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Utah Car Accident Frequently Asked Questions

Car Questions? Traffic sign with question markMost people imagine car accidents to be straightforward events. While it is accepted that car accidents can be frightening and even devastating, the mental perplexities of dealing with a car accident are easy to understate. Unfortunately, the questions run deeper than whether or not you came out all right; a car accident is more like an iceberg that hides the vast majority of its secrets below what is immediately obvious. The difficulties really begin once the accident is over, and a quick comeback requires decisive action, mountains of paperwork, and to know what to do. Finding information on the basics of car accident recovery is a grueling process, so the basics are listed here for your convenience. This list should not be viewed as the holy grail of accident awareness, as all accidents are unique. However, familiarity with the list should give you a basic idea of what to expect if you find yourself grappling with challenges after a car accident.

1. What is the first thing I should do after a car accident?

Call 911. Always call 911. If someone requires emergency medical care, paramedics should be summoned without delay. Any concerns of lesser importance may be taken care of once help is on the way. This principle holds true even if no one is seriously hurt, as you will need the police on site to collect accident reports. After the police and/or paramedics are en route to the scene, you should exchange contact and insurance information with the other drivers/witnesses involved, take pictures of the accident and surrounding area (including the interior of the car), and make a note of the time and any details that seem relevant. For more information on responding on the scene.

2. Can I just settle on-site?

Settling immediately is problematic for a number of reasons: You aren’t likely to have things wholly in perspective right after an accident, you almost certainly don’t know what the damage will actually cost, and accident survivors might be under pressure to accept less compensation (or responsibility) than they are entitled to. Settlements should be made objectively and dispassionately, not in the heat of the moment…and, depending on the situation, with the guidance of an experienced Utah personal injury attorney. In no case should it be undertaken singly without serious consideration.

3. How should I interact with insurance providers?

Insurance providers should be treated like strange dogs: They’re probably as friendly as most dogs, but they have pointed teeth that make distance prudent. Particularly when dealing with someone else’s insurance company, you should be careful what kind of information you divulge and how.  Insurance companies may make it sound as though sharing certain records is standard procedure or mandatory; but aside from the accident report you fill out for the police, few things must be shared upon demand. Medical records contain especially sensitive information—if a claim that would entitle you to compensation is a trial, medical records are your evidence; and you never want to show your evidence to the other team until you must. (In high-cost accidents, it is best to retain a personal injury attorney to tell you what your specific rights and responsibilities are.)

4. Will I have to see a doctor?

Yes! Always see a doctor after a car accident! You may not have suffered a visible scratch, and you may feel fine, but not all damages are apparent. In fact, many are effectively masked by adrenaline in accident scenarios.  If something is wrong with you, you may be the least qualified to detect it or to appreciate its gravity. A medical professional knows best when you should seek treatment (and, by corollary, compensation to cover that treatment) after an accident.

5. What role will my medical records play in all this?

Besides constituting an important part of your body of “evidence” as mentioned in Item 3, medical records project the cost of treatment, length of recovery, etc. Knowing the probable price of treatment can help to determine how you want to seek compensation, since compensation for less expensive injuries does not require the services of a personal injury attorney to negotiate. Proof of injuries and their seriousness is vital when dispute is inevitable, but medical records can also tell you when your cases is unlikely to be contested.

6. What damages can I recover?

Utah law in 31A-22-307 entitles an accident victim to up to $3,000 is available in the legal minimum of PIP coverage; and the required liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist policies can cover other injury and property losses.

7. What if I was partially to blame?

Because Utah is a no-fault state, even a person who contributed to their own injuries in an accident may seek compensation under their insurance coverage.  Where there is an injury, there is an opportunity for a claim. Comparative fault may not be cited as grounds for an insurer to deny a claim.

8. How long do I have to file a claim?

The statute of limitations for filing a car accident claim in Utah is 4 years from the accident. However, if you later discover some damage done as a result of such an accident that you could not have discovered before or the discovery of which was impeded in some way, the statute of limitations may begin when the discovery was made.

9. Who can be held liable for damages?

Any party whose conduct causes or worsens an accident can be held responsible for their part in the damage.  This can mean that another driver is at fault; it can mean that a construction company is at fault for failing to post warnings; and it can mean that an auto manufacturer was negligent in constructing working air bags.  The authors of all exacerbating factors are possible sources of compensation.

10. Can I, as a passenger, hold the driver responsible for my injuries?

If the driver’s negligent behavior causes their passengers injury, then yes, the passengers may hold them responsible. As this tragic story of a girl in Ireland illustrates, your status as a passenger does not exempt you from the right to compensation when the situation requires it.

11. If the other driver was uninsured/underinsured, am I out of luck?

Not at all—this is precisely what uninsured and underinsured coverage are for.  Furthermore, if that coverage fails to cover the cost of an accident, you have the option of suing the at-fault party without going through their inadequate/lack of insurance.

12. What can I do if I remember important details later?

Generally, you want to be as consistent as possible from the very beginning. On the other hand, people make mistakes (especially after auto accidents); and if you realize later on that your official story wasn’t quite on the mark, you should change it. If you want to try to amend an accident report, contact the responding officer to the accident and offer evidence to support the revised story.

13. How do I know I need to contact a personal injury attorney in Utah?

A personal injury attorney typically charges between 25%-40% of an awarded sum for their services, so their retainment is practical only in very costly accidents. However, anyone involved in heavy disputation over the events of an accident can profit from a legal consultation, which many personal injury attorneys offer free of charge.

14. How long will I have to wait for compensation?

According to 31A-26-301.6(3)-(4), insurers must begin payments for medical compensation within 30 days of settlement and within 45 days for income replacement benefits.

15. How will I get around when my car is impounded?

If your car is beyond use after an accident, it may be up to your (or the other driver’s) insurance company to provide you with temporary transportation. Claiming a vehicle may be difficult when a case is hotly disputed, but your own insurance may cover some of the cost.

16. What are my rights as a bicyclist involved in a car accident?

As a bicyclist, you have the same rights and responsibilities as a motorist. However, you cannot simply insure your bicycle in the same way a motorcyclist would insure theirs. If you are in a bicycle accident, you should look for compensation under your auto insurance policy or the driver’s liability coverage. Specific answers to your specific problems not addressed here may not require you to go spelunking in legal code by yourself. If you have more questions, offers free booklets (including the essential 7 Biggest Mistakes book) to those seeking information on different kinds of injuries.; Or, for a free initial consultation from Christensen & Hymas, call (801)506-0800.

Image “Question mark sign” copyright by Colin Kinner.

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