Car Accident Injury Settlement and Lawsuit Process
Every year, millions of people are injured in auto accidents, and hundreds of thousands more file car accident lawsuits to recoup damages for their injuries and property damage. Generally speaking, to win a personal injury case is usually reliant on being able to prove two things – Damages (including loss of income and emotional damages), and liability/negligence.
Do not settle with the insurance companies without speaking with a licensed personal injury attorney in your state. Insurance companies are trained to pay out as little as possible, and it’s always in your best interest to know your options. Every lawyer in our network offers a free initial consultation so it costs you nothing to discuss your options and know where you stand, and whether or not filing a lawsuit for your injuries is worthwhile.
How An Attorney Can Help You Maximize Your Car Accident Lawsuits & Settlements:
Working with experienced lawyer for car accident, can help ensure that insurance companies, who are trained and compensated to pay you as little as possible, don’t rush or bully you into taking a low car accident settlement offer. A good personal injury attorney can help get you more money in your car accident lawsuits by maximizing your claim in regards to loss of income, medical bills & ongoing treatment, and pain & suffering.
Most car accident lawsuits are handled on a contingency basis, meaning that you don’t pay any money up front, and nothing for any case fees or experts associated with your settlement. Most car accident attorneys will ask you for fee only when your case is won, and that fee is generally a percentage of your settlement, so they are incentivized to get you the biggest payout possible. Most states have a statute of limitations in which you can file a car accident claim after it happens, meaning time is limited to pursue damages. While this varies state to state, usually the statute of limitations is 1-3 years for personal injury claims.
In general, to win any possible cases of injury, you should be able to prove mainly; about the damages caused and any possible loss of income or emotional damages. Since most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis, it’s usually a good idea to speak to one and see if they can offer you any car accident settlement help.
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What are the possible circumstances & injuries where a car accident attorney can help?
- Head on collisions
- Rear Ended Accidents
- T-Boned/Side Swipe Accidents
- Multi Vehicle Accidents
- Passengers Injured In A Car Accident
- Pedestrians Injured By Motor Vehicles
- Head Trauma
- Neck Injuries
- Knee & Hip Injuries
- Chest & Rib Injuries
- Back & Spinal Injuries
Seeking Expert Opinions
An investigation is not limited to just the people and places connected directly to the incident in question. Experts can offer different perspectives that can be used to support a victim’s claims. A personal injury attorney may connect a car accident victim with several different kinds of industry experts to gain even more information about the events that led to the wreck.
Doctors, of course, are the experts most traditionally thought of when a car accident investigation occurs. The personal physician attending to the victim can provide specific details about their injuries and offer opinions on how the wreck will impact them for the rest of their life. Their thoughts on the treatment process and ongoing needs of the victim can help inform settlement costs.
The attending physician of the victim isn’t the only medical expert with valuable insight into the case. Personal injury lawyers will frequently work with doctors who specialize in expert testimony for car accident cases. These doctors may never personally treat the victim, but can offer a comprehensive and holistic perspective with authority. Such medical experts can help attorneys ensure the full weight of the victim’s plight.
Other experts may be called in to help investigators understand exactly how the incident occurred. Accident reconstruction specialists recreate accidents digitally for unique insight into what happened. Their talents are especially useful in cases that are confusing or unclear. These specialists take a scientific approach to understanding what led to a wreck. Their blended knowledge of physics, engineering and law enforcement can help clarify both the cause and effect of the at-fault driver’s actions.
Similarly, civil and mechanical engineers can be called in for their specialist opinions on the car accident. In incidents where the vehicle malfunctioned or the road’s condition played a role in the wreck, these experts can help. Their ability to look at complex problems and explain the science behind the collision can clarify fault. Partially completed road construction, gravel-laden streets and brake failures can all contribute to a wreck and can all be explained by an expert engineer.
