How to Get Paid After a Car Accident

One thing that car accidents and injuries have in common is that they are seldom ever cheap. If you have been injured due to another driver’s carelessness or recklessness, you have undoubtedly received a lot of well-meaning advice on obtaining compensation for your injuries.

Chances are, some of what you have heard is true. However, many things need to be clarified about the personal injury claims process people use to get paid after a car accident. Here is a look at the process and some steps you can take today to begin your case.

Why You Need Money After an Accident

According to the National Safety Council, around 4.8 million people in the U.S. sought medical attention for injuries suffered in car accidents in one year. The overall cost of those injuries was estimated at around $473.2 billion, including the costs of medical care, the provision of emergency services, loss of productivity, and court costs. While the total number of injuries and expenses can be overwhelming, the cost of one injury and one accident can be overwhelming for the individual who suffers it.

The average cost of a single emergency room visit costs around $2,200, and that is just for the basic triage fees, facility fees, professional fees, and supplies. It will cost several hundred dollars extra if you need an X-ray to see if you broke a bone in the wreck. If you rode in an ambulance from the scene of an accident to the emergency room, that would likely be several hundred to more than a thousand dollars more. Do you need to say overnight in the hospital? That will cost close to $10,000, at least. Do you need surgery to repair injuries suffered in the accident? Another $10,000.

In addition to medical expenses, your injuries can prevent you from working for more than a day or two. Some injuries that are suffered in car accidents have a permanent impact on the sufferer’s ability to earn an income. The injury can also profoundly impact your quality of life, causing you to deal with chronic pain, face changes in your relationships with family or friends, and even result in mental health impacts such as depression or PTSD.

Oh, and your car needs to be repaired or replaced.

How to Get the Compensation You Need

How to Get Paid After a Car AccidentThere are many ways that someone else can cause a car accident, such as driving drunk, texting while driving, speeding, or running a red light. When someone’s negligence causes an accident in which you were hurt, you can seek compensation through your state’s personal injury claims process.

It is not easy, however. The process generally features an insurance provider who wants to avoid fairly compensating you because they are in the business to collect premiums, not cover accidents. The process can also involve filing a lawsuit. There are court formalities, deadlines, and points of frustration at every turn. However, a personal injury lawyer works within this process daily, and they play an important role in helping you get paid.

Get Yourself a Car Accident Lawyer (Yes, You Can Afford One)

It bears repeating: Yes, you can afford a car accident lawyer to help you with your claim. Most personal injury attorneys do not make you pay a retainer to look at your case. They do not charge you hundreds of dollars an hour every time they answer a phone call related to your case. Instead, most personal injury attorneys provide free case evaluations and a contingent fee billing method to ensure that anyone needing legal assistance with a personal injury claim has access.

The free case evaluation is your time with someone from the legal team. You can talk about your accident, obtain answers to your legal questions, and learn more about the services the firm can provide to assist you with your claim. You are typically under no obligation to pay for this information or hire the personal injury attorney you speak with. However, if you decide to hire an attorney to work on your case, you will likely be asked to sign a contingent fee agreement.

The contingent fee billing method means you only have to pay for your legal team’s services after compensation has been received on your claim through either outright payment, a negotiated settlement, or a court award. Instead, you enter into a contingent fee agreement. This agreement outlines the types of services your lawyer will provide and designates a percentage of the compensation you receive for your claim to be paid to your attorney.

What Is Your Case Worth?

How much money can you get for your claim? The answer to this question is more complex than you would think. The value of your case is based on more than just your medical expenses and wage loss.

You can seek compensation for all the financial and psychological impacts of car accident injuries, including lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, mental distress, and the repair or replacement of the car you were driving in the accident. However, one of the most significant factors in determining your case’s worth is how much insurance the at-fault party has.

Insurance policies generally feature policy limits, which is the maximum compensation available for the claim. It is important to remember that many car accidents feature multiple sources of liability and insurance policies that can be accessed to pay the claim.

Your attorney will likely wait until you have reached maximum medical improvement before valuing your claim. What is maximum medical improvement? In simple terms, it is the point at which your doctor says you have made the most recovery from your injury that you are likely to make, even if you are still receiving treatment.

This juncture is a good time to value the case because it gives a pretty accurate picture of your medical expenses and a glimpse into whether you have permanent injuries that will limit your income potential or require future medical intervention.

Demanding Payment from the Insurance Company

Once your attorney has established how much your claim is worth, they will submit a demand for payment of that value to the at-fault party’s insurance provider. The insurance provider has to respond to the claim. However, they have some options for how to respond.

