A car accident can change your life in an instant. One moment, you’re driving along pleasantly, listening to the radio. The next moment, your car is totaled, your body is in pain, and you’re feeling shaken and distraught. Once the shock fades, you will need to take practical steps to get your life back in order. For example, if your car accident was caused by another driver, you will have to negotiate with his or her insurance company in order to try to settle your claim. There are several things that you can do after your accident to maximize the amount of compensation that you might be able to recover. By following these tips for settling a car accident claim, you might recover damages that pay for all of your economic and noneconomic losses.
Tips for Settling a Car Accident Claim
Contact the Police and Gather Information
In order to successfully settle your car accident claim, it is important for you to do several things immediately after your accident happens if you are able to do so.
First, you should call law enforcement and wait at the scene until the police arrive. When they do, tell them what happened and request medical attention. It is important for you to get examined by a doctor even if you are unsure if you have been injured. Some injuries may not show up for hours after your accident.
If you are safe and uninjured, take pictures of the damage to both vehicles along with the license plate of the other car. Write down the vehicle’s model, make, and color, and exchange information with the other driver. Take pictures of the location where your accident happened so that relevant details such as the weather, traffic signs, and skid marks can be clearly seen. Try to get the names, phone numbers, email addresses, and other contact information of any witnesses as well.
By following these tips for settling a car accident claim immediately after the collision, you will get started on the right foot. Going forward, keep in mind that you will usually not deal directly with the other driver as you attempt to settle your claim for damages. Instead, you will work with the other driver’s insurance company.
Talk to an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Accidents that only involve minor property damage normally do not require the help of attorneys. However, if your vehicle is significantly damaged or you have suffered serious injuries, getting the help of an experienced car accident attorney is vital to your claim. An attorney may anticipate the defense strategies that the insurance company and its lawyers might use and work to effectively counter them. Insurance companies are motivated to protect their bottom lines and to maximize their profits. One way in which they do this is by offering unreasonably low settlements or by trying to dispute liability altogether. When you have the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer, you are more likely to recover higher compensation amounts than if you try to negotiate with the insurance company alone.
This is one of the most important tips for settling a car accident claim, so it’s important that you find a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in personal injury law and has many years of experience with car accident claims. Getting a fair settlement is not always easy, but an attorney can use his or her expertise to help you obtain the best outcome possible.
Do Not Give Recorded Statements or Sign Anything
It is very common for insurance company representatives to contact accident victims as soon as the company learns about the accident and to ask for a statement. Although many insurance representatives are likely reasonable, helpful, and friendly people, it is important for you to remember that they work for the insurance company. It is in their best interest to minimize the value of your auto claim. Knowing that most people don’t fully understand how auto claims are handled, insurance adjusters may use ethically questionable methods to gain the upper hand in negotiations.
For this reason, you should never agree to give a statement about your accident to a representative from the insurance company without first speaking to an attorney. Don’t worry; you don’t need to be rude or obstinate. Simply tell the insurance company representative that you want to consult with an attorney before you give a statement about what happened in the accident.
The insurance company may send you some documents after the accident as well, including a medical authorization form that will give the insurance company access to your medical records. Never sign an authorization form that the at-fault driver’s insurance company sends to you. Companies use these forms to dig through your medical history so that they can attempt to blame your injuries on an earlier incident. Once you have retained an attorney, he or she can handle the release of any medical records and assist with your statements about what happened.
Finally, never sign a settlement offer without checking with an experienced attorney. Insurance companies sometimes send low-ball offers to accident victims in the hope that they will simply agree. These offers are often much lower than what you might be able to recover with the help of an attorney. If you accept the offer that is extended to you, you will not be able to try to recover more money later for your losses.
Trust Your Attorney to Compile the Evidence and Send the Demand Letter
Once your attorney has compiled evidence that supports your claim, he or she will send a demand letter to the insurance company. The demand letter will outline what happened and include a demand amount to settle the claim. The company may accept your demand, make a counteroffer, or deny it outright. If the company makes a lower counteroffer or denies your claim outright, your attorney may then file a formal civil lawsuit in court. Negotiations will continue throughout the litigation process. A majority of personal injury cases are settled before they ever reach trial.
By following these tips for settling a car accident claim, you might be able to recover the maximum damages that are possible in your case. Contact the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave, and schedule a free initial consultation to explore your options. We can help you determine the best course of action so that you can obtain the maximum compensation you deserve and the best outcome for your claim.