Everything You Need to Know Following a Car Accident
At Van Law Firm, car accidents are some of the most common accidents we see, but each is unique in its circumstances and impact. Oftentimes, accident victims are left with more questions than answers, which is not the most desirable position to be in when you’re dealing with painful injuries and mounting expenses. The path to compensation can be bumpy and circuitous, but ultimately Van Law Firm’s award-winning car accident attorneys can effectively handle just about any car accident case. Call our office nearest you today to hear more about what VLF has to offer with a free and confidential consultation.
Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked car accident-related questions:
What is the Process of Filing a Car Insurance Claim?
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Insurance companies have differing methods and requirements, but they all follow the same general principles. Once an accident takes place, either you or your attorney will have to report the accident to your personal insurer, and they will ask for information regarding vehicle damages, the other parties involved and their insurers, and the accident itself. It’s best to gather as many details as possible before reporting a claim so that there are less discrepancies down the road. Police reports are also extremely important for helping your insurer sort out the details of an accident, and you should certainly obtain a copy for your records if one was filed.
After your claim has been filed, the insurance company will conduct their own investigation with the help of an “adjuster.” This person will review all of the available evidence surrounding an accident, and may contact the parties involved to give statements. Once the liable party has been identified, that individual’s insurer will then provide as much coverage as their policy permits. This is the standard claim process, but not all claims go this smoothly.
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There are numerous scenarios in which claimants don’t receive the coverage needed to fully compensate them, and there are a number of reasons why this might happen. Two common examples are when the liable party has minimal coverage and simply cannot cover the entire claim, or when an insurer disputes a claim and does not offer full coverage–both cases will require the help of a trusted car accident attorney if claimants wish to recoup all they can.
What if my Insurance Company Offers a Settlement Right Away?
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The vast majority of the time, you should not accept the first settlement offer from your insurer (or the at-fault insurer for that matter). Oftentimes, this is a ploy to get you to take the money on the table rather than wait for a larger amount later on. The bottom line is that once you agree to a settlement offer, you cannot receive more, so you better make sure that your compensation will cover the extent of your damages.
It’s important to remember that insurance companies are businesses too, and their job is to make a lot of money while paying out as little as possible. Insurers love to market themselves as being there for you in your time of need, but make no mistake, they will not sing the same song when you actually need help with your claim.
What Should I Do if the Other Party Claims That I am Partially Liable?
This question is important because it ties back to the concept of “comparative fault,” which most states enforce in some way. Essentially, the liability for an accident may be split between parties, and the percentages of fault impact your end settlement; for example, if you were found to be 25 percent liable, that means you can only receive up to 75 percent of your total damages.
If you are determined to be partially at fault, immediately ask for the percentage. In some states, such as Nevada, if you are over 50 percent liable, you cannot recover compensation from the other driver’s insurer, only your own, which will be difficult in itself and may raise your rates significantly. However, you and your attorney do have the option to contest the ruling if you disagree with your percentage of fault.
How Will My Case be Resolved?
It’s difficult to predict beforehand how a case will be resolved–most are settled outside of court, but if there are disputes or discrepancies with regards to compensation or lack thereof, it may need to be resolved through litigation. In some cases, you may wish to file a lawsuit and go directly to court instead. It all depends on the accident and the amount of compensation at stake.
The threat of litigation is one of the most important reasons why you should always retain a car accident attorney. Without one, you will likely back away from the thought of disputing a claim in court, which is exactly what insurers want. The cases that are most heavily disputed often have the most at stake, so it helps to have an experienced attorney negotiating on your behalf. Sometimes, a defendant will agree to settle out of court if they feel that they cannot win through litigation.
How Long Will it Take to Resolve My Claim?
This is a very common question, and the only answer is that it varies by case. There are numerous factors to be considered when debating a claim, including the severity of the accident and subsequent injuries, the number of claimants involved, and more. The majority of states require insurers to acknowledge a claim and make a decision on it within about 60 days. Most straightforward claims are resolved in a few weeks, but this is certainly not always the case.
