I Had an Accident in the USA: What to Do Next

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I Had an Accident in the USA: What to Do Next

Experiencing an accident abroad can be daunting, especially in a country like the USA, where legal systems differ significantly from those in England and Wales. If you find yourself injured while on holiday or on business in the States, it’s vital to know the appropriate steps to take to protect your rights and ensure you can claim compensation effectively.

This guide will help you understand the initial actions to take immediately after the incident, the importance of seeking advice from specialist personal injury solicitors, and how to navigate the process of making a personal injury claim abroad.

Understanding Jurisdictional Differences

When you have an accident in the USA, the legal landscape you must navigate is quite different from that in England and Wales. In the USA, personal injury laws vary not just from state to state, but also involve different processes and statutes of limitations (the deadline by which you must make a claim). Typically, personal injury claims must be filed in the state where the accident occurred, but it is sometimes possible to file in other states, which can complicate matters for those unfamiliar with American laws.

This variation means that the legal advice and representation you might require could be quite specific to the location of your accident. For instance, a slip and fall in a Florida supermarket or a road traffic accident in California will each necessitate knowledge of local state laws. Thus, it’s crucial to understand whether your claim should be pursued in the USA and in which state in the US, or if there are aspects of the claim that can be handled here, especially in terms of any subsequent legal proceedings or recovery of compensation.

Immediate Steps to Take Following an Accident

If you are involved in an accident in the USA, acting swiftly and methodically is paramount. Here are the immediate steps you should take:

Seek Medical Attention

Your health is the top priority. Obtain medical help as soon as possible, even if the injuries seem minor. Medical records will be vital in documenting the impact of your injuries, which is crucial when making a personal injury claim.

Report the Accident

The reporting process will change depending on the nature of the accident:

  • If it's a road traffic accident, report it to the local police immediately. Obtain a copy of the police report, as it will be an important piece of evidence.
  • If the incident occurred in a commercial space like a store or hotel, report it to the management and ensure they make a formal record.
  • If involved in a holiday package, inform your tour operator, as they might be able to assist in dealing with local authorities.

Document Everything

Collect as much evidence as possible:

  • Take photographs of the accident scene, your injuries, and anything else that might be relevant.
  • Gather names and contact details of witnesses.
  • Keep receipts of all expenses incurred as a result of the accident, such as medical bills and transport costs.

Do Not Admit Liability

Be careful not to admit fault or liability at the scene or in conversations with anyone. Your comments could be used against you in your claim.

Here’s a guide to help you navigate this legal process effectively:

  1. Understanding the legal framework: the USA has a different legal system for personal injury claims, which varies widely by state. Each state has its own laws and procedures for handling claims, including distinct statutes of limitations. It’s important to familiarise yourself with the specific requirements of the state where the accident occurred.
  2. Engage a specialist personal injury solicitor: due to the complexities of the American legal system, it is advisable to hire a specialist personal injury solicitor who has experience with international claims, particularly those involving accidents in the USA. They will understand the nuances of state-specific laws and can navigate the legal process on your behalf.  Having representation both in in England and the US can be a real advantage, to ensure your claim is maximised. 
  3. Filing the claim: your solicitor will help you file a claim in the appropriate state working alongside a US attorney. This involves preparing and submitting all necessary documentation, which includes evidence of the accident, medical reports detailing your injuries, and any other pertinent information that supports your claim for compensation.
  4. Dealing with insurance companies: in the USA, dealing with insurance companies can be a challenging part of the claims process. Insurers may attempt to settle claims quickly and for less than their full value. A knowledgeable solicitor can negotiate with these companies to ensure you receive fair compensation that covers all your needs, including medical expenses, loss of earnings, and compensation for pain and suffering.
  5. Pursuing litigation: if a satisfactory settlement cannot be reached, your solicitor may recommend filing a lawsuit. This step involves presenting your case in a state court, where a judge or jury will determine the outcome based on the evidence provided.
  6. Monitoring your claim's progress: throughout the claims process, your solicitor should keep you informed of all developments. Regular updates will help you understand each phase of your claim and any decisions you may need to make.
  7. Final settlement and compensation: once your claim is settled, either through negotiation with insurance companies or through a court decision, your solicitor will facilitate the transfer of compensation. They will ensure that the agreed-upon or awarded sum covers all the damages you’ve suffered as a result of the accident.