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Understanding Insurance Policies
Depending on which state the crash occurred in, victims may be required to seek compensation for damages through the other driver’s insurance company. If the driver does not have car insurance, the victim is instead required to go through their own insurance company for compensation. This occurs in states with “at fault” car insurance requirements. In some cases, the victim may file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company, but the at-fault driver’s policy may not cover all of the damages sustained in the accident. At that point, it is up to the victim to seek additional compensation from their own insurance company to make up the difference between the coverage offered and their needs.
In “no fault” states, car accident victims must file their injury claim through their own car insurance company. Even when the other driver is completely to blame for the accident, victims may not file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. In some cases, this can causes the victim’s insurance rates to go up through no fault of their own.
A majority of car accident claims are settled without a lawsuit being filed. A personal injury lawyer can work with the insurance company to negotiate a settlement offer that is appropriate given the amount of damage done in the wreck. In some cases, no negotiation is needed and a lawyer can recommend taking the insurance company’s offer.
Many times, though, the insurance company will be eager to pay off an injured victim before they can seek the guidance of an attorney. Victims who agree to the first amount offered by the insurance company often regret their decision. Such compensation often comes with a binding agreement not to pursue any further payments related to the accident. Should injuries stemming from the crash worsen, for example, the victim will no longer be able to seek damages from the at-fault driver or their insurance company.
This highlights the importance of speaking with a lawyer after a car accident. Even if a victim does not want to sue the at-fault driver for the damage done in the wreck, an attorney should be consulted. Having a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer advocating for the victim’s legal right to compensation can be truly invaluable. They know the insurance company’s strategies and can serve as a savvy ally for the car accident victim.
Writing a Demand Letter
An attorney can help victims pen a demand letter outlining the damages they sustained in the accident. The letters often start by restating the facts surrounding the incident. Reminding the insurance company and the at-fault driver that the victim shares no blame in the incident is a good way to start advocating for an appropriate settlement. While it’s important to include all the facts in the demand letter, it’s crucial that the tone stays professional and does not exaggerate or include inflammatory language.
Information about the victim’s injuries, their prognosis and the repairs needed for their vehicle is usually included in this letter. In fact, including copies of the police report, medical bills and mechanic costs with the demand letter may be a good idea. By creating an itemized list of all of the costs associated with the wreck, victims and their lawyers outline the damage done. Everything from the cost of ambulance ride to the time off of work required to recuperate should be included on this list. Even the intangible losses like pain and suffering can be listed along with a requested amount of compensation.
Though some victims may be eager for their settlement, it’s important not to send a demand letter until they are near the end of their medical treatment. Waiting for a doctor to declare the victim stable is a good idea, as it is easy to underestimate the cost of future medical expenses before the victim is out of the woods. Known as maximum medical improvement, or MMI, this occurs when treatment is plateauing and improvements are no longer expected. Once a victim reaches MMI, they should then be prepared to send out their demand letter. Of course, victims should consult with an attorney before sending a demand letter.
The claims process can start long before MMI is reached, though. A car accident claim notification letter can be sent to the insurance company to let them know the victim intends to pursue an injury claim. While they recuperate, they are legally obligated to mitigate the damage done in the wreck, so victims should avoid activities that may make their injury worse. By following doctor’s orders and carefully tracking the care they receive, victims set themselves up for the best legal outcome possible.
Auto Accident Settlement Negotiations
Settlements are negotiated between the insurance company and the victim’s lawyer. In many cases, the insurance company will only negotiate with an attorney, making finding a lawyer of the utmost importance. The negotiation process can take several months, which may seem like a lifetime for some victims. Even in the face of negotiations that are dragging on seemingly forever, it’s important to keep things professional and to stay as calm as possible.
Though rare, it’s possible for insurance companies to reassign or misplace a claim. Victims waiting to hear about their settlements should keep a calendar of their communications with the company. Should they go more than a few weeks without being contacted, the victim should reach out for an update. By remaining patient but firm with the insurance company, victims ensure that their claim is being handled.
