Distracted driver caused an accident and now I have daily panic attacks...

by Paula
(Surprise, AZ)

I was hit from behind while driving to work. My drive to work is 70 miles each way, and now I pull off the road all the time due to panic attacks. I'm so stressed out and thinking of leaving my dream job since the accident. The other driver totaled my car and pushed me into another car.

I hit the back of my head hard. I have never experienced such head pain in my life. I had a bruise on the back of my neck. I get head aches all the time too.

The insurance company said they will only pay my medical bills no pain and suffering. The guy who hit me was clearly at fault. My car was paid off at the time, but now I have to pay a car payment again.

Also, I passed him about five miles before he hit me, and I remember that when I looked over he was looking down at his phone. The sad thing is I thought to myself "he's going to get in accident"... and here I was the one he hit!

His insurance company pulled the first girl (claims adjuster?) that was working with me, and the new person is rude and does not listen to me at all. I hardly sleep now because I have a fear of driving to work everyday.

What can I do about this? Is it okay for the insurance company not to pay for my pain and suffering? Thank you for any direction you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Distracted driver caused an accident and now I have daily panic attacks...":

Paula (Surprise, AZ):

Traffic collisions can leave a victim traumatized. This is exactly what appears to have happened to you. You should be compensated for your pain and suffering. Unfortunately, there is no law in the State of Arizona requiring the insurance company to pay you for your pain and suffering.

Insurance companies normally pay claims when it is clear their insured was at-fault in a car collision. In your case, the driver was obviously following too closely. Arizona’s statute on Following Too Closely, Section 28-730, states the following...

“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent and shall have due regard for the speed of the vehicles on, the traffic on and the condition of the highway.”

While the insurance company had no problem accepting fault on behalf of their insured, they also decided the collision was not serious enough to warrant paying you for your pain and suffering.

You have a couple of choices...

First: If you don't believe you are fully healed, seek immediate medical attention. At the same time, contact the insurance company claims adjuster and tell him or her you aren't ready to settle the claim.

Tell the adjuster you will continue to seek treatment until you are fully healed, or until such time as your doctor tells you further medical treatment will not substantially improve your health. Tell the adjuster you will keep him or her advised of the status of your treatment.

Second: Send a letter to the at-fault driver. Tell the driver his insurance company refuses to pay you for your pain and suffering. Tell the driver he owes you compensation for your pain and suffering and his insurance company refuses to pay. There is nothing wrong with doing this.

By so doing, the driver will likely contact his insurance company and tell them you have been contacting him asking for additional compensation for you pain and suffering. At that point, because the insurance company wants to stop you from contacting their insured, the company may decide to pay you what is referred to as “Nuisance Value.”

A nuisance payout is a nominal amount of money the insurance company is willing to pay to make the case go away. Here's more about getting a nuisance value payout.

Finally, you can file a lawsuit in small claims court near your home. Arizona small claims courts have civil jurisdiction over disputes up to the amount of $10,000. For more infornation about filing a small claim lawsuit near you go to AZcourts.gov - Justice Courts.

Be prepared to offer testimony at trial. This includes presenting medical records and bills, and witness testimony about the pain you suffered immediately after the collision. The witnesses can be family members, coworkers, or anyone else who can testify about the pain you endured as a result of the collision.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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