- The process for filing a claim often depends on the state and which party is at-fault for the accident.
- In most states, injured individuals can file bodily injury insurance claims against the at-fault driver.
- No-fault states, such as Florida, mandate that drivers use their own insurance to pay for their medical bills after an accident. However, the law allows litigation if their costs exceed a specific sum.
- To increase your chances of success when filing a bodily injury claim, hire an experienced attorney and ensure you document all of your expenses.
- Seek medical treatment immediately after your injury and account for the full impact of your injuries to make the bodily injury claims process easier.
Bodily Injury CoverageBodily injury is a type of coverage possible on insurance policies such as:
Steps to Filing a Bodily Injury Claim
While all claims can vary depending on the circumstances, injuries, state laws, and insurance companies, they generally follow the same or similar steps.
Obtain a Skilled Personal Injury AttorneyHaving a skilled personal injury attorney on your side from day one will make the entire process much easier and less stressful for you. This is especially true if you have a severe or catastrophic injury. Most lawyers provide personal injury representation on a contingency basis. In other words, their ability to get paid for handling your case depends on if you receive compensation for your injuries or not. If you do, their fees will come off the top of any settlement or jury award you receive. If they don't win any money on your behalf, they won't get paid anything.
Retain All Medical Records and DocumentsYour bodily injury claim won’t be successful unless you prove that you suffered the injuries you claim you did and receive the appropriate treatments for them. Your lawyer can help you obtain, file, and store all of your medical records and bills for safekeeping. Be sure you include not just doctor or hospital bills and records but also those from laboratories or medical imaging studies such as MRIs or x-rays.
Formally File Your ClaimTake the necessary steps to file a claim. Usually, this involves calling the insurance company or reporting it online or through their app. If you have already retained an attorney, they can take this step for you. An insurance adjuster will reach out to you within a few days of filing the claim. They are the person who will collect evidence related to the accident and your injuries. After reviewing the facts and evidence, it is their job to offer you a settlement. Be forewarned that they will often try to get you to settle for much less than your claim’s value because they are banking on the fact that you need money now to pay bills and don’t want to wait. However, it’s in your best interest if you can wait for a larger settlement. When filing a bodily injury liability claim, you may need to provide:
- Your detailed description of how the accident happened
- Pictures or videos of the scene and any injuries you suffered
- Medical records and bills
- Receipts for all medical expenses you have paid
- Proof of lost wages and income—typically a statement from your employer
Review and Sign Your Settlement AgreementNegotiated settlements are often the quickest way to resolve a claim. They save money for both parties and give each more control over how the claim ends. Settlements are often easier on injured parties as they don’t have to deal with the stress of going to court. Insurance companies usually prefer settlements for their money savings and little, if any, impact on their or their client’s reputation. If the claims adjuster comes back with a settlement you and your attorney feel is full and fair, you will need to sign some paperwork stating that once you receive the settlement, you can’t pursue compensation again for the same claim. If your claim ends in denial, you can discuss the reasons with your attorney and your next steps. If the denial was unfair, you have the right to pursue legal action. You also have the right to litigate your claim if negotiations fail or you don't feel you received a full and fair settlement offer.
Begin Legal ProceedingsIf you aren't accepting a settlement or didn't receive one, the next step is to prepare your case for trial. Your personal injury attorney will take care of all of the details and discuss the specific strategies for your case with you. Keep in mind that claims may settle until the judge or jury decides the case. One drawback of litigating your claim is that the insurance company may appeal the decision if you win. This is common if the court awards you a large sum of money and can drag out your lawsuit even longer.
Tips for Filing a Bodily Injury ClaimSome bodily injury claims are simple, and some involve complex factors beyond your control. For example, whichever type of claim you have, there are some things you can do to make sure you encounter fewer bumps in the road.
Get Medical Treatment Immediately After the AccidentDon’t wait until after you file an injury claim to seek medical treatment. Doing so can cause additional medical complications later on and even complicate your bodily injury claim. Even if you feel fine, it’s possible to have injuries that aren’t obvious right away. Keep an eye out for any new symptoms or signs. You should also inform your doctor of your circumstances just in case a medical issue arises later on and you need to file a bodily injury claim. If you don't seek treatment or report your injuries immediately, the insurance adjuster will probably say that something after the accident or a pre-existing condition caused your injuries.
Document All Effects of Your InjuriesThe type and extent of injuries you suffer in a car accident will impact your compensation. For instance, a fractured wrist doesn’t have the same long-term implications as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a spinal cord injury (SCI). The more detailed your medical records are, the more successful your bodily injury claim can be. Your settlement should include all expenses arising from your injuries, not just medical costs. It’s vital to consider the financial challenges you may have to face down the road, including the loss of future income due to an inability to work or the expense of re-equipping a home to accommodate a disability arising from the accident.
Eliminate the Risk of Unnecessary Medical BillsSome clinicians will order unnecessary tests after an injury accident as they expect the insurance company to foot the bill. However, insurance adjusters are generally aware of the medical standards for testing and treating car accident injuries. Considering this, they will only provide payments for medical treatments that they believe or can confirm are reasonable and necessary. Claims adjusters are always aware of the potential for exaggerated injury claims. They won’t hesitate to send you to one of their doctors for an independent medical exam (IME) or deny that portion of your claim. Unfortunately, you must pay off any medical expenses that a settlement or court award doesn't cover. In some instances, this can pose a severe financial burden. If it's not an emergency, ensure you ask questions so that you completely understand what testing and treatment you need to receive based on your symptoms and injuries. You don't want to be the one financially responsible for unnecessary medical treatments and tests.
Will the Insurance Company Accept Liability for Your Injuries?Your bodily injury claim won’t successfully settle unless the insurance company accepts liability for your injuries. You bear the burden of proof to establish that their insured was responsible for your injuries. The insurance company must accept liability for their insured, or they will deny your claim. Proving liability means showing that the insured:
- Had a duty of care to prevent causing harm to anyone
- Breached their duty of care, or in other words, they did something wrong or failed to do what a reasonable individual should do under the same or similar circumstances.
- Directly caused your injuries through their breach of care
Proving Your Bodily Injury Claim: Evidence of Fault and DamagesThe evidence you or your attorney collect to support your claim will determine the type of settlement or court award you receive. You will need evidence to prove:
- The insured party was the party at fault for causing your injuries
- The type and extent of your injuries
- Your pain and suffering, as well as other non-economic damages
- Police reports
- Eyewitness statements
- Pictures and videos of the accident scene and your injuries
- Wage verification statements
- Your medical bills and records
- Notes you’ve kept about your bodily injury, treatments, and recovery