The day after a car accident can be nearly as shocking as the collision itself. Depending on the severity of the crash, you may awaken to broken bones, contusions, damage to your car and more. While the previous day might have felt like a bad dream, awakening the morning after can feel like you’re stuck in a nightmare.

It’s a common feeling – one that leaves accident victims aching for the status quo. Insurance companies know how stressful the days and weeks following a wreck can be for people, and they use this knowledge to their benefit. When all you want is for things to go back to normal, the insurance company may offer up what feels like relief on a silver platter. It may be incredibly tempting, but we urge all accident victims to give the settlement a second glance before accepting.

Every case is different, which is why it’s worth consulting with a lawyer about your options.

Here are a few checkpoints to reach on the road to a fair settlement:

Reach Maximum Medical Improvement

Once you’ve signed for a cash settlement, you’ll never again be able to pursue compensation for your damages. You may not even realize the full extent of your injuries before you’re offered a settlement. While it’s reasonable to want to settle your car accident case and put the whole thing behind you, taking the first offer extended to you isn’t always the best course of action. Most attorneys will advise you to wait until you’ve reached something called Maximum Medical Improvement, or MMI, before accepting a settlement.

Should you sustain a traumatic brain injury in the wreck, for example, you’ll want to take your time healing. It can take many months to see specialists, have surgery, take medication and get physical therapy before you have a true idea of what a life post-accident will cost. While it’s impossible to predict the future, you’ll have a much clearer picture once the dust of the collision has settled.

Create a Demand Letter

Once you have a good idea of what your accident has cost you, it’s time to create a demand letter. Typically, this kind of document is created by an experienced car accident attorney. It represents the best chance – outside of a courtroom – for a victim to advocate for themselves. Demand letters allow you to set the stage for negotiations.

In the letter, you’ll outline the precise events immediately before, during and after the accident. You’ll want to point out the mistakes made by the at-fault driver, any actions you tried to use in preventing a collision, and a detailed account of the crash itself. Then, you’ll list out your damages, including medical bills and lost wages. An attorney can recommend the best place to begin negotiations; in many cases, the first figure offered by a car accident lawyer is much higher than is reasonably expected for the settlement. Starting high allows room for negotiation.

Negotiate an Offer

Don’t be surprised if your initial demands are met with a lowball offer. Insurance companies exist, first and foremost, to create profits for shareholders. They will do everything they can to save money paying out claims and settlements. Thankfully, a good lawyer will be skilled in negotiation and help you get the largest settlement possible.

While there may be some back and forth during this process, it’s important to be patient. Should negotiations stall, you may want to seek additional evidence of the impact your injuries have had on your life. A letter from a doctor or photos of your injuries may bolster your argument. A polite response with additional evidence advocating for why additional compensation is needed can go a long way!

Accept the Offer – Or Go to Court

In most cases, accident victims and insurance companies find a number they can agree upon and settle out of court. Before signing any kind of offer, be sure to go over your medical bills and be sure that the settlement will cover them, along with any future costs you might incur in your continued recovery. Make sure the offer is large enough for you to pay for attorney’s fees and any wages you lost out on because of the wreck.

Should you fail to reach an agreement, you’ll need to escalate your claim and file a lawsuit. In many cases, negotiations continue all the way up until the day of court. In most cases, insurance companies will do all they can to prevent a lawsuit. It behooves both parties to come to a mutual agreement about compensation. While you can certainly have your day in court if necessary, you risk a judge ruling in favor of the insurance company. Only an accident lawyer familiar with your case can recommend whether or not to accept a settlement offer.

Legal Advice for Accident Victims

If you’re hurt and unsure what to do after getting into a car accident, Lawsuit Info Center can help. Our site is a trove of resources that can guide you through the stress that follows a collision. Start with our car accident settlement calculator to see what your damages entail and how much your claim could be worth. Then find a local accident attorney who can help you plot out your course towards justice. While the path forward may not be immediately clear now, Lawsuit Info Center can be your guiding light!