When you suffer losses in a motor vehicle accident, you want to know if you will receive compensation for those damages and how you will get the money you need. Unfortunately, the process for getting compensation is not always clear, and depending on the facts surrounding the accident, it can become complicated.
The primary method of seeking compensation after becoming a victim of an automobile crash is to initiate a car insurance claim. However, Insurance companies can make it challenging to access the money you may be eligible for under the law. Filing a claim is often the first step in working toward a resolution, but it can be tedious and time-consuming.
A car accident lawyer may be able to help you by providing insight into your case and what compensation you may be eligible for, either through an insurance claim or, in some cases, a lawsuit.
Step 1- Contact a Car Accident Attorney
The first thing you should do aside from getting help for your injuries following a car accident is contact a lawyer. Often, car accident victims may avoid contacting a lawyer at the outset of a case in the hopes they will resolve it on their own.
However, reaching a positive outcome that gets you the maximum compensation possible is unlikely without the help of a qualified and knowledgeable car accident lawyer. Insurance companies are out for themselves. They may want to resolve a claim quickly, but it will not end in your favor if you accept a first settlement offer without further investigation or questioning.
A car accident attorney can offer you a free consultation where you can discuss your case and what they think is possible in terms of resolution or compensation.
Why Should You Hire a Lawyer?
There are many benefits to hiring a car accident attorney, but the most appealing is the likelihood that you can achieve a better outcome for your case. A car accident causes a mess in its aftermath. Your life can look chaotic as you deal with injuries, a damaged or destroyed vehicle, and the impacts on your day-to-day routine and work responsibilities. Add to these stressful changes the need to manage an insurance claim successfully, and it can be too much for anyone to handle.
By hiring a car accident lawyer, you transfer the responsibilities of your claim and case to them. A lawyer can take charge and lead the fight for compensation for your damages. They can evaluate your case from the outset, take the time to gather evidence to support your claims and damages, and negotiate on your behalf for the best possible resolution.
When you hire a lawyer, they take over all communications with the insurance company and other interested parties; you can focus on healing and redirect all messages and phone calls regarding the accident and your case to your attorney’s office.
Step 2 – Continue the Medical Treatment for Your Car Accident Injuries
The injuries sustained in a car wreck can be serious and, in some cases, life-threatening. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may require a hospital stay, surgeries, and ongoing procedures as you work your way through the healing process. Complications, unexpected consequences, and setbacks can make your recovery process more challenging. As you emerge from the haze of a car accident and its immediate aftermath, you should focus your energy and attention on your maximum recovery.
Continuing your medical treatment by following up with doctors and attending all follow-up appointments and rehabilitation sessions will give you the best chance at maximum recovery from your injuries and help you through the insurance claims process.
As the topic of injuries and subsequent damages comes up in the process, the insurers can look to see what you are doing to get better. To protect your right to seek the maximum damages in your case, you must do everything possible to recover and heal from the injuries resulting from the motor vehicle accident.
Step 3 – Notify the Insurer and File an Insurance Claim
Every insured driver is responsible for notifying their insurance company if and when a car accident occurs. While notifying the insurance company of an accident sounds easy and straightforward, it can cause a headache and problems in your case if done incorrectly. Notification of a car accident for insurance purposes is a short and direct process.
When completing the information of a new claim on an app or by calling the insurer, you should not delve into the details of the crash. You need only provide the basic details about the accident, such as where it occurred, who was involved, the property involved, and when it occurred. Avoid discussing how the accident transpired or who you think was at fault.
The burden of notifying an insurance company about a car accident only applies to your insurer. At no point should you speak with the opposing car insurer’s representatives about the details of the accident until you speak to a car accident attorney.
Calculating Damages for an Insurance Claim
As you prepare to file an insurance claim, you must include the damages you seek and the compensation for each type of damage. Calculating losses from a car accident can be much more involved than a victim may expect.
For example, you must first determine the losses you have suffered. Damages such as medical bills and car repairs are relatively straightforward in that a receipt or bill often proves the amount of money necessary to cover the damage. However, even these types of damages can become contentious.
For example, if you drive a unique vehicle or your injuries are not yet clear, it can be difficult to ascertain an exact number for the losses until further investigation and research into the matter are complete.
