Let’s assume for a moment that you were in a car accident that left you with permanent injuries. If it was caused by somebody else’s negligence or fault, you may have a basis to pursue a claim for damages in court. This process can be lengthy and complicated. However, after reading this page, you will have a general idea of the correct way of handling the situation.
Call the Police
The first thing to do after the accident is to call the police. They will file an accident report that will be on record with your local police department. The police report is necessary to establish who was at fault in causing the accident by documenting all vehicle damages and examining pertinent traffic laws. Obtain copies of all reports filed in relation to the accident. After you call the police, you should then call and inform your insurance company about the accident.
Get Treated for Injuries
See a doctor for a full exam within 24 hours of the accident, no matter how minor your injuries are. What might seem to be a mild injury at first can rapidly develop into something severe. Some insurance companies do not acknowledge your injuries if you did not see a doctor within the first 24 hours. Also, be sure to take photographs of any visible wounds you sustained. The more evidence you compile and document, the better the chances of your claim being successful.
Document All Information
Document the accident date, time of day, any hazardous road conditions, eyewitness information, accident location, damage to vehicles, resulting injuries, medical bills, and income lost due to missed work. You will be asked to release your medical information. So be prepared to show your previous medical records to make sure that you are not receiving treatment for a preexisting condition. If you receive any physical therapy, it should also be consistent and appropriate for the injuries claimed.
Should You Hire an Attorney?
When you first present an injury claim to the insurance company, the adjuster will generally offer a very “low-ball” figure for a settlement. Insurance claims adjusters will also try to encourage you to settle before the full extent of your injuries becomes known. Do not settle then, as the amount of this settlement is always less than the amount obtained after all therapeutic and medical procedures are completed.
Hiring a lawyer will probably result in a bigger settlement, but the lawyer will charge you 33% of the final settlement amount. You should make an educated guess about what your settlement is worth to determine whether getting a lawyer involved is worthwhile. There is no standard, magic formula for calculating how much your settlement will be. But a rule of thumb people use is to assume that it’s going to be 3 times as much as your medical bills.
The drawback of dealing with insurance claims adjusters on your own is that they are insurance professionals and you are not. They know the applicable laws better than you do and will use this knowledge to the insurance carrier’s benefit – not yours. Take into account the fact that if an attorney is involved, the insurer is more likely to take your claim seriously and be willing to offer a quick settlement.
Ultimately, the value of any personal injury claim depends on what a judge or jury regards as “fair and reasonable,” after accounting for injury severity and impact on your daily life. A lawyer can help you deal with the insurance firm and get a bigger settlement, but in the end, the court will determine what you receive.