Claimants should keep in mind that insurers are only required to make a settlement offer within that 60-day period, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the case is over. If you are not satisfied with the offer, the process will continue on, eventually ending in court if both sides continue to disagree.
Cases can be delayed for a number of reasons, by either party–oftentimes we are not made aware of these delays until they happen, which is why it is so difficult to gauge the length of a claim beforehand. Sometimes delays are simply the result of backlogs and red tape, and there is nothing either party can do.
Should I Receive Medical Attention After an Accident?
If you are involved in an accident caused by another, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention, even if you have no pressing symptoms. By going to the hospital immediately after an accident for an evaluation, you help your case in two ways: for starters, insurers can’t downplay the severity of your injuries because you sought treatment right away. Second, an ambulance ride and/ or comprehensive exam will establish a baseline for your damages, as those are costs you will be compensated for.
Keep in mind that not all injuries appear right away, and sometimes a deeper examination is needed to pinpoint injuries like concussions and whiplash. If you choose not to receive medical attention at the time of the accident, it may be difficult to get the treatment you need later on.
What Forms of Compensation Can I Recover?
The purpose of all personal injury claims is to recover the financial compensation needed to cover the extent of a claimant’s damages. That being said, we’ve seen over the years that a large number of accident victims aren’t aware of all the forms of compensation they may be entitled to–this is but another reason why you should retain an attorney, so that they can argue for all possible damages on your behalf. Here’s a list of the various forms of compensation you may recover after an accident:
If your property is damaged in an accident, you can be compensated for repairs and replacement costs. This includes your car or any personal belongings that may have been damaged.
Medical costs make up the bulk of most claimants’ damages. This includes everything from ambulance bills, hospital bills, and prescription costs. Depending on your own insurance coverage, these may be covered by your insurer, but that is not a guarantee.
If your injuries require extensive rehabilitation, such as a spinal injury, you can be compensated for these costs.
Lost wages and benefits (past and future)
If your injuries caused you to miss time away from work, you can be compensated for the income and benefits you lost. If you will continue to miss work in the future or cannot return to the workforce altogether, you can recoup those losses as well.
Pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment
Claimants may not know that they are also eligible to receive non-economic damages such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life. These are extremely subjective, and are based largely on evidence and argument. Usually, the more severe the accident, the more likely you are to receive non-economic damages.
If a claimant’s injuries are such that they are permanently disabled or disfigured, additional compensation may be in order.
In extremely brutal or egregious circumstances, punitive damages may also be awarded. These are heavy fines meant to “make an example” out of a defendant who behaved exceptionally negligently. Generally, the financial capability of the defendant is taken into account, as not everyone can reasonably be expected to pay them.
Steps You Can Take to Maximize Your Compensation
When you bring your case to Van Law Firm, we will use all of our resources and experience to handle your case effectively. However, there are some steps claimants can take to help their case and give them the best chance of success, and these include:
- At the scene, take ample pictures of the damages done to your vehicle and all others involved
- Note any other personal belongings that were damaged–cell phone, laptops, etc.
- Take pictures of any visible injuries to you and any passengers traveling with you
- Write down any relevant notes, such as details from the accident or how you are feeling physically
- Exchange contact and insurance with the other driver and cooperate with police and medical personnel
- After you’ve retained an attorney, call your insurer and report the accident
- Have an adjuster do an inspection of your vehicle
- Keep track of all medical bills and correspondence with insurance companies (both yours and opposing)
Injured in a Car Accident? Contact Van Law Firm’s Elite Car Accident Attorneys Now
If you have more questions regarding car accident claims, or would like to speak with experienced car accident attorneys, simply contact Van Law Firm as soon as possible. We’ve been working hard to defend the rights of accident victims for nearly ten years now, and with over $50 million recovered so far, it’s clear to see that those efforts have paid off. Each day that you wait to file a claim only lowers your chances of recovering maximum compensation. Don’t wait–call (725) 900-9000 to learn more about the VLF standard.
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