Indiana Car Accident Claims: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are the answers to common initial questions many clients have when they first contact Keller and Keller. We hope that the information below address many initial concerns you may have, but if you don't find the answers here, please contact us with questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
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Who will pay if I need treatment related to car accident injuries years after the accident?
It’s entirely possible that you could develop a debilitating medical condition related to a car accident years after the accident. This could be a physical ailment—such as arthritis or chronic back pain—or an emotional disorder, such as anxiety or PTSD. However, even if the connection to the car accident is clear, you will not be able to seek additional damages from the at-fault party. If the settlement you agreed to at the time of the crash is not sufficient to cover these new injuries, you will have to use your own insurance or pay out of pocket.
Maximum Medical Improvement and Future Damages
Being unable to cover future medical expenses with car accident settlement money could be the result of poor planning at the time of the accident. When you work with a personal injury attorney from Keller & Keller, you can be sure we will consider the possibility of future expenses and will do all we can to get you the compensation you might need to cover future losses. Our team always considers the following when negotiating accident claims:
- Maximum medical improvement. In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, it can be difficult to know what your total medical expenses will be. A forward-thinking attorney will wait to agree to a settlement until the extent of your recovery and future medical expenses are clear.
- Future damages. Injuries that result in permanent disabilities will require lifelong medical expenses and limit your ability to earn a living. Your attorney should consider potential future costs—including medical bills and lost earning potential—when negotiating a settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
- Financial planning. If compensation from the at-fault driver is received in a lump-sum, you will need a plan to protect some of the money for future medical needs. Your attorney should be able to provide this invaluable advice.
Working with an experienced attorney at the time of your accident will save you the worry about paying for possible future medical expenses. The car accident team at Keller & Keller knows how to determine the value of a claim and when to plan for future expenses. They also help their clients make a plan for putting money aside to pay for future costs.
Come Back to Keller & Keller Any Time!
Even if it has been many years since you worked with Keller & Keller to settle your car accident claim, you can always call us with questions and concerns. We stand by the work we do for our clients and are happy to hear from former clients, especially when they need help.
How does witness testimony help a claim for compensation after an Indiana car accident?
You may be confident that your Indianapolis car accident was caused by the other driver, but he may be just as confident that he did nothing wrong. Car crashes often come down to one driver’s word against the other’s. One way to back up your claim that you did not contribute to the cause of the accident is to gather the testimony of eyewitnesses.
Witnesses at the Scene Can Provide Powerful Testimony
Finding people who actually saw the crash as it happened could be vital to proving your claim. The best time to do this is at the scene of the crash. Asking witnesses for their contact information as the crash is cleaned up is an important step to take. However, if you are unable to talk to people at the scene because of your injuries or state of mind, you can follow up later with the police, who should have taken names and phone numbers as they investigated the crash. The more credible your witnesses are, the stronger your claim will be. People witness crashes from various vantage points, including the following:
- Passenger in your car. An uninjured passenger in your car would know what you were doing and may have seen what the other driver was doing right before the crash, but will be considered a biased witness since he or she was in your car.
- Driver of another car. Another driver may have seen the accident unfold and may be able to describe what happened. While this could be a credible witness, he will likely be questioned about how much he could have seen while he was driving his own car.
- Passenger of another car. Like the driver of another car, a passenger in a nearby car may have seen the whole accident. This could be an excellent witness as he would not have been distracted by his own driving and may be able to provide important details.
- Bystander. More common in accidents that happen in populated areas, a pedestrian waiting to cross the street, walking down the sidewalk, or even sitting inside a restaurant could be a highly credible witness if he or she saw the accident from start to finish.
- Surveillance video. Clearly, the most objective “witness” would be footage from a nearby security camera or another driver’s dash cam. Your attorney will investigate this possibility and secure any video that will help your case.
Just like in a criminal case, witnesses will be questioned by the insurance adjuster or attorney for the at-fault party to find something that makes them less credible, such as a criminal record, intoxication at the time of the accident, or distraction by something else going on.
