“Did you suffer injuries in a car accident? Contact a lawyer today!”
“Do you need to file a claim after a car accident? An attorney can help!”
You’ve probably seen billboards or heard commercials with these lines before, but you probably don’t seriously consider the value of an attorney until you or a loved one get in a car accident.
You know the other driver caused the collision. You might even have the police report to help prove it. So do you have to have a lawyer to move forward with your claim? Can you get a settlement for a car accident without a lawyer? Let’s explore some options.
Filing An Insurance Claim After A Car Accident
Most people know the first thing they need to do after a car accident, after calling the police to the scene and receiving necessary medical attention, is to contact an insurance company. It’s the first step on the path to getting compensation for accident expenses.
You might call your own insurance company to learn more about your next steps, but you may also recognize that your insurance company won’t cover all of your expenses. Either way, you have to decide whether to contact the insurance companies yourself or to hire a car accident lawyer to do so.
You are always better off talking to a lawyer before taking on an insurance company and its team of lawyers. Start there.
Here’s what to expect when you partner with a car accident attorney.
If You Only Suffered Property Damage
If you did not suffer any physical injury in your auto accident—and you let a doctor evaluate you for any hidden injuries—you may only need to pursue compensation for the damage to your vehicle and other personal property.
If you seek compensation solely through your own insurance, you might recover compensation by filing the claim yourself, especially if you have comprehensive coverage. However, you might need to use the at-fault driver’s insurance in addition to your own coverage to cover all property expenses.
If you suffered substantial property damage, the other driver’s insurer may push back more aggressively against your claim. If your case requires robust investigation to determine fault or involves substantial damage to your vehicle and other personal property, you need a lawyer to help you get the full compensation you deserve for your damaged vehicle.
In Cases Of Disputed Liability
Sometimes, it might not be immediately apparent who caused the car accident. It’s possible both drivers contributed to the accident. In other cases, the other driver may try to claim that you caused the accident, even though you know they’re at fault!
If a dispute arises over liability or how much to blame each driver for an accident, you need a lawyer.
To recover under the liable driver’s insurance policy, you need clear evidence that they caused the accident, or were at least mostly responsible for it. This can make the claims process more difficult. You might not know how to prove that the other driver caused the accident or what you deserve in compensation. Furthermore, you’ll have a hard time collecting appropriate evidence, especially if you are healing from physical injuries.
An experienced car accident lawyer has the knowledge and resources to prove the other driver’s fault—and back it up with evidence. This puts you in a better position to pursue the compensation you deserve, even if your accident only involved property damage and not a serious injury.
If You Suffered Severe Injuries
Severe injuries are more costly to treat, and thus they can make a claim more complicated. The insurance company will fight harder to avoid covering your medical expenses.
Some states require drivers to carry personal injury protection insurance or PIP. PIP covers some of the immediate medical expenses associated with your accident, regardless of fault.
If you suffer injuries in a car accident, you will provide your PIP insurance information to the medical care providers you go to immediately after the accident. You may not need to pursue further compensation through the other driver’s insurance company.
However, many car accident victims suffer more serious injuries that exceed the protection offered by their PIP coverage. While your PIP coverage might be enough to cover treatment of broken bones or soft tissue damage, injuries like traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and internal damages can be extremely expensive to treat. The medical bills for these injuries may continue to add up for a long time after your initial accident, perhaps indefinitely. In the case of severe injuries, you might need to try to recover a substantial amount through the other party’s insurer—and you can bet that they will try to find a way to deny coverage.
Trying to handle your claim for severe injuries on your own is typically very difficult, especially as severe injury victims need to focus on their health recovery. Any time you suffer injuries in a car accident, you should consult an attorney to see how they can help you.
What Happens If You Handle Your Claim On Your Own?
You might know that it could help to work with a lawyer to handle your car accident claim, but for whatever reason, you decide that you want to try bringing your claim on your own.
What challenges will you face?
The Insurance company may try to prove that you caused the accident.
The more serious your injuries from a car accident, the more compensation you have to ask for, and the more the insurance company may try to minimize the compensation it has to pay out. Insurance companies commonly try to prove that you either caused or contributed to the accident, so they can deny your claim or at least pay out less. This can leave you to figure out how to pay a substantial amount in medical bills and car repair expenses on your own.
