You are not a lawyer, and you do not know the process for settling these types of cases. So it is vitally important that you stop going through the claim process alone and hire an attorney.
Do You Really Need an Attorney for a Car Accident Case?
Yes, you do.
While insurance companies might seem as though they are on your side, they are a business. Like any business, the insurance company needs to protect their bottom line – which means paying you as little money as possible.
Insurance companies will do whatever they can to lower your settlement value, including disputing every medical treatment or diagnosis.
An attorney knows the tactics used by insurance claims adjusters, and they have negotiated and settled more claims in a month than you will in a lifetime. They also know the laws, are skilled negotiators, and know how to push insurance companies into paying the amount of compensation you deserve.
And even though you have an attorney, your actions can still influence the settlement value of your case. Therefore, you must be instructed on how to act appropriately so that your chances of a good settlement remain high.
Know the Insurance Claim Process
After an injury, you will be contacted by the at-fault party’s insurance claims adjuster. They may offer you a settlement within the first few days, and you are required to respond.
Your attorney will decline the initial settlement offer. After they have fully assessed the value of your case, they will write a letter containing a counter-offer to the insurance company. The adjuster then responds with their offer, which might be within your acceptable range – or not.
The process goes back and forth several times, so you must be patient. Even though you might feel as though the process is dragging on, it is important that you do not get discouraged. Insurance companies intentionally drag this out, hoping that you will become desperate and take any amount offered. It is important that during this process, you rely on your attorney’s expertise. If your attorney feels you can get a better settlement, trust their judgment.
Know How Much You Deserve in Your Case
When you first meet with an injury attorney, the attorney will request that you bring in medical bills, a calculation of hours missed from work, and more. Your attorney then calculates an ideal settlement amount based on your expenses, the evidence, and any projected costs they have.
From there, your attorney establishes his or her “range” of what is acceptable. Your attorney may have an “ideal” settlement, but also a lowest possible amount they believe you should accept. That way, during negotiations they can try to get as close to the ideal number as possible, without going below the lowest settlement point.
Keep a Pain and Emotion Journal
During negotiations, your attorney will use evidence to justify their offer amount. To help justify the pain and suffering damages, which cover physical, mental, and emotional anguish, you should keep a pain and emotion journal.
In your journal, discuss what you are feeling each day. Rate your pain, discuss the treatments you went through that day, how you felt, and discuss your emotional state of mind. Be honest in your pain journal, and do not exaggerate.
In your journal, take photographs of injuries, surgeries, and your recovery process. Keep the photographs in your journal. Your attorney may be able to use these photographs to pressure insurance companies into higher settlements. For example, if you have a permanent scar on your face from an accident, your attorney can use a photograph to justify the pain and suffering – or permanent mental anguish – you will suffer from that scar.
Keep Copies of Medical Bills and Records
Every time you pay a medical bill or receive a statement from your insurance company with a bill they have paid from the accident, keep a copy of that bill for your attorney.
Also, get copies of your medical records and verify that the information in those records is correct. You may have to pay for copies of your medical records, but your attorney can request reimbursement for those costs in your settlement.
While you have these records, do not sign a third-party release to anyone. If the other party’s insurance company requests copies, which they will, they can do the request through your attorney.
Know the Damages You are Entitled To
Your attorney should go over which damages apply to your case since not all injuries qualify for the same types of damages. However, the most common types of damages you would receive in a car accident case include:
- Medical Expenses: This includes expenses you or your insurance company has paid, as well as projected costs for future treatments. Medical expenses include everything from hospitalizations, to surgeries, to prescription costs, and medical equipment.
- Lost Wages: Time you take off of work to recover from your injuries, attend settlement negotiations, depositions, and tasks related to your case are compensable.
- Loss of Earning Capacity: The loss of earning capacity focuses on future wages. If your injuries are so severe that you cannot return to the same job or you are permanently disabled and cannot work, your attorney will calculate how much you would have earned in the future and include that in your settlement proposal.
- Property Damage: You were involved in an automobile accident. Therefore, you may have a totaled vehicle you must replace, items in your car permanently damaged, and the cost of getting a rental car. These expenses should be included in the settlement offer.
- Any Expense Related to the Incident: Any other expense directly related to your accident, including the cost of hiring an in-home care nurse, taking a taxi to and from the doctor’s office, or even business you lost because of your injuries can be included in your damages.
Know All Your Injuries
It is common for victims of motor vehicle accidents to sustain more than just a single injury. You could have a broken leg, but with that broken leg comes scar tissue, surgery, and physical therapy to recover.
You may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other psychological conditions because of the trauma from your accident as well.
Many of the emotional injuries do not show right away and could take several weeks to manifest. If you do become depressed or suffer from an emotional injury, see a therapist or tell your physician about it immediately. Not only do you need to document it in your medical history, but you need to receive treatment so that your emotional trauma does not affect you for the rest of your life.
Never Ignore Your Doctor’s Orders
You will have treatments, follow-up appointments, and medications prescribed to you so that you can heal from your injuries. It is important that you stay under your doctor’s care and follow their instructions during negotiations.
Any deviation from the care plan can harm your case. It opens the window for insurance claims adjusters to dispute your injuries – and even accuse you of faking them. If you disagree with a doctor’s order, tell your attorney and see what they suggest, but never stop treatments without a consult.
Hire the Right Attorney
Hiring the right attorney for your case is important. While you have your pick of personal injury attorneys, you want a trial attorney that is not afraid to take your case to trial.
Most of the time, your attorney will settle the case without filing an official lawsuit. Even when a lawsuit is filed, your attorney can negotiate a settlement long before the trial date. However, if negotiations break down, you need an attorney who can be aggressive and ready to take your case to court.
Be assured that insurance companies know attorneys in the area. So if you hire an attorney that the insurance company has dealt with in the past, the attorney’s reputation may precede them. If the insurance company went up against your attorney and lost – particularly if they lost at trial – they will be far more likely to settle than try going to court again.
Speak with an Injury Advocate Ready to Fight for You
The personal injury attorneys at Malman Law understand what you are going through.
You are scared, confused, and in pain. You have injuries, and you do not have time to handle the negotiations and paperwork involved in an insurance settlement – and you should not have to.
Let our team take over while you focus on getting better. Our attorneys are here to file claims, negotiate with insurance companies, and we will not hesitate to fight in court if need be.
To see if your case qualifies for compensation, schedule a free consultation by calling our offices at 888-751-2297 or request more information online.