Your Car Crash Attorney From Keller & Keller Will Do the Legwork
You have enough on your plate recovering from your injuries to worry about finding and interviewing witnesses. That’s why it is so important to call an attorney as soon as possible after your crash. When you call Keller & Keller in Indianapolis, we will get to work right away finding and talking to witnesses. It is our job to present the strongest possible claim on your behalf to get you the settlement you deserve.
What can I post on social media after my car accident?
NOTHING. Ok, we realize this might be impossible for some of you. If you are a Facebook or Twitter addict, you may not be able to avoid social media after a car accident. However, it is very important that you don’t post anything related to your accident or your recovery and that you are aware of how your social media activity may affect your injury claim.
Too Much Posting and Liking Could Affect Your Settlement
Many of us connect to the world through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Liking and sharing posts is how we get recipes, stay current on news, find out what other people are up to, and let people know what we are up to. It is that last activity that can make it hard for a personal injury attorney to negotiate for the maximum possible settlement for his or her client. If you are sharing pictures or information about the crash or about your daily life since the accident, it can be used to lower your damages in a settlement. Some of the pitfalls of using social media following a crash include the following:
- Saying something about the crash that contradicts what you said earlier or what your attorney is saying during negotiations.
- Sharing pictures of an active lifestyle—working out, attending kids’ games, taking a vacation—when you are claiming serious injuries.
- Badmouthing the other driver (even if you don’t share his name), making you less sympathetic to an insurance agent or judge.
- “Checking in” or sharing locations in places that appear to contradict your condition, such as an amusement park or beach.
Even if you think your accounts are private, they can often be accessed by someone who is determined to dig up dirt, such as an investigator for an insurance company that does not want to pay up. Even innocent posts—or posts you made before the accident even happened—could be manipulated to work against you.
To Be Safe, Suspend Your Social Media Activity
We advise our clients to suspend social media accounts as we work to settle their car accident claims. This way, there is no risk of making an innocent mistake that is used against them later. If you have questions about what is and isn’t appropriate social media activity following an accident, contact one of our Indianapolis offices today. We are happy to help!
Does new car technology actually keep us safer?
If you have shopped for a new car in the last several years, you may have been overwhelmed by all of the available safety features. You may have wondered when seat belts and airbags were replaced by electronic sensors and cameras as the latest and greatest in car safety. The fact is, cars are safer than ever, but many of the safety features are difficult for some drivers to understand—particularly older drivers—and other features actually distract the driver from the task of driving, creating an additional safety risk. We take a look at important new safety technology and offer advice on using these features effectively.
Best Safety Features
While there are plenty of high-tech safety features available, the features that continue to save the most lives are the tried-and-true mechanical features that have been around for many years: seat belts and airbags. Nothing will protect you more in a collision than these standard features. However, new safety technology focuses on accident prevention. A few of the most effective safety technologies include the following:
- Anti-lock brakes (ABS). Anti-lock brakes have been available on most car models since 2003. They are now standard on all cars. ABS prevent accidents by stopping the wheels from locking up when you are forced to brake suddenly, allowing you to steer away from an obstacle.
- Adaptive cruise control. Drivers love cruise control because it allows them to maintain a consistent speed without having to keep a foot on the accelerator. Adaptive cruise control takes this one step further by using a radar unit to scan the road ahead and automatically slow the car down if it is approaching slower-moving traffic, forcing you to keep a safe following distance.
- Back-up camera and sensors. Many fender-benders and pedestrian accidents happen when a driver is reversing his vehicle. Having a back-up camera and sensors tells you when there is something or someone behind you so you can stop before hitting it.
- Blind-spot and lane-departure warnings. Using radar or cameras, blind-spot monitors let you know when there is a car in your blind spot so that you can safely change lanes. Lane departure warning systems tell you when your car is drifting out of its lane, which may be an indication that you are dozing off or are distracted by something.
All of these features can save lives, but they require an understanding on the part of the driver as to how they work and how to use them properly. Many older drivers have a hard time adapting to the new technology and may actually find that some of these features inhibit safe driving.