Types of Compensation Claims

When pursuing a personal injury claim in the USA after an accident, it's crucial to understand the various types of compensation available. These are designed to cover different aspects of your losses and ensure that you are adequately compensated for both immediate and long-term needs. Here are the main categories of compensation you might claim:

  1. Medical expenses: this covers any medical treatment related to injuries sustained in the accident, including hospital stays, surgeries, medications and ongoing therapies. It's important to keep detailed records and receipts of all medical treatments to substantiate this part of your claim.
  2. Loss of earnings: if your injuries have caused you to miss work or have diminished your ability to earn a living, you can claim for loss of earnings. This compensation is designed to cover both past lost wages and future lost earning potential if your injuries result in prolonged or permanent disability.
  3. Pain and suffering: unlike tangible expenses like medical bills, pain and suffering compensation addresses the non-economic impact of your injuries. This can include physical pain and discomfort, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and other psychological effects.
  4. Rehabilitation costs: rehabilitation compensation covers expenses related to physical or occupational therapy that help the injured person regain independence and quality of life. This may include adaptive technologies and modifications to living spaces.
  5. Legal costs: The funding of your claim will depend on where your claim is pursued. Our role is to ensure you can access legal representation with a full understanding of the legal costs.  Many cases in the US are brought using contingency fee agreements, which give you a reassurance you do not have to pay legal fees if your case is not successful. It’s essential to discuss this possibility with your solicitor to understand how legal costs are handled in your specific case.

Choosing the Right Solicitor

Selecting the right solicitor is crucial when seeking compensation for an accident in the USA. JMW Solicitors offers distinct advantages that make us the preferred choice for managing your personal injury claim:

  1. Specialised expertise: JMW hosts a dedicated team of specialist personal injury solicitors with extensive experience in handling holiday accident claims, including those involving complex international jurisdictions like the USA. Our solicitors are well-versed in the nuances of US law, providing tailored advice that maximises your claim's success.  We work alongside US attorneys regularly, and are members of the American Association of Justice, a community of trial lawyers dedicated to seeking justice for claimants.
  2. Proven track record: our firm has a strong track record of securing favourable outcomes for clients who have suffered personal injuries abroad.
  3. Clear communication: at JMW, we prioritise clear and straightforward communication. We understand the importance of keeping our clients informed and comfortable with the legal processes involved in their case. Our solicitors are committed to explaining complex legal terms in plain English and are always accessible to answer your questions.
  4. Comprehensive support: our clients benefit from our comprehensive network of resources, including medical experts, accident reconstruction specialists and financial advisors, all coordinated to support your case. This multi-disciplinary approach ensures a robust representation tailored to your specific needs.
  5. Client-first approach: we are dedicated to your best interests. Our holiday accident compensation solicitors work diligently to secure the maximum compensation possible, while also providing realistic, honest advice about the potential outcomes of your claim. Our goal is to achieve the best possible resolution for you, prioritising your recovery and compensation.
  6. No win, no fee agreements: JMW offers 'no win, no fee' agreements, reflecting our confidence in our ability to secure a positive outcome for you. If your claim is pursued in the US a contingency fee agreement may be appropriate.   These agreements minimise your financial risk, allowing you to pursue your claim without the worry of upfront legal fees.

Talk to Us

If you have sustained an injury in an accident while in the USA and it was not your fault, get in touch with our holiday accident solicitors today to start your holiday accident claim by calling 0345 872 6666. Alternatively, fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.

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