Tips for Getting Just Compensation After an Auto Accident
After a car accident, you may feel overwhelmed due to the pain and physical damages. At this point, you need to seek out a fair settlement to pay for medical bills and get back on your feet. Once you file a claim, the insurance company for the responsible driver will assign an adjuster to assess the extent of the damages. Bear in mind that most insurers will attempt to offer an unfair settlement. Here are some crucial tips to help you maximize your settlement.
Maintain Comprehensive Records
The amount of the settlement that you receive typically depends on the quality of evidence that you have. Thus, keep a file of all important documentation related to the collision, as your lawyer will want this information, as well. After the accident, take photos of the scene, the damages to the car and of your injuries. Also, obtain a police report detailing the accident, or have your attorney do so for you.
In addition, keep copies of hospital visits records, medical bills, car repair expenses and any other expenses incurred due to the collision. Gather contact information for critical witnesses at the scene so that you can later obtain statements, if needed. Typically, witnesses can prove that you weren’t at fault during the car crash.
Evaluating Your Claim’s Worth
Insurance adjustors are experienced negotiators; most people injured are not. You thus should consider contacting and retaining an attorney to discuss your case and its value prior to contacting the insurance company – and certainly before settlement is attempted. An attorney can help explain the process, and help calculate the approximate value of your claim. The insurance adjuster will ultimately determine how much compensation they will offer you, and in large part this will depend upon the following:
- The strength of your liability case against the other driver(s)
- The amount of the repair or replacement costs on your vehicle
- The nature and amount of the medical care expenses
- The length and nature of your suffering and pain after the auto accident
- Any form of permanent disability that warrants long-term care
- Income lost due to an inability to work due to your injuries
Presenting the Case to Your Insurer – Get A Lawyer on Your Side!
Personal injury law is complicated. The value of your claim and amount of compensation you will ultimately receive depends upon issues of liability, causation and the nature and amount of your damages. Therefore, you need an attorney to assist you in properly documenting your case and drafting a demand letter. The settlement demand letter should contain all of the following information:
- Description of the auto accident
- Summary of liability and Rules of the Road violated by the responsible driver
- Sworn statements from all witnesses to the accident
- A description of all of the bodily injuries caused by the collision
- Medical treatment you have received
- Other health problems related to the accident
- The extent of damages on the car
- Other losses incurred after the accident
- Time and Wage Loss caused by the crash
- A summary of all permanent injuries caused by the collision
- Reports or Declarations from key doctors/medical providers detailing your injuries, treatment and permanent residuals
Most importantly, demand the amount of compensation that you believe will be needed to help you recover from the financial, emotional and physical injuries and losses resulting from the accident, plus some “negotiating room”. There is no “formulae” for case value, and each case’s value depends upon many factors, including those listed above.
The Initial Offer – Only a Starting Point
If the initial offer is lower than what was requested, your attorney will not accept it. Insurance companies aim to maximize profits and usually don’t offer fair claims value initially. Therefore, you can expect a low offer when your attorney gets an initial response from the responsible insurer.
When that happens, your attorney will make a counteroffer, and negotiations will commence to see if a satisfactory settlement can be achieved. Negotiations often take some time to conclude, and if settlement cannot be achieved, litigation may be necessary.
Reducing the Final Settlement to Writing
After negotiations conclude, most cases (studies show about 8 out of 10…) settle for just compensation. At this point, the settlement terms will be reduced to writing, via a Release, which says you are accepting the agreed-upon amount of compensation to forever release the responsible driver/party from further legal responsibility.
Your attorney will ensure that the Release agreement has only appropriate terms included, and that it accurately reflects the settlement agreed to. The goal of settlements is to pay for your medical bills, wage/time loss, property damage/car repairs and pain and suffering. The attorney’s fees generally will be a percentage of the total settlement, consistent with the Fee Agreement you enter into with your attorney. The insurer will sign disburse the funds to you through your lawyer once the Release is fully executed and returned to them.
The aftermath of an accident can leave you in a terrible place physically, emotionally, and financially. Thankfully, you can fight for a fair settlement to sustain yourself. At Carter & Fulton, P.S., we have experienced personal injury lawyers. Contact us today for a consultation on your car accident case.