Features Older Drivers Struggle With
Many older drivers are thrown for a loop when they shop for a new car. They are often overwhelmed by the infotainment systems, safety warning systems, and Bluetooth options. Instead of embracing the new technology, many seniors opt for as few features as possible on new cars. This is unfortunate, because many of these features are just what older drivers need to keep them safe. Lane-departure and blind-spot warnings, for example, can help drivers suffering with arthritis or poor flexibility identify hazards they would not otherwise see. In fact, AAA recommends certain safety features for older drivers who suffer from particular age-related problems.
The key to the proper use of safety features for all drivers—but particularly for older drivers—is a thorough training session with the car salesman or dealership. Dealers recommend driving the car for a couple of weeks and then, once you have questions, returning to the dealership for a training session on particular features. The National Safety Council has an interactive website, My Car Does What?, to help people understand their vehicle’s features.
Misuse of Safety Features Does Not Protect From Liability
New car technology is obviously there to enhance the driving experience and to keep drivers and others on the road safe. As people are getting used to new features, they may take their eyes off the road or become cognitively distracted and cause an accident. Being confused by safety features is not an excuse for unsafe driving. If you were injured in a crash with someone trying to blame his car’s technology or warning systems for the accident, don’t be fooled. No matter what his excuse is, he is liable for your injuries. Contact one of our Indianapolis offices today to find out what we can do for you after a car accident that wasn’t your fault.
What can I do to help my car accident attorney with my case?
You have made the wise decision to hire an attorney to represent you in your car accident claim, but what should you do now? The simple answer is this: follow all of your attorney’s instructions and do not do anything that could jeopardize your claim. What does that mean? Find out here.
What You Can Do to Help Your Car Accident Attorney
In your first consultation with your lawyer, he will tell you what he needs you to do. Be sure to listen carefully and following his instructions. In general, he may ask you to do the following:
- See a doctor as soon as possible to be assessed for injuries.
- Follow all of your doctor’s orders and make every effort to recover from your injuries.
- Refer all inquiries about the accident from any insurance company to his office.
- Do not give a recorded statement about the accident to anyone.
- Do not sign any documents related to the case without your lawyer’s permission.
- Send copies of all bills related to the accident to your attorney, even if your insurance company has paid them.
- Notify your attorney immediately when you have been released from medical care and have returned to work.
- Do not post anything related to your car accident to social media.
- Return all phone calls from your attorney promptly.
Remember, your attorney will not be able to help you if you do not first help yourself. If the attorney or insurance adjuster for the other driver finds evidence that you are not as injured as you claim to be, he will use this to lower his settlement offer. For example, posting vacation pictures of you water skiing when you have requested damages for a back injury is going to seriously jeopardize your claim.
Keller & Keller Will Steer You in the Right Direction
At Keller & Keller, we will not take your case if we don’t believe we can help you get a significant settlement, but we will only be successful if you follow our instructions and help yourself. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more about working with an attorney on a car accident claim in Indiana.
Do I need to hire an attorney for my Indiana car accident claim?
Some car accident claims are straightforward and settle quickly. If you suffered minor injuries and some property damage in a crash that was determined to be 100 percent the fault of the other driver, his insurance company will likely settle your claim to your satisfaction within a few weeks. However, if there are any complicating factors, you will want to consider hiring an attorney to represent you.
Factors That Complicate a Car Accident Settlement
While many claims are settled easily without the need for a lawyer, you could greatly benefit from hiring a car accident attorney in certain situations. If any of the following circumstances exist, you will want to call a lawyer:
- Dispute over fault. If you are certain you played no part in the cause of the accident, but the other party is claiming you did, an attorney can help you make your case. Under Indiana’s comparative fault law, if you are determined to share in the fault, you will lose damages proportionate to your degree of fault. If you are found to be 51 percent or more at fault, you cannot claim any damages from the other party. An attorney can gather the evidence needed to support your claim.
- Serious injury. If you suffered a catastrophic injury in a car accident, such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, or multiple broken bones, you need an attorney who is skilled at calculating the ongoing and future costs of your care.
- Semi-truck involvement. When your crash involves a commercial truck, such as a semi-truck, legal issues become much more complicated. There could be multiple liable parties and the potential settlement could be over $1 million. An experienced truck accident attorney will know how to handle such a case.
