If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, take the following steps to protect your health and your legal rights:
- Check for Injuries and Get Medical Help: Your health is your first priority. Check yourself and others involved for injuries. Call an ambulance if needed. Even if you feel fine, it’s a good idea to get a medical checkup after an accident since some injuries might not be immediately apparent.
- Call the Police: It’s generally a good idea to report the accident to the police. They can file a report, which can be useful later if you make an insurance claim or if there’s a dispute about what happened.
- Document the Scene: If you’re able, take pictures of the accident scene, your vehicle, and any injuries you’ve sustained. Also, take note of the other driver’s license plate number, the make and model of the car, and their insurance information.
- Collect Witness Information: If there were any witnesses to the accident, collect their contact information. Their statements could be crucial in determining fault.
- Notify Your Insurance Company: Inform your insurance company about the accident as soon as possible.
- Keep Track of Your Medical Treatment: Keep detailed records of any medical treatment you receive related to the accident. This includes doctors’ visits, physical therapy, medications, and any other treatment you receive.
What Steps Should I Take When Injured in an Auto Accident?
Here are the steps you should take when injured in an auto accident:
- Seek Medical Attention: Even if your injuries seem minor, it’s essential to get checked out by a healthcare professional immediately following the accident. This will document the injuries and their connection to the accident.
- Notify Relevant Parties: You should report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. If you plan to seek compensation for your injuries, you should also notify the other party’s insurance company.
- Document Everything: This includes photographs of the accident scene and your injuries, medical bills, receipts for related expenses, wage loss information, and anything else that demonstrates the impact the accident has had on your life.
- Consult with an Attorney: Particularly if you’ve been seriously injured, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney. They can advise you on your rights, represent you in dealings with insurance companies, and potentially represent you in a lawsuit if necessary.
Role of an Insurance Adjuster
An insurance adjuster, also known as a claims adjuster, is a person who investigates insurance claims on behalf of an insurance company. They inspect the damage, review the circumstances of the accident, and determine how much the insurance company should pay on a claim.
The adjuster might ask you questions about the accident, review medical records, and possibly inspect your vehicle or the accident scene. Remember that the adjuster works for the insurance company, and their goal is to minimize the amount the company pays out.
What Does the Notification Step Entail?
The notification step involves informing all relevant parties about the accident. This includes your own insurance company and, if you’re seeking compensation for your injuries, the other party’s insurance company as well. When you report the accident, you’ll generally need to provide details about where and when it occurred, the parties involved, and the nature of any injuries or damage.
Report the accident promptly. There may be deadlines for reporting accidents and submitting claims, so failing to report the accident in a timely manner could potentially affect your ability to receive compensation. When you report the accident, it’s important to stick to the facts and avoid admitting fault or providing unnecessary details. If you’re unsure what to say, it might be wise to consult with an attorney first.
What Does the Investigation Step Entail?
During the investigation step, both insurance companies will seek to understand the circumstances of the accident to determine fault and the extent of the damages. This can involve several activities:
- Reviewing the Accident Report: If the police were called to the scene, they would typically prepare a report detailing the accident. This report often contains crucial information that can help determine who was at fault.
- Examining Evidence from the Scene: Insurance adjusters may review any photographs or videos of the scene, inspect the vehicles involved, and consider any other physical evidence.
- Interviewing Witnesses: If there were witnesses to the accident, insurance adjusters might contact them to get their account of what happened.
- Reviewing Medical Records: Insurance adjusters will likely want to review your medical records relating to the accident. They’ll be looking to see what injuries you suffered, what treatment you received, and what your prognosis is.
- Estimating Property Damage: This involves determining the cost of repairing or replacing any damaged property, such as your car.
When Do the Negotiations Begin?
Once the investigation is complete and the insurance companies have determined who was at fault and what the damages are, negotiations can begin. This is when the insurance companies or the involved parties discuss a potential settlement to compensate for any injuries or damages. If you’ve hired a lawyer, they will typically handle the negotiations on your behalf.
What Should I Know About the Settlement Process?
During the settlement process, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
- Patience is Key: The settlement process can take time, especially if there are disagreements about fault or the extent of the damages. Be patient and avoid accepting a quick settlement that doesn’t fully compensate you for your damages.
- Keep Records: You should keep detailed records of all your medical expenses, repair costs, lost wages, and other costs related to the accident. These will be crucial in determining a fair settlement.
- Don’t Speak with the Other Side Without an Attorney: If you’ve hired an attorney, you should not speak with the other party’s insurance company or attorney without your attorney present. They might try to get you to say things that could harm your case or to accept a lowball settlement offer.
- Consider Future Costs: When considering a settlement offer, be sure to consider any future costs related to your accident, such as ongoing medical treatment or future lost wages.
- Settlements Are Typically Final: Once you accept a settlement, it’s typically final. You usually can’t go back and ask for more money later if your injuries turn out to be worse than you thought or if you have additional expenses. Make sure a settlement fully compensates you before you accept it.
What Will Happen if We Don’t Settle?
If negotiations do not result in a settlement, the next step may be to file a lawsuit. This can occur when the parties disagree about who was at fault, the extent of the injuries or damage, or the amount of compensation that should be paid.
When a lawsuit is filed, the case may go to trial, where a judge or a jury will hear the evidence and make a decision. However, even after a lawsuit is filed, the parties can still reach a settlement before the trial begins or even while it’s underway.
It is possible to sue the insurance company. In fact, this is fairly common in cases where an insurance claim is denied or a settlement offer is inadequate. The insurance company can be sued for a variety of reasons, including bad faith, breach of