Working with an attorney, on the other hand, can help you prove that you did not cause the accident and that, in fact, you deserve the compensation laid out in your claim.
An attorney can help in many ways. For one, an attorney can determine whether other parties may share liability for the accident. Did the person who caused your accident drive a faulty vehicle with a manufacturing error? Was the other driver on the job at the time of the accident, and did the driver’s employer act negligently by encouraging the driver to take unnecessary risks to save time?
You need answers to these and other questions to determine who you should hold accountable for your injuries. An attorney knows the questions to ask and can help you pursue compensation from all potentially liable parties.
The Insurance company may try to get you to accept a low settlement offer.
Most people do not immediately know how much money they actually deserve in compensation from a car accident that includes serious injuries. You might be aware it includes some of your medical bills and lost wages. But to what extent? What about other harms, such as the pain and suffering you have experienced?
Some car accident victims who handle their own claims fall into the trap of accepting a settlement offer without determining the full costs they will face because of their injuries. If you only pursue compensation for your initial medical costs, you miss out on compensation for future years of medical expenses, especially if you suffered severe injuries with chronic effects and lifelong medical costs.
The sad truth is many insurance companies are more focused on their bottom line than on making sure their clients get all the compensation they need to treat their accident injuries.
When an insurance company makes an initial settlement offer, especially soon after the accident, it probably doesn’t reflect the compensation you really deserve.
The initial settlement offer likely reflects only a fraction of the compensation you really deserve for your car accident injuries. If you accept the offer, though, you’re out of luck and you waive the right to any future compensation. Don’t get stuck with bills you can’t afford!
A lawyer can help you review settlement offers from an insurance company and determine whether they are fair and sufficient to cover your expenses. In some cases, you may be tempted to accept the insurance company’s initial settlement and not negotiate much. You need the money fast, and you don’t want to wait, even if it could increase the compensation you could recover. Or you might have other reasons for wanting to resolve your claim as quickly as possible. Even if you think the first settlement offer will be enough, however, you should still consult an experienced car accident attorney to get advice and discover what alternatives are available to you.
The Insurance company may try to deny coverage of all your medical expenses.
The bulk of car accident injury compensation often covers medical bills, such as necessary operations or treatments, or ongoing therapies and medications. There is a potentially wide range of medical expenses you may be able to claim. For instance, you may require special medical equipment to get around your home or go out in public.
The insurance company may deny the validity of your injuries or the expenses for which you are seeking compensation. The insurance company may attempt to deny more or less of your claim related to your medical expenses. The following are some common reasons they might cite for denial.
The Insurance company may try to claim that you sustained some injuries or limitations at another time.
If you suffered another injury before your accident or had a preexisting condition that your car accident could have made worse, the insurance company may claim that you want compensation for medical issues you already had, rather than for expenses resulting directly from the car accident. Or, the insurance company may suggest some event after the car accident was the actual cause of your injury. Either way, they will try to deny your claim by blaming some other event or condition than the car accident for your injuries.
The Insurance company may claim that you did not really need a specific treatment related to your injuries.
You and your healthcare provider will carefully work out a plan for your care that includes the specific treatments you need for your injuries. This may include surgeries, physical therapy, or ongoing medical procedures.
Sometimes, however, insurance companies try to claim that you do not really need one or more things in your treatment plan, or that you chose an unnecessarily more expensive option when a less expensive alternative would have worked just as well.
The insurance company may claim a procedure you had was merely for cosmetic benefit, unrelated to your actual needs stemming from the car accident. If the insurance company denies that certain medical expenses are related to the accident or thinks they are unnecessary to treat your injuries, it could deny coverage for such expenses.
The Insurance company may try to prove that your injuries do not cause the limitations you claimed.
Car accident injuries can cause devastating limitations in a victim’s work and leisure activities, and even one’s ability to perform basic self-care.
The insurance company, however, may not want to acknowledge that your injuries really cause such limitations. In some cases, the insurance company may try to prove, for example, that you can return to work much sooner than you claim, or that your injuries do not actually prevent you from going about life as you used to.
While you may suffer from depression after your accident, the insurance company may try to disclaim responsibility for paying for therapy. An attorney can help fight for the compensation you really deserve for tangible and intangible losses.
If you suffered injuries in a car accident, do not try to handle your car accident claim on your own. Instead, turn to an experienced car accident attorney for the assistance you need.