- Fatality. If an occupant of your car was killed in a crash, you should call an attorney immediately. A fatality complicates a claim in many ways and you want to leave the negotiations up to a legal professional. Likewise, if you lost a loved one in a car accident in which you were not involved, an attorney can help you sort through the legal process.
When to Call Keller & Keller
The sooner you call an attorney after your car accident, the better. A lawyer will make sure all evidence is preserved and that you do not agree to an offer that is less than what you deserve. Keller & Keller does not charge a fee until we win your case, so you have nothing to lose. Call us today to discuss your recent car accident.
How long will my car accident claim take?
This is the question everyone asks and, unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Some claims are clear-cut and don’t involve any kind of dispute. These claims can be settled within a few months. Other claims involve complicating factors that can drag the process out for years. Whatever the details of your case are, you want to make sure you have an attorney on your side who is working in your best interests—whether that means settling quickly or being patient to ensure you get what you deserve. We explain some of the factors that can cause a case to drag out.
Complicating Factors in Car Crash Claims
When you have been in an accident, you cannot put car repairs and medical treatment on hold—not to mention paying your mortgage and other bills. That is why it is so frustrating to have to wait for a financial settlement from the insurance company after you have been seriously injured in a crash. However, it may benefit you in the long run to be patient. The following circumstances may delay a settlement:
- Severity of injuries. Until you know how extensive your injuries are and what treatment and long-term therapies they will require, you cannot know the true value of your claim. An attorney will advise you to hold off on accepting a settlement offer until the lifelong cost of your injuries is known.
- Question of fault. If there is uncertainty over the cause of the crash and who is liable for compensating whom, this will delay a settlement offer. The insurance adjuster for the driver who hit you is likely to try to pass some of the blame off on you. If this happens, your attorney will need time to investigate the accident and collect evidence in support of your claim.
- Insurance company. Large insurance companies with their own legal teams may use many tactics to delay settling your claim, simply because they can. If an insurance company has a conservative approach towards settling claims, you may be in for a lengthy battle to get what you deserve.
- Going to trial. In the end, your attorney may be unwilling to accept any settlement offer from the other side and may decide to take the case to court. This can take a long time to work its way through the court system, but your attorney is not likely to take this measure unless he is confident it will benefit you in the long run.
Trust Your Indiana Car Accident Attorney
If your car accident case involves serious injury, disputes over fault, or an uncooperative insurance company, call the legal team at Keller & Keller. We will be able to give you a better idea of how long your case might take once we meet with you. However long it takes, you can be confident that we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
How much does it cost to hire a car accident attorney?
For many people, their only experience with attorneys has been when using one for a real estate sale, divorce, or to make an estate plan. These attorneys usually charge for their services at an hourly rate. The thought of paying an attorney to handle your car accident claim at an hourly rate may seem prohibitively expensive—and it probably would be. However, most car accident attorneys—including Keller & Keller—charge clients on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not pay anything until and unless we win your case.
How Does a Contingency Fee Work?
If your accident involved a commercial vehicle, serious injuries, or a dispute over fault, you will want to look into hiring an attorney to represent you. These kinds of cases can be complicated and, without legal representation, the average victim is likely to be taken advantage of by other attorneys or the insurance company. At Keller & Keller, your first step will be a free consultation with us where we will review your case and make sure it will benefit you to hire us. After that, we will outline our contingency fee agreement, telling you up front what percentage of the final settlement will go to us and whether you will be responsible for any other expenses. In most cases, you will pay nothing until your case is concluded to your satisfaction.
Having a Lawyer Could Make All the Difference
While you may not like the idea of giving part of your much-needed settlement to an attorney, it’s important to understand that, in most cases, attorneys are able to negotiate a much higher settlement—even if it means taking the at-fault party to court to get it—than you would get on your own. So, even when you give up a percentage to an attorney, you are still better off than you would have been with the insurance adjuster’s first offer.
If you have questions about what your case might be worth and what our representation will cost you, call or connect with us through our website. We are happy to take a look at your claim.
