When you suffer a car accident that isn’t your fault, expenses for repairs, medical bills and lost work time can add up quickly. In most cases, you can regain this lost money, and possibly extra, by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver’s insurance company. Most such lawsuits never see court because they are settled first. Receiving a fair settlement is important.
Negotiate with Insurance
While many people mistakenly believe that personal injury lawsuits are filed against at-fault individuals, the actual lawsuit usually involves the insurance company far more than the person at fault. It is sometimes possible to claim more damages than the insurance company covers, but this doesn’t happen often. Almost every settlement will come down to a negotiation with the insurance company. While they could pay out up to the limits of the policy, they don’t want to do this, and they will take every opportunity to get a lower amount. Often this means offering a quick settlement to get off cheap. Initial settlements should never be taken. More money will be gained through negotiation.
Understand Economic and Non-Economic Damages
The possible compensation for an auto accident falls into two basic categories. Economic damages relate to those amounts that can be easily calculated and tracked like medical expenses, lost wages or property damage. It is expected than at insurance company will pay for most or all of these damages. Non-economic damages represent factors that cannot be precisely calculated. The most common example is pain and suffering. In court, a jury will decide on a number, but if the case is settled out of court it is up to you to demand it. Not all claims will allow for non-economic damages, but most serious accidents will. This is also the award insurance companies are most likely to sidestep when offering a settlement. If you would be likely to get such an award in court, then it should be demanded in the settlement offer.
Consult with Your Attorney
An attorney from a firm with experience in accident injury laws, such as Radano & Lide, is a vital ally during settlement negotiations. You do not have to use an attorney, and the insurance company will be happy to settle without one, but this is generally a bad idea. An attorney may provide several types of assistance. One of the most important is examining a settlement offer for fairness and ensuring that the best possible deal is reached. The attorney may also help with paperwork and evidence so that you can focus on recovery. Most attorneys will take a percentage of your settlement as their fee, so ensure you are still getting enough money after that amount is factored.
Ensure Amounts for Extended Recovery
Many auto accident injuries require long-term recovery or physical therapy. They may also cause health problems that are not immediately apparent and require later treatment. Many people lose out in these cases because they didn’t factor these costs into the settlement. It can be difficult to argue for the need for future medical payments or expenses, but it is possible, especially if the accident was serious or caused injuries known to require extensive treatment. Sometimes it is worth delaying the settlement until these amounts are sufficiently included.
Determine Fault Percentage
In most states, drivers are considered to share the fault for an accident. This means that the amount of fault from each driver is calculated as a percentage. The driver with the higher percentage is considered the at-fault driver and pays the injured driver. However, the damages awarded can be reduced by the percentage the injured driver was at fault. For example, if you are rear-ended but your brake light was out, then you could be considered partially at fault. An insurance company will use these laws to negotiate a lower settlement. It is important to consider how much you may be considered at fault and be prepared to argue against this with your attorney during negotiation.
A car accident is never fun, but it doesn’t have to be financially draining. A settlement is intended to make you whole again, and it is important to allow this process to work until that goal is accomplished.