Accepting the Offer
Ultimately, it is up to the victim whether or not to accept the insurance company’s offer. To decide, they should look at how far apart the demand and the offer are and how likely it is that they would receive more in court. Keeping in mind the costs associated with filing a lawsuit, they may opt to accept the offer even if it is less than what they feel they deserve. The time it will take to go through this process, along with the uncertainty of the outcome should also be taken into account.
A good personal injury lawyer will offer their opinion on whether or not to accept an offer. Because they handle car accident claim settlements on a daily basis, they will have a good idea of how a lawsuit may or may not work out. At the end of the day, though, accepting an auto accident claim settlement is the decision of the victim.
Rejecting an Offer
If a victim decides the offer is simply too low to accept, their attorney can help them draft a letter demanding a higher amount. The letter should include reasons why a higher settlement is required and demand for a specific amount. Counter offers should be lower than the initial demand to indicate that the victim is willing to compromise. Still, it is important not to sacrifice too much in the name of flexibility. Reduce the settlement too much and the victim risks the insurance company quickly accepting the offer and refusing to continue negotiations.
If an insurance company refuses to settle on a fair amount, it may constitute bad faith insurance practices. The victim may choose to pursue legal action against the company. Contacting an attorney who specializes in litigating bad faith insurance claims is highly recommended.
Finding an Auto Accident Attorney
Whether you’re in need of some basic guidance from a car accident lawyer or need to pursue legal action after a bad faith insurance claim, Lawsuit Info Center can connect you with the top lawyers in the United States. Free, no risk legal consultations are just a phone call away, and there is never any obligation to hire an attorney. Call 877-205-4877 today to connect with a lawyer specializing in your area of need.
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Frequently Asked Questions:
Can you sue if you are in a car accident?
While the answer to this question is almost always yes (technically, you can sue just about anyone for just about anything), the better question is probably SHOULD you sue if you are in a car accident.
The process of filing a car accident lawsuit can be a long one, so whether or not you should sue is one that should be considered. Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering whether to sue after a car accident or not:
- Were you injured, did you miss work, and was the damage to your vehicle substantial?
- Is the insurance company offering a settlement already? If so, is it adequate to cover the damages above?
- Were you at fault or partially at fault for the auto accident?
The first two questions pertain to the thought process you probably want to go through if you were injured in a car accident and not at fault. If there were substantial damages, injuries, and/or lost income, and the insurance company is not offering a settlement or offering something very low, you should probably consider filing a car accident lawsuit. If the settlement offer is enough to fairly compensate your damages, you will need to decide whether it’s worth the time, effort, and expenses (while most car accident attorneys don’t charge any money up front or out of pocket, they are compensated as a percentage of the settlement, usually 33%, which can be a lot of money). If you can avoid the time and hassle of filing a lawsuit, and still get fairly compensated for your car accident injuries, you may be better off settling.
If you’re found at fault, generally you won’t win a lawsuit in court. However there are many instances where partial fault is attributed to both parties, and those are often sorted out in a car accident lawsuit.
In any event, you should probably discuss your options with an experienced car accident lawyer in your state and decide the best course of action.
How long does it take to settle a lawsuit from a car accident?
How long it will take to get a settlement and a check depends upon three major factors:
- Treatment must be completed, or maximum medical improvement must occur. After a car accident with serious injuries, it could take weeks or months for you to complete your treatments, or to attain maximum medical improvement. It is important to wait until one of these occur; you do not want to take a quick settlement immediately after the accident, only to discover that your ‘minor neck pain’ turns out to be a ruptured disc that take a year to fully heal.
- All medical bills and records must be obtained. To get the case settled faster, it is critical to have all your medical records and bills delivered to your attorney ASAP. Settlement before a lawsuit is almost always based solely on what is in your medical records and medical bills. How those records reflect on the nature and state of your injuries are the most variable part that insurance companies will use to determine what the value of the claim is.
- Waiting for a response from demand letter. After your attorney sends a settlement demand with all relevant records and bills to settle the claim, the insurance company needs time to evaluate it. Most claims should not take more than three weeks, but it can. Your attorney will need to follow up with the insurer to keep your case at the head of the line. According to some attorneys, it is common for the insurance company to have a settlement offer within 60 days.