What should I do when I am in a car accident in another state?
Things do not always go as planned. The last thing you want to have happen on vacation is a car accident. Being in a state other than where you reside when this happens can make it even more stressful. However, if you are aware of what you should do when an out-of-state accident occurs, you can be prepared for the worst. Whether you are an Indiana resident in an accident in another state or a resident of another state in an accident in Indiana, these tips can help you protect your right to fair compensation for damages.
What to Do After an Accident in Another State
The first thing to remember is that, in the immediate aftermath of the crash, it does not really matter where you are. The first steps you take should be the same no matter where you are. After a crash in another state, be sure to do the following:
- Call the police. No matter where you are, you will need a police report to back up your claim for compensation. Even in a minor fender bender, call the police and get an official record of the crash.
- Get medical help. Adrenaline is an amazing thing. It can make you feel fine even when you are injured. If you are seriously hurt, you should obviously go to the ER, but no matter how minor you think your injuries are, go to a nearby urgent care center and get checked out. This medical record could help you down the road.
- Take pictures. Before anything is moved, get a record of the scene on your cell phone. Quick snapshots will be very beneficial to you when you are trying to file a claim from afar.
- Collect contact information. Especially since you are not local to the scene, having contact information for everyone involved and witnesses to the crash will be very important if there is a dispute later on.
- Notify your insurance company. You are required to notify your insurance company of an accident, even if you do not think you will need to file a claim with them. Call them as soon as possible and they will tell you if there is anything you need to do.
- Do not admit fault. Be very careful about what you say to the other driver, police, and insurance agents. Even a casual apology can be construed as an admission of fault. Do not say anything at the scene about the cause of the crash. All of this can be worked out later.
Taking these steps will be immensely beneficial should you have to file a claim or a lawsuit once you get back home.
Out-of-State Insurance Claims
The most important thing to know about out-of-state claims is that you will be subject to the laws and limitations of the state where the accident takes place—not the state where your car or the at-fault driver’s car is insured. While car insurance requirements differ from state to state, insurance companies will honor the requirements of the state where the accident takes place. If, for example, you are hit in Indiana by an out-of-state driver who is carrying lower policy limits than Indiana requires, his insurance company will cover the Indiana minimums. If it becomes necessary to file an injury claim against the at-fault driver, the claim will be subject to the statute of limitations and personal injury laws of the state where the accident took place.
How Keller and Keller Can Help
Because personal injury law and insurance requirements differ from state to state, you want to consult an attorney in the state where the accident took place. If you are an out-of-state resident involved in an Indiana crash, Keller & Keller can manage your claim. If you are an Indiana resident involved in a crash in another state, start with a call to Keller & Keller. If we do not feel we are familiar enough with the legal proceedings in that state to represent you successfully, we will refer your case to an attorney in that state.
Should I give a recorded statement to the insurance company following a car accident?
There is a simple answer to this question: No. Because so many car accident victims make this mistake, we would like to explain why you should always say no when an insurance adjuster asks you to give a recorded statement about what happened in the accident. It is one of the most common mistakes made by those involved in car accidents and, with our helpful advice, one you can avoid.
Why Insurance Companies Want a Recorded Statement
After an accident that damages your car and leaves you injured, you will have to contact your insurance company and may also be dealing with another driver’s insurance company. Many car accident claims are easily settled by simply filing a claim. However, if there is a serious injury or one party is 100 percent liable for all damages, these claims become much more complicated. In order to make their jobs easier, insurance adjusters like to collect statements from those involved and hope these statements relieve them of at least some of their obligation to pay out on the claim. When the statement is a video or audio recording, it becomes much harder to dispute. Some adjusters will take advantage of a victim’s confusion and fear immediately following an accident to try to record a statement. Your best course of action is to refuse to make a statement and call an attorney.
