before contacting an experienced car accident attorney. Ideally, you should retain an attorney as soon as possible after your collision. This will allow him to obtain evidence that may be lost if you wait too long, including third-party witness statements and surveillance video that may have recorded your crash. In addition, he can handle all your communications with the insurance adjuster and help you avoid common mistakes that victims often make when they delay hiring a lawyer.
You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering from the negligent driver who caused your injuries. Our experienced car accident attorneys are here to fight for the justice and compensation you deserve. Call our office today to schedule a no-cost initial consultation.
Can a parent be liable for the costs of an accident caused by a teenager?
Rhode Island is a “fault” state in car accident cases. This mean, the person who is legally at fault for the accident is responsible and must pay for damages or injuries resulting from the crash. But if the person who caused the crash is under 18 years old, who is responsible for paying for medical bills and vehicle damage?
Parents May Be Liable for the Cost of a Teen’s Car Crash
Under Rhode Island parental responsibility laws, parents can be held financially responsible for injuries or damages caused by minor children. While the state sets the age of majority at 18, teenagers may be granted full licenses when they are 17 years old and six months. If the accident occurs in the months before the teenager’s 18th birthday, victims could potentially sue the parents of a child responsible for the crash.
A parent may be forced to pay the costs for a teenager’s accident due to:
- Malicious acts. Rhode Island General Laws Section 9-1-3 provides that parents can be liable if their unemancipated minor “willfully or maliciously” causes damage to a person or property. As long as it is established that the minor would be liable for the accident if he had been an adult, the parents can assume that liability. However, parental liability is capped at $1,500 for any single act.
- Insurance coverage. The car insurance required by Rhode Island law may be in a parent’s name with the teenager as a “named insured,” forcing the parent’s insurer to pay for the costs of the crash. This may be in addition to collecting the $1,500 under Section 9-1-3.
- Claims against the minor. Under the law, parents are jointly and severally liable with their child for causing harm and property damage, so a victim can seek damages from the parent and child collectively, as well as individually. Victims can file a claim again the minor for any unpaid losses not covered by insurance or the claim against the parents. In many cases, minors do not have the funds to cover these costs, forcing the parents to assume liability.
If you were in an accident with an at-fault, underage driver, we can help. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation with an injury attorney at no cost to you.
Is it legal to ride in a truck bed in Rhode Island?
Federal laws have standards in place to protect people from injuries in a car crash—seat belts, crumple zones, head rests, and air bags. However, those laws do not apply to cargo areas such as beds of pickup trucks. If a person is riding in a cargo area unrestrained, he may be thrown from the vehicle even at low speeds. In order to ensure safety, states have their own laws governing where and how people must be restrained while traveling in a vehicle.
Rhode Island Laws: Riding in Truck Beds and Cargo Areas
Under Rhode Island law, seat belts are required to be worn by all drivers and passengers age 18 and older. However, there are circumstances when a person may ride in a truck bed, delivery van, or other area of a vehicle that was designed to carry cargo.
Riding in the bed of a truck is permitted in the state for:
- People over 16. People may only ride in the back of a pickup truck if they are over age 16. In addition, passengers are restricted to the cargo area itself and are prohibited from riding on hoods, roofs, fenders, or other parts of the vehicle not designed for passengers.
- People under 16. People under age 16 may only ride in a truck bed if they are secured by a passenger restraint.
- Pets and animals. Rhode Island law specifically prohibits carrying animals in the cargo space of an open-air motor vehicle unless the animal is in an enclosed area, is under the direct physical control of a person other than the driver of the vehicle, or is safely restrained and harnessed using a method other than a neck restraint. Violating this law is cause for a fine of $50 to $100, which increases to $200 for each subsequent offense.
If you need help understanding your rights after a car accident or injury, we can help. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online form to schedule an initial consultation with an injury attorney at no cost to you.