Bear in mind that some insurance companies will start to drag their feet once the settlement has been resolved. Good attorneys stay on top of the company to make sure you get that settlement check as soon as possible.
How long does the car accident lawsuit process take?
Many car accident victims do not realize that most claims end in settlement, not at trial. Most insurance claims for accidents are resolved via settlement even before a lawsuit is filed. Lawsuits take time, which most plaintiffs do not want as they have medical bills to pay. Many insurance companies do not want to go to trial either as litigation is expensive. Also, juries are notoriously unfriendly to insurance companies, and the verdict could cost the insurer more money than a settlement.
However, if the insurance company does not respond to your demand letter in a timely way, you may need to file suit. The legal complaint on the other driver can take up to three weeks for him to respond.
Next is the discovery process. Each side of the case will request documents and information from the other side. Depositions may also be taken. This process can take weeks to months.
The trial is the last part of the process. It is possible for some car accident lawsuit trials to take place many months after the accident. The trial itself could take weeks to conclude.
This lengthy legal process is why most car accident cases settle. A lawsuit is very expensive and time-consuming for both sides.
When should I settle my car accident claim?
When you are in a car accident where the other driver was to blame, you probably filed a claim with the other person’s insurance company. But settlement negotiations are stalled. You cannot seem to get the claim settled for what your attorney thinks it is worth. Should you settle or sue?
There is one major reason to file a lawsuit after a car accident: Money. Plaintiffs do not file lawsuits unless necessary most of the time. If you and your attorney do not think the insurance company will make a fair settlement offer, then it is time to consider a lawsuit.
How far apart the plaintiff and defense should be before filing suit will depend. Lawsuits are usually filed in car accident cases where there is strong disagreement on your pain and suffering. There is no exact calculation possible for your pain and suffering; there are only educated guesses. Sometimes the plaintiff and defense will come to very different conclusions about what your pain and suffering is worth.
For example, say you and your attorney value your claim at $40,000 to $60,000. The insurance company offers $50,000. Most attorneys would advise you to settle immediately; it is not worth filing suit over only $10,000. An offer of $38,000 would probably be one to take the settlement as well. But if the insurance company low balls you with a $20,000 offer, a lawsuit is probably in order.
Can they sue me for a car accident?
Yes, you can be sued in most states if you caused a car accident with injury. Even in no fault states, you can be sued in some accidents where the damages are beyond a certain level. Being served with lawsuit documents after a car accident is stressful, but keeping calm is important to make the best decisions.
It is common to be sued months or even years after a car accident. The first thing to do is to call your insurance company and tell them you are being sued. They should already be familiar with the accident. Next, call your attorney. Next, you will need to deny or accept what is alleged.
The case at this point could go to trial, with discovery being next. But after discovery is complete, both sides will try to reach a settlement. The worst case is the case will go to trial, and you could be responsible for any judgment beyond coverage limits, but this outcome is unlikely.
How much can someone sue for a car accident?
The amount you can sue for in a car accident depends upon the severity of the accident and the damages involved. You should talk to an attorney in your area to get an idea what you case could be worth. But below are some rough guidelines for common car accident cases. Your case could involve figures much more or much less:
- Minor injuries with minor soft tissue or whiplash injuries can have settlements for $10,000 to $25,000.
- For more serious orthopedic injuries that need PT, surgery and after care, settlements can be $50,000 to $75,000.
- Spinal injuries that do not cause paralysis can be from $75,000 to $100,000.
- Injuries with paralysis will be in the high six figures or into the millions.
- Brain injuries with cognitive impairment can have settlements in the $100,000 to $250,000 range.
- A catastrophic brain injury case can involve a settlement in the millions of dollars.
- If the car accident victim died in the accident or afterwards, a wrongful death lawsuit usually will be filed for anywhere from $1 million and up.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a car accident, we can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call us at 877-205-4877 for your free, no obligation legal consultation. There is no charge and no obligation to hire an attorney.
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