What Insurers Hope to Get From a Statement
It is important to remember that an insurance adjuster’s job is to investigate and settle claims while saving the company as much money as possible. When they interview a claimant, they are looking for any fact they can uncover to lower the value of the claim. Examples of these kinds of statements include the following:
- Outright admission of fault. An adjuster’s ultimate goal is to get the claimant to admit that he or she was fully at fault for the accident. If the company represents the other driver, this could relieve them of any liability to pay damages. Getting an interviewee to say “It was my fault,” or “I should not have been speeding” is strong evidence to deny a claim. If these statements are on a video or audio recording, the evidence is even stronger.
- Veiled admission of guilt. While an outright admission is preferred, an adjuster may ask leading questions to get an interviewee to make statements that merely suggest guilt. Apologies and comments such as “I should not have made that turn” or “I did not see her car,” can be taken as proof of fault.
- Denial of serious injury. What gives a claim a high monetary value is a serious permanent injury. If you are claiming that your injuries will make it difficult or impossible to work, but then downplay your pain in an interview, that could be used to lower the value of your claim. Simply answering the question, “How are you?” by saying you are fine could hurt your claim—especially if the statement is on tape.
- Revealing personal information. The adjuster may fish for information about your personal life that could show that you were distracted at the time of the accident or that you are desperate for money. Revealing that you are in the middle of a nasty divorce or that your mind was somewhere else can give them ammunition to lower your claim.
As you can see, granting an interview opens you up to many potential problems. Your best bet is to say no and contact a lawyer.
How to Avoid This Pitfall
You are under no legal obligation to speak to the insurance company for another driver, so if you are contacted for a statement, you can refuse. While you are obligated to notify your insurer, you do not have to consent to being recorded. No one can record you without your permission and it is never a good idea to grant it.
If you are confused about who to talk to and what to say, contact an experienced Indiana car accident attorney. Keller & Keller would be happy to advise you about making statements following a car crash.
What should I know about Indiana’s Dram Shop and Social Host Laws?
Despite strict laws, severe punishments, and extensive ad campaigns, drunk driving continues to be a problem in Indiana, causing crashes that injure and kill innocent people. While the driver should be held responsible and should be made to pay for the damage he has caused, he may not be the only liable party. What about the bar or restaurant that continued to serve someone who was clearly intoxicated? Or the private party host who provided alcohol and allowed guests to leave drunk? Under Indiana law, these parties may also be held accountable for damages caused by the drunk driver.
What Is a Dram Shop Law?
Dating back to the 1700’s, the term “dram shop” refers to an establishment that serves alcohol. Originally, alcohol was served by the dram in bars and taverns. Despite the old-fashioned name, dram shop laws go a long way towards compensating victims of drunk driving crashes and their family members. Not every state has such statutes, but in Indiana, the law extends to anyone who furnishes alcohol to an individual. This could be a bar or restaurant, or it could be a private citizen hosting a party in their home, known legally as a “social host.” However, these parties are only considered liable if both of the following occur:
- The person who furnished the alcohol had actual knowledge that the intoxicated person was intoxicated at the time.
- The intoxication was a "proximate" or foreseeable cause of the injuries.
These provisions become key sticking points in any legal action. A bartender or restaurant server could claim that they did not know the person they were serving was intoxicated. When pursuing compensation under the dram shop law, a lawyer would have to provide evidence that it was obvious that the person was drunk when he or she was being served. Also, it would have to be proven that the driver’s intoxication was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
Why Pursue Liability Under the Dram Shop Law
When a person is seriously injured in a car crash, he or she is entitled to damages from the at-fault party’s insurance company. However, the victim will only be compensated to the limits of the policy. If the driver only carries the minimum coverage required by Indiana law, there would only be a total of $25,000 available for compensation. When the at-fault driver is drunk, it is possible that a judge will award punitive damages—an amount in excess of insurance coverage intended to punish the driver for his willful actions. However, if the drunk driver has limited assets, he will not be able to pay the punitive damages to the victim.
Injuries resulting from a drunk driving collision can be severe. Head trauma, spinal cord damage, and multiple fractures can require hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of medical treatment and months of lost wages. Pursuing the furnisher of alcohol is a way to increase a victim’s settlement so that he or she has a chance at a full physical and financial recovery. A bar or restaurant will have liability insurance for this purpose and most homeowners insurance policies include $100,000 of liability coverage, so these can be good sources of compensation. When someone knowingly serves alcohol to an intoxicated person and does not take action to prevent that person from driving drunk, he or she should be held accountable.
