A DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO CAR ACCIDENT LAWSUIT SETTLEMENT
Even if you drive perfectly, follow the law, and practice defensive driving techniques, car accidents can happen. Unfortunately, this can leave you dealing with significant losses, including medical expenses, lost income, and physical and emotional pain and suffering. A car accident insurance claim or lawsuit may be able to help cover these losses and make you whole again.
Of course, enduring an injury from an accident is enough of an ordeal in and of itself. The prospect of going through a lawsuit and trial can seem daunting. On the other hand, you may need the compensation from a lawsuit in order to cover your expenses.
This is where a settlement comes in. Typically, all parties involved in car accidents want to avoid the expense and hassle of a trial, so they negotiate outside of court to reach a settlement agreement that keeps the case from going to trial. In fact, most car accident claims and lawsuits end in settlements.
If a settlement sounds like a great option for you, you can take these steps to help move things in that direction.
Know the Process
During this legal process, you need to be an advocate for yourself. Even with excellent legal help, it’s important to know some applicable legal terms and how the process generally works. After all, your lawyer is your advisor, but you ultimately have to make the major decisions in the case.
You may have heard people use the terms “personal injury lawsuit” and “personal injury claim” as though they are one and the same. However, there are important differences between these two processes. Generally, you make a personal injury claim first and only resort to a lawsuit if the claims process fails.
When you file a personal injury claim, you do so with an insurance company. Which company you file with depends on your state laws or who is at fault for the accident. In no-fault states, you file with your own insurance carrier, even if the other driver is at fault.
Once the appropriate insurance company receives your claim, they have three options:
- Pay the full claim amount
- Pay some portion of the claim
- Deny the claim and pay nothing
If the carrier pays anything less than the full amount, you and your attorney may need to negotiate. If these negotiations fail, you may have to file a lawsuit to get what you need.
At this point, negotiations can continue. Either you will reach a settlement agreement with the insurance carrier, or your case will go to trial. The remaining tips can help you get the settlement you need without going to trial.
Follow the Letter of the Law
From the moment of the accident, it’s vital for you to follow the laws in your state. For example, many states require you to report accidents immediately. You must also look to your state’s laws to see which insurance you file your claim against.
Each state also has a statute of limitations for car accident claims. These statutes give you a set amount of time between the day of the accident and when you file a lawsuit. A personal injury attorney can help you assess just how long you have.
The insurance company will look for any reason to get out of paying the full claim–it’s part of their business plan. When you follow every single rule to the letter, the insurance company cannot rightfully claim that you have made legal missteps and use those as excuses not to pay.
Have a Personal Injury Attorney on Your Side
Perhaps one of the most effective steps you can take during this time is hiring an excellent personal injury attorney to guide you through the process. Almost all personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, so you won’t have to pay them unless you get a settlement or verdict in your favor. Because they get paid a percentage of the compensation, they will fight hard to get you the largest settlement available.
You do not have to be at the lawsuit stage in order to hire an attorney. Instead, it’s best to talk to someone as soon as you can after the accident. Because these lawyers deal with insurance companies every day, they know what kinds of tricks insurance providers may try to pull, and they can help you stay out of any traps.
Back Your Claim Up with Evidence and Documents
Insurance adjusters typically have one goal: pay you as little as possible. Therefore, if you don’t have a receipt or other documentation for an expense, the insurance company can easily dismiss that expense. Similarly, without a doctor’s records regarding your injuries and symptoms, you may have a hard time getting the adjuster to believe you need help with the related expenses.
The insurance company may fight you on bigger issues as well. For example, they may try to claim that the accident was really your fault. No matter what they try to oppose you on, documentation can help you prove your side. Keep and file away records such as
- Receipts from medical expenses
- Visit summaries from every doctor’s visit
- Photos and videos from the scene of the accident
- Contact information for witnesses
Negotiate in the Right Frame of Mind
Although your lawyer will actually talk to the insurance company for you, it’s still important to get into the right frame of mind about negotiations. Even though you’re trying to avoid going to trial, it’s important not to seem eager to settle immediately.
You should also prepare for the idea that it may take some time to come to an agreement. Many people find it’s better to wait for the right deal than to settle for the first offer that comes across the desk. Of course, every case is unique, and you should listen to the advice of your lawyer first and foremost.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Your Area Today
If you are ready to get the compensation you need after an accident, search for a qualified personal injury attorney in your area today.