Those options include:

  • Admitting to the insured’s liability and paying the demand as submitted. This is rare because the insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to the case when it receives the demand. The claims adjuster will evaluate the claim and determine how much compensation is owed to the claimant if they determine their insured was liable for the accident. They are looking through the lens of protecting the insurance company’s bottom line by keeping payouts as low as possible. Because of this, they do not habitually take a claimant’s attorney’s word on what the claim is worth.
  • Denying the claim. Insurance companies can deny claims for several reasons, such as the insured letting their policy lapse or the claims adjuster not believing their insured was liable. If the insurance company denies the claim, they must provide written notification of the denial to the claimant and their attorney. They also must provide a reason for the denial.
  • Offering to settle the claim for less than you demanded. Settlements are by far the most common resolution to personal injury claims. However, the initial settlement offer from the claims adjuster is generally a fraction of what the claim is worth. Your attorney can negotiate with the adjuster to convince them to increase the offer to a level that you feel fairly compensates you for your injury.

If They Do Not Pay: Sue

Insurance companies choose to settle most car accident claims not because they legitimately want to make sure you are compensated but because they want to avoid the expense, inconvenience, and uncertain outcome of litigation. If the insurance company fails to resolve your claim, you can file the claim as a personal injury lawsuit. This is a legal complaint filed in civil court that asks a court to review the case and a judge or jury to decide on matters of liability and compensation.

If you file a lawsuit, does that mean the case will go to trial? Not necessarily. In fact, not likely. The settlement process does not end when a lawsuit is filed. Settlements can occur at any time before the court renders a decision. Filing the lawsuit is often the catalyst for more productive settlement negotiations because the insurance provider knows they are going to court if they do not resolve the claim.

While your attorney is continuing to negotiate a settlement, they will also likely perform other services in preparation for litigation, such as deposing witnesses. Witness depositions are a type of out-of-court sworn testimony that attorneys use to obtain additional evidence and information that can be used to support the case.

The defendant’s legal counsel can also conduct depositions and request an independent medical examination of your injuries. If either of these two situations occur, rest assured your attorney will help you prepare for the experience.

Your attorney will also be filing court motions and responding to motions made by the defendant’s legal counsel. Your attorney will represent your case at all pretrial conferences and —if a jury trial is to be held in the matter—will be present for jury selection.

Getting Paid

Once your claim has been resolved through an accepted settlement agreement or a court award, your compensation will be sent directly to your attorney. They will place the proceeds in a trust.

From that trust, they will do two things:

  1. Settle any medical liens placed on the award by group health insurers or health care providers. When a car accident occurs, health care providers will often provide treatment, or health insurance providers will cover the expenses of the accident and assert a legal claim for payment of these expenditures on a settlement or court award received by the claimant.
  2. Withdraw the agreed-upon percentage for the legal team’s payment in accordance with the contingent fee agreement.

Once any medical liens have been settled, and your legal team has been paid for their services, you and the attorney will meet to finalize your case. You will be provided with an accounting of the services provided, the amount received, and expenditures from that amount, and the remainder of the compensation will be turned over to you.

Liability Matters: Who Is at Fault and How to Get Them to Pay

State laws require every driver on the roadway to carry minimum amounts of liability insurance. When you are in a car accident, establishing liability will play a role in your reaching an agreement on compensation for your injuries. Regardless of how much insurance a driver carries, if you cannot prove they are liable for your injuries, the insurance company will not pay for your losses.

Some of the potentially liable parties after a car accident include:

  • Drivers operating recklessly – When a driver fails to obey traffic signals including speed limit signs and causes an accident, they can be held liable for any injuries that occur because of their reckless behavior.
  • Employer of the driver – In some instances, the driver may drive a company vehicle or work for a rideshare service. Depending on the facts surrounding the accident, the employer may bear partial liability for the losses suffered by a victim.
  • Government agency – If road conditions were partially to blame for a car accident, it may be necessary to file a claim against a government entity. These claims have special requirements and may be more complicated than simply notifying an insurance agency.
  • Other parties – You might hold other parties liable for injuries you suffered in a car accident. Speak with your car accident attorney to make sure you know what documents you will need to provide to show other parties may be partially liable for your injuries.

The first step in a car accident claim is establishing fault. The accident will require a full investigation, and the best way to do this is to work with a lawyer who has experience handling complicated accident cases. It’s always a good idea to choose someone who has a proven track record of successful car accident settlements. While an attorney’s track record will not always mean they can obtain a settlement on your behalf, a strong track record does indicate they advocate on behalf of their clients effectively to make sure they get the compensation they deserve for their injuries.

Documenting Losses Before Filing a Claim

Another important step in getting the compensation you deserve is making sure you have kept good records. Every insurance company wants to make sure they pay as little as possible in claims because it helps keep their bottom line in the black. Insurers get income from premiums. The more premiums they collect, the better. The other side is that the less they can settle claims for, the healthier their bottom line remains. Insurers will take whatever legal steps they can to minimize the amount they pay for compensation following an accident.

