Can I still sue for damages if I cannot remember the accident?

Memory Lapses After a Car AccidentIt is common for people who are injured in serious car accidents not to remember the incident clearly. However, not remembering the accident does not necessarily mean that you are not entitled to seek compensation for your accident-related expenses.

Reasons for Memory Lapses

Common reasons for memory loss related to a car accident include:

  • Traumatic brain injury. A severe brain injury can leave the victim unable to function independently, but even a concussion can create gaps in memory.
  • Emotional trauma. In an accident where someone was severely hurt or died, the mind can shut down to avoid dealing with the emotional trauma. Memories may return at a later date, but may only be in brief flashbacks.
  • Substance abuse. Someone who was impaired by drugs or alcohol may not remember the accident due to their substance abuse.
  • Previous cognitive impairment. In cases involving accidents caused by older drivers with signs of Alzheimer's or dementia, a pre-existing condition may be the reason they cannot recall the details of the crash.

Types of Evidence Used in a Car Accident Claim

If you cannot remember the details of the accident that caused your injuries, you will want to consider using the following evidence to help establish fault:

  • Police reports. The police report is not normally admissible in court, but can play a significant role in settlement negotiations if it shows that the other driver is clearly at fault. Reports can also provide contact information for witnesses and details that may help to fill in some of the gaps in your memory.
  • Eyewitness testimony. Witnesses may include other vehicle occupants, nearby drivers, or pedestrians who happened to be in the area when the event occurred.
  • Black box data. A vehicle's black box can contain data on variables such as speed, acceleration, steering, braking, airbag deployment, and seat belt use.
  • Surveillance video. Live traffic cameras or security systems from a nearby business may have caught the accident on tape.
  • Photos. Witnesses, law enforcement, or members of the media may have taken photos of the accident scene.
  • Vehicle damage reports. Certain types of car accidents leave well-defined patterns of vehicle damage, which means damage can be used to indicate fault. For example, in a rear-end collision, the driver who hits another car from behind is almost always at fault. If the back of one car and the front of the other car are the only damaged areas, this provides a strong indication of what happened.
  • Accident reconstruction experts. These professionals use their background in physics and vehicle dynamics to interpret available data, including photos, event timelines, vehicle damage, and testimony.

How Comparative Negligence Laws Affect Your Claim

If the evidence suggests you were partially at fault for the accident, you can still collect compensation. However, California's pure comparative negligence laws requires that your settlement be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault. This means that if you were 30 percent responsible for the accident, you'd only receive 70 percent of the settlement you would otherwise be entitled to.  A good personal injury attorney can help minimize the amount of fault attributed to your negligence.  If the parties cannot agree on the percentage of fault, a judge or jury who tries the case will be required to assign percentages of fault.

Protecting Your Right to Compensation by Hiring an Attorney

A personal injury claim can seek compensation for:

  • Medical expenses such as emergency care, diagnostic tests, surgery, hospital stays, and medication 
  • Anticipated future medical costs for an accident-related disability
  • Lost wages during the recovery period
  • Applicable loss of future earning potential
  • Pain and suffering

If you have recently been injured in an accident that you cannot accurately remember, retaining the services of an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to protect your right to compensation. Your attorney can help you line up evidence to assess fault, document expenses, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.

Personal injury attorneys accept cases on a contingency basis, which means the attorney will ask for a percentage of the settlement in exchange for representation. This means you do not need to pay any money upfront for a retainer or come up with out-of-pocket funds while you are still dealing with the effects of your injuries.

Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with Inland Empire Law Group's legal team at 888.694.3529. Appointments are available in our Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville offices.