Keller & Keller Knows Indiana Law
If you are injured by a drunk driver in Indiana, the attorneys at Keller & Keller will investigate and pursue every avenue of compensation to ensure your full recovery. We do not take dram shop claims lightly. If we believe that someone acted negligently in serving alcohol and that action resulted in your injuries, we will pursue the server, establishment, private party host, and any other liable party. Call us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your drunk driving injuries. We are here to help!
What are the causes of car fires and burn injuries?
While the most common car crash injuries are whiplash and mild concussions, those involved in high-speed or multi-car collisions can suffer much worse injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, a broken pelvis, and severe burns. Car crashes are not a leading cause of burn injury, but when occupants are trapped in a burning car following a crash, they can suffer third-degree burns and lung damage from smoke inhalation. In this article, we explain the risks of fire in a car accident.
Burn Injury Statistics
According to the American Burn Association, nearly half a million Americans receive emergency treatment for burn injuries each year and over 3,000 people die from fire or smoke inhalation. In 2016, 310 people died in vehicle crash fires, accounting for about 10 percent of all deaths by fire. The large majority of people—73 percent—were injured or killed in house fires in 2016, and only 5 percent were injured or killed in vehicle fires. However, understanding how these fires happen could save your life.
Types of Burn Injuries
There are several types of burn injuries and doctors categorize the severity in degrees. Treatment plans will depend on the type of burn and how deep the burn goes. People can be burned by a variety of sources which result in the following types of burns:
- Thermal burns. These burns are caused by a heat source such as fire, steam, hot objects, or hot liquids. In car crashes, thermal burns are usually caused by fire, but motorcycle riders can get a thermal burn by touching a hot exhaust pipe or other component.
- Electrical burns. If a car accident victim comes in contact with electrical sources, he or she might suffer an electrical burn.
- Chemical burns. It is possible that a car crash could result in a chemical leak or spill of some kind, especially if a chemical tanker is involved in the crash. These burns are caused by contact with household or industrial chemicals in a liquid, solid, or gas form.
- Friction burns. These burns are caused by contact with any hard surface such as roads and is often referred to as “road rash.” They are usually both an abrasion and a heat burn. Motorcycle riders who have road accidents while not wearing protective clothing and occupants of cars who are thrown from the vehicle in a crash may suffer friction burns.
No matter how the burn is caused, it will be categorized for its severity, as follows:
- First-degree burns. This is a minor burn affecting only the outer layer of the skin. Symptoms include redness, swelling, and pain. It usually heals with first-aid measures within several days to a week.
- Second-degree burns. This type of burn affects both the first and the second layers of skin. Blisters may develop and pain can be severe. Deep second-degree burns can cause scarring.
- Third-degree burns. The most serious burn, this burn reaches into the fat layer beneath the skin. Burned areas may be charred black or white. Third-degree burns can destroy nerves, causing numbness.
Treatment options include burn creams and ointments, bandaging, and antibiotics for minor burns and skin grafts, plastic surgery, and intubation for severe burns.
Causes of Car Fires
Cars are at risk of catching on fire because they carry dangerous flammable fuel. Fuel tanks are designed to contain the fuel and keep it away from anything that could spark and set it alight. However, in a crash, the fuel tank can rupture and leak. If a heat source is added to the leaked fuel, a fire can erupt. In a violent crash, a fuel tank can even explode, spreading the fire and sending shrapnel flying. Newer electric vehicles are equipped with batteries that can also catch fire when punctured in a collision. There is a risk of a fire in any car crash, so you should always get out of the vehicle and get as far away as possible if you are able to.
Keller & Keller Can Help Your Recovery After a Car Fire
If you suffered burn injuries in a car crash, you will need the help of an experienced Indiana car accident attorney to get the compensation you need and deserve. Serious burn injuries require expensive treatment and you should not have to pay anything out of pocket if the crash was not your fault. Connect with us today to learn more.
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