Here are some of the losses you can incur, and how to document them:

  • Documenting medical expenses – Your medical bills start mounting the minute you see the first doctor following a car accident. The longer it takes you to recover, the higher those bills will be. Be sure you keep track of each doctor’s visit, including visits for physical therapy and rehabilitation therapy. If you have had a surgical procedure, make sure you have copies of the bills for all the parties involved—remember this usually involves bills from the hospital where you had the surgery, the surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and laboratory for any pre- and post-operative lab work. Document any medical expenses associated with the injuries you sustained in a car accident.
  • Lost wages following an accident – Do not assume the only compensation you are entitled to following an accident is your hourly wages or salary. There are other types of compensation you could be losing because you are at home recovering from your injury. This may include holiday pay, sick pay, matching deposits to your retirement fund, and more. Talk to your attorney about your true wage losses and they can explain what options you have for filing a lost wage claim.
  • Other losses – If they are unable to complete daily tasks due to their injuries, some victims find it necessary to hire help. Talk to your lawyer about this. If you can document these losses, you can include them in the demand for the settlement of your accident injury claim.

You may pursue other compensation following a car accident, including damage to your vehicle and other damaged personal property. Your attorney will discuss all possible sources of compensation with you before filing a demand claim with the insurance company.

Steps to Take When an Insurance Company Offers a Settlement

Being out of work means you have less money coming in, but your bills remain the same—and in some respects, they are higher because you must now deal with other costs like prescription drugs and doctor visits. This makes it tempting to listen eagerly when an insurer contacts you and offers you a settlement.

Do not get fooled!

Insurance companies know full well you are facing mounting medical bills and a loss of income. Because of this, they make what appears to be a good offer and hope you will accept it immediately. In some cases, they will try to tell you this is the maximum amount they will offer. They may even tell you there is no need to involve a lawyer. Do not accept any settlement without first talking to an experienced attorney.

When an insurer offers a settlement, there are “hidden” strings attached. Let’s say, for example, you suffer an injury that will require future surgical procedures. You will be out of work for at least six months as you recover. While you may trust the insurance company to do the right thing, the fact is they are attempting to minimize their liability. By offering you a fast settlement, they are trying to get themselves free of the possibility of needing to pay more money later. All settlement agreements have language that states that once you accept them, the insurance company has no future liability. That could be bad for you in the long run, especially if your injury requires ongoing care or results in long-term separation from employment.

Filing a Settlement Demand for Your Losses

Once your car accident injury lawyer has determined the full amount of your losses and you are on the road to recovery, they will send a demand notice to the insurance company. Only after this step will negotiations begin. The demand to the insurer will include the reason for the claim amount and specify a time frame for them to respond. The insurer will respond with a counteroffer. Rinse and repeat.

You remain in full control of this process. Your lawyer will keep you informed of any offers made on your behalf and give you their best advice as to what options are still available to you. When a lawyer tells you they believe the insurance company is not negotiating in good faith, you will need to decide whether or not to file a car accident lawsuit.

Keep in mind, your attorney will only get paid for their legal services after they have secured a settlement or award on your behalf. The goal is always to fully compensate you for your losses, and whenever possible, to compensate you for the pain and suffering resulting from your injuries.

Car accidents turn your life upside down. Serious injuries that result in weeks or months away from your job also impact your future career development, your family, and your coworkers.

In addition to your body, a serious injury hurts your finances. In the immediate aftermath of an accident you may only notice the loss of income or reduction in your income, but the longer your recovery time, the more devastating the financial impact.

You don’t need to suffer the financial impact of an accident that was not your fault. Working with an attorney helps ensure the person responsible for your injuries is held financially accountable.

While traveling the roadways, you do everything possible to make sure you remain safe. But when another driver has shown careless disregard for the safety of others and you’ve paid the price in the form of an injury, they must be held accountable. Contact Stewart J. Guss Injury Accident Lawyers today for more legal advice!

Why Today Is the Best Time to Talk With a Car Accident Lawyer

Every state has a statute of limitations on personal injury claims. This is the maximum amount of time for the claimant to file a lawsuit in court. For example, most people seeking compensation in Texas after being injured in a car accident have two years from the date of the injury in which to file their claim. Claimants in Louisiana generally only have one year.

While this deadline seems far-off and arbitrary, meeting the statute of limitations is a significant part of getting paid for the expenses and impacts of your injury.

If you fail to file a lawsuit by the time the statute of limitations expires, you will almost always be barred from using the court process to seek compensation for your injuries. Without the ability to litigate the case, you are not likely to find an insurance company willing to settle the claim either because they are no longer legally required to pay it.

Your personal injury attorney will manage the process to ensure that there is time to file the claim in court, but the sooner they can get to work on the case, the better.

Set up a free case evaluation with an experienced legal team to get started today.


Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers
12777 Jones Rd #297
Houston, TX 77070
(281) 664-6500

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