What You Need To Know About How to Settle Your Car Accident Case
After a car crash, you may find yourself stuck with medical bills and car repairs, while potentially dealing with lost wages. Even if you have the means to pull yourself out of this financial rut, there are few good reasons, if any, to spend your own resources on a problem someone else caused. The driver or the insurance company may become liable for paying damages to compensate you for your losses. The worse your injuries and the worse the damage to your vehicle, the more likely this becomes. An experienced attorney can work with you to convince the insurance company on a settlement for the accident.
What Is an Accident Settlement?
An accident settlement refers to the lump sum payment you receive to cover economic and non-economic damages. In some cases, you may receive a structured settlement instead. The insurance company and your attorney may negotiate a private settlement outside of court. In fact, even if the case goes to court, the insurance company may settle outside at any time.
There are other instances where the insurance company refuses to settle and the case goes through the trial process. After hearing both sides of the story, a judge can decide on a final figure for your accident settlement.
What Are the Main Types of Damages?
In the legal context of personal injury accidents, damages refer to the compensation claims you may make or receive in a settlement. There are three main types to keep in mind:
1. Economic Damages
The easiest to estimate are economic damages. These refer to the monetary losses you suffered. Here are some common examples:
- Past, current and future medical expenses tied to injuries from the accident
- Past, current and future loss of wages
- Cost of spending the next few months to a lifetime with disabilities
- Cost of repairing or replacing property, such as your car or RV
2. Non-Economic Damages
This type of damages is also known as pain and suffering. It refers to the emotional toll you may suffer after a car crash. For instance, many people develop post-traumatic stress disorder. In these cases, it is not uncommon for people to develop a fear of driving a vehicle or even riding in one. When car crash victims suffer disabilities, the emotional toll this takes on them may be even more serious. Not surprisingly, it is difficult to put a number on non-economic damages.
3. Punitive Damages
If the courts determine gross negligence caused the accident, it may award additional money to punish the responsible parties. The more serious the damages and the greater the evidence of negligence, the more likely it is for you to receive this additional award. In some cases, it can amount to 10 times the remaining award you received.
What Are the Steps To Settle a Car Accident?
When you seek compensation after an accident, in most cases, you do not go to bat with the driver. Instead, you go up against the person’s insurance company. You may even need to make claims against your own insurance policy. Unfortunately, insurance companies make a profit by paying out the least amount of claims for as small a settlement as possible after an accident. Because of this, they may begin the negotiation process by shortchanging you. They may even ignore your claim or find ridiculous reasons to deny it.
The following steps do not guarantee things will go as planned. They paint a general picture of the process. Only your attorney can create a customized plan to address the needs of your specific case.
1. Document Everything
Ideally, you begin the documentation process at the scene of the accident. If you are not badly injured or someone else in the vehicle is able to act on your behalf, then there are key pieces of evidence to get a hold of:
- The relevant information tied to the at-fault driver
- Photos of the surrounding area and of damages to the vehicles
- Eyewitness statements or videos from passersby
- Medical records after receiving treatment
- Police record if you filed a report
- Documents to show loss of wages
2. Follow Locals Laws
Depending on the jurisdiction, there may be state or local laws you need to follow. For instance, some places provide a certain time limit for you to report the accident to the police. Others only require reporting an accident if the damages total more than a pre-specified amount. Speaking with an attorney can help you determine what legal obligations you have so you can protect yourself. This is especially important when accidents occur while traveling far away from home.
3. File a Claim
Even if you did not cause the accident, you or an authorized person need to inform your insurance company. You may also need to file a claim with your insurance company, the at-fault driver’s insurance company or both. An experienced attorney can advise you on how to proceed during these key moments.
4. Negotiate an Accident Settlement
After initiating a claim and completing the claims process, you may finally have the opportunity to negotiate a settlement for your accident. The insurance company usually kicks the process off. Provided that the company does not stall, you receive mail to confirm receipt of the claim and may then receive an offer for a settlement. No matter how generous the offer looks, before accepting have an attorney review your case. An experienced attorney can also negotiate on your behalf.
5. Resolve the Claim
If the negotiation process goes as planned, you may have the opportunity to settle privately. When insurance companies refuse to settle for a fair amount, your attorney may recommend going to trial.
Hire an Experienced Local Attorney
Insurance companies hire prestigious law firms to represent them in court. This puts crash victims at a clear disadvantage. Hiring an experienced attorney from the start can help you steer clear of many of the pitfalls that jeopardize car accident cases before they even truly begin.
However, not all car crash attorneys are the same. It is important to hire one with the right qualifications, experience and commitment. We can connect you with one. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an attorney in your area!