A car accident attorney understands the damages available in most cases for a car accident victim. They can work with you to go through the damages and potential damages you may not yet be clear on. A lawyer working for you in a car accident claim can try to maximize the damages available by ensuring you account for and provide evidence for all the possible damages following a crash.
Car accident damages can include:
- Medical bills for emergency treatment and care, current treatment, and future treatment based on your injuries
- Loss of your income for missed work due to the accident, additional work missed because of your injuries, and any future impacts to earnings because of the effects of your injuries
- Pain and suffering compensation for the physical, emotional, and mental pain and distress you endure because of the accident and its aftermath.
- Property damage compensation for repairs to your vehicle or the value of your vehicle if it is a total loss. You may also be eligible to receive compensation for a car rental or temporary transportation you require after the car accident.
Step 4 – Collect and Gather Evidence to Build Your Case
As the victim of a car accident, your lawyer will have the burden of proving the aspects of your case, such as fault and the damages you incurred. An insurance company determines fault based on their evaluation of the evidence and damages to the vehicles. If the insurance determines the other party is at fault, they may, in turn, accept liability and focus their attention on valuing your claim.
However, if the insurer does not accept liability, then issues may need resolution through a court. For example, an insurer may deny liability and claim their driver was not at fault, or there could be other parties involved in the crash, which the insurer may attempt to deflect liability onto.
A lawsuit and the court’s intervention may become necessary in these cases. However, your lawyer can also negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, particularly if there is evidence they may not have considered in their initial determination.
Your lawyer can evaluate the accident and retrieve any evidence they believe can help you with your case. In addition, if you have evidence such as police reports, receipts, medical records, and bills pertaining to the accident and your injuries, your lawyer can take that into account and use the information to build your case for compensation.
Evidence that can help prove fault and damages after a crash:
- Police reports
- Damage assessments
- Repair estimates
- Photos or videos of the accident scene and injuries
- Testimony of witnesses
- Medical records
- Employment related records
- Expert testimony
Step 5 – Identify All Possible Liable Parties
As your lawyer sifts through the evidence surrounding the car accident and your injuries, they can also work to identify the parties that may be at fault and, in turn, liable for the crash. In most car accident cases, there is one other driver involved. However, if multiple vehicles are involved in a collision, additional drivers may be responsible for the crash.
Depending on the damages and injuries that occur, it is sometimes possible that the limitations of a policy or the percentage of fault determined for one party could leave a victim short in terms of compensation. Identifying all parties potentially liable gives you and your lawyer the option and opportunity to pursue the maximum damages in a case.
Additionally, there are scenarios such as if a driver is a commercial truck driver or operating a company vehicle; the employer may be liable in addition to the driver for the accident and damages that occur.
Your lawyer can look into the relationships and parties involved to make sure they file a claim with any party liable for your damages or include the parties in a lawsuit if one should become necessary in the case.
Step 6 – Negotiating a Settlement for Car Accident Damages
After filing your claim for damages, your attorney can work to negotiate with the insurance company. If a lawyer can get you a settlement offer that accounts for your losses outside of court, that could avoid the hassle and time-consuming process of a trial and get you paid for your losses much quicker.
Fortunately, in most car accident cases, a settlement agreement often occurs. Although there is no way to predict how a specific case will turn out, settlements out of court are often the preferred resolution for victims’ lawyers and insurance companies.
However, there are some instances in which a case cannot achieve a successful settlement even after negotiations. If there is no indication that a settlement is possible in a case, then if necessary, the claim may go to a court for a resolution through a trial.
Trials for car accident cases are not nearly as common as settlements, but there are times when they are necessary for a victim to pursue compensation for their damages. For example, if an insurer refutes liability in the case or does not agree with the damages of a victim, they may choose to take the case to court.
Step 7- Reach an Agreement or Prepare a Lawsuit if Necessary
Your lawyer can help you decide the best course of action in light of the developments and circumstances in your car accident case. If an insurance company makes a settlement offer, your lawyer must present it to you for consideration.
You can then decide whether you will accept the offer, make a counteroffer, or if the case may need to go to court. A car accident attorney can help you make a decision that is best for you and in consideration of the evidence in the case.
Ultimately, your goal as a car accident victim is to receive the compensation the law entitles you to following a car accident and the damages that arise from negligence.
If you are a victim of a car accident and want more information about how to get paid following a crash, contact a personal injury lawyer in California for a free case consultation.