If you’ve experienced the misfortune of a car accident at the fault of another person, you’re entitled to seek compensation for your short- and long-term harms and losses through a personal injury claim. This is designed to help you offset your economic losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages, as well as your non-economic losses, such as changes in your quality of life. Many people believe they can rely on insurance companies to fairly evaluate their claims, but this is often not the case.
To seek compensation that is fair, it is your responsibility to prove all those harms and losses with evidence. This requires more than you simply telling an insurance company what you’ve gone through, and often requires the involvement of medical and financial experts. Because this process involves so many steps and time to understand how you will recover from your injuries, it can be quite a lengthy process. And while many claims settle with the insurance company before a lawsuit is filed, it is also common for insurance companies to deny or undervalue your claim. In that case, a lawsuit is probably appropriate.
Here is everything you need to know about what to expect from your car accident settlement process and when filing a lawsuit makes the most sense.
File Your Claim
The first step in your car accident injury settlement process should be to file a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver. This is referred to as a third-party claim, since it is the other driver’s insurance company and not your own. It’s important to remember that the insurance company has no loyalty to you, and generally wants to pay you as little as they can get away with to settle your claim for good, since they save money by paying you a lower settlement than the law allows you.
Most insurance companies will try to bait you into settling your claim early on with what might seem to be a reasonable offer, since they do not want you to take the time to fully understand the consequences of your injuries or your rights and options. The insurance company might deny responsibility for your injuries, arguing that you were totally or partially at fault for the accident. Additionally, the insurance company might deny payment of benefits by stating you haven’t supplied enough documentation to support your claim. For this reason, it’s best to communicate with a personal injury lawyer first, who will take all of your documentation and shoulder the burden of the claim process with the insurer on their own. Most importantly, a lawyer will help you understand what your rights and options are so you can make smart choices for your case and well-being.
Go Through the Insurer’s Investigation
After you’ve submitted your claim, a claims adjuster from the at-fault party’s insurance company will go through all of the documentation to conduct an investigation. This will include reviewing the police report, witness statements, and photographs of the accident site, as well as asking to take your statement.
The claims adjuster may claim he or she needs your statement before they can evaluate the case, and might ask for access to your medical records by signing a release. But you should not give a recorded statement without talking to counsel first, and you should never hand over access to your medical history before you know your rights. Most personal injury lawyers will consult with you free of charge to help you understand the dos and don’ts, so you don’t put yourself in a bad position.
Submit a Demand for Payment of Your Claim
Once the insurance company has completed its investigation, you will either be approved or denied coverage for your claim. Working with a personal injury lawyer will put you in the best position to present a very strong claim that puts pressure on the insurance company to pay. That includes helping you understand the proper timing of when a demand for payment is made, as well as what expert opinions need to be secured before a demand is ripe.
Even when demand is properly filed, the insurance company might disagree about who is at fault for causing the accident or might not accept the extent of the injury or medical bills you are claiming. Most of the time, the insurance company will respond to your demand for payment with a counter-offer. Sometimes the counter-offer is a strong indication that a settlement can be reached. Other times, a counter-offer can make it clear that the case needs to proceed into litigation through a lawsuit in order to have the best chance of settling. And remember, just because a lawsuit is filed does not necessarily mean the case will proceed to trial.
Negotiating and Finalizing Your Settlement
If you find yourself at the negotiation stage, be warned that dealing with an experienced insurance company can be intimidating. The claims adjuster and attorneys you’ll be communicating with are professionals, and they’ll leverage their knowledge against you for a lower settlement. This stage of the process is best handled by your attorney, especially since some insurance providers will only speak with experienced lawyer to negotiate the settlement. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you better understand what you should expect for a fair settlement in your case, so you can negotiate in confidence.
Once you come to an agreement, you can finalize your your case by signing a release of liability, which prohibits you from taking the at-fault driver or their insurance company to court for a higher settlement or verdict.
File a Lawsuit
If you don’t come to a settlement agreement with the insurance company, the next step in the process could be for you to file a lawsuit. A personal injury lawyer will determine if this is the best step for you and, if so, he or she will guide you through the process of filing suit in the appropriate jurisdiction and collecting evidence to support your claim in court.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you might be entitled to a settlement, which can be a lengthy and difficult process. FVF can help you understand your rights and receive fair compensation. Contact us for a free meeting to discuss your accident and get on the path to recovery and success.