The time following a car accident can be very confusing, and you may be unsure of where to turn or what to do next. You may also have questions about what you need to do to file a claim and what you should say if the at-fault insurance company’s adjuster calls you. This along with many other reasons we showcase below would be a good reason why you need a lawyer after a car accident.
Fortunately, help is available to you in the form of a car accident attorney. A car accident lawyer can assist you with investigating the circumstances of your accident, filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company on your behalf, handling calls from insurance company adjusters, and, if necessary, filing a lawsuit against the responsible party.
Car accidents can result in many types of serious and costly injuries, including bone fractures, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain and head injuries, and soft tissue injuries. These injuries can be debilitating and may leave you needing treatment and unable to work for a significant time.
After a serious car accident, your top priority should be getting the medical treatment that you need to recover from your injuries fully. Having a knowledgeable car accident lawyer on your side will allow you to rest and recover, while your lawyer handles all of the legal issues that arise in your case.
Investigating the Circumstances of Your Accident
In some cases, it can be difficult to tell exactly how a motor vehicle accident occurred. For example, two or more other drivers may have acted negligently to cause the crash. When that happens, a car accident lawyer may need to hire an investigator or expert, such as an accident reconstructionist, to determine exactly how your accident occurred and who caused it.
In addition to hiring an expert, a car accident lawyer in your jurisdiction can speak with eyewitnesses to the accident and gather supporting documentation including a copy of the police report), vehicle pictures, videos capturing the incident and determining all potential sources of insurance to compensate you.
By piecing together all this information, your car accident lawyer can determine the likely cause of your accident and whether or not you are eligible to file a car accident claim. If you file a car accident claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you can seek recovery for the injuries and damages that resulted from the crash.
Filing a Claim With the At-fault Driver’s Insurance Company
The negotiation process typically begins after the accident victim has finished all medical treatment for injuries sustained in the accident. However, you should not wait to speak with a car accident attorney simply because you are still undergoing treatment. Your car accident lawyer can obtain copies of all relevant medical records and bills, as well as a copy of the police report, photographs, and any other relevant documentation to begin the process of preparing your case for resolution long before you complete treatment.
The lawyer will usually then assemble all of this documentation into a settlement demand package, which they will then send to the at-fault driver’s insurance company (follow these two links to learn more about “how to determine car accident fault” or “how to determine who hit who in a car accident“). The car accident attorney will also typically include a cover letter that makes a monetary demand for settlement. In some cases, the initial settlement demand is the available policy limits that apply to the case.
Once the adjuster for the at-fault individual’s insurance company reviews all of this information, they will then decide if their insured is liable. If the insurance company decides to accept liability, the adjuster will typically make a settlement offer, though often not for the fair value of the case. If the settlement offer is not acceptable, further negotiations can occur or the injured party can file a lawsuit.
Speaking With Adjusters From the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company
In some instances following a motor vehicle collision, the at-fault driver’s insurance company adjuster will call the accident victim and request a recorded statement. These statements are typically under oath, and the adjuster will ask the accident victim questions about how the accident occurred, the injuries they suffered in the accident and other aspects of their medical history. It’s important to keep in mind that you should never provide a recorded statement to the at-fault driver’s insurance company—at least not without having your lawyer on the phone at the same time.
In addition to assisting during a recorded statement, your lawyer can help you negotiate a favorable settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. In many cases, the initial offers that insurance adjusters make are extremely low. Adjusters and insurance companies will do everything that they can to delay your case and will try to settle your case for as little money as possible. This allows the insurance company to enhance its profitability.
Your lawyer will be able to negotiate on your behalf, in an attempt to resolve the case favorably for you. Your lawyer is not allowed to accept a settlement offer without your authority. Instead, they must first run the offer by you and obtain your consent to settle. Your lawyer will also be able to let you know what your approximate net recovery will be, after you cover your medical bills, fees, and other expenses.
Pursuing Litigation in a Car Accident Case
Sometimes, despite diligent negotiations, car accident cases do not settle initially, and sometimes never do. In those instances, your lawyer will be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver on your behalf. Although the at-fault driver is the defendant in the lawsuit, the driver’s insurance company is directly involved since it is likely to provide the payment for any settlement or verdict.
Once your lawyer files a car accident lawsuit in the court system, the litigation process begins. During this process, both sides will engage in a period of discovery (both written and Oral) to learn about each side’s version of the case. Written discovery typically consists of document requests and answering written questions, called interrogatories. Oral discovery typically consists of a deposition, in which lawyers will ask questions of parties, witnesses and experts about the accident, what happened, your injuries, your medical treatment, and the extent of your damages.
Even if your lawyer files a lawsuit on your behalf, the case may still settle at any time. In fact, the majority of car accident cases settle at some point before a trial. You are the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to deciding whether or not to take your car accident case to trial. There may also be some alternative dispute resolution mechanisms available to you in your case, such as mediation or arbitration. Your lawyer can discuss with you the benefits and risk of taking your case to trial, pursuing alternative dispute resolution, or accepting a pending settlement offer to resolve your case. For more important auto accident information watch Ram Fletcher of Bohn & Fletcher, LLP discuss some critical after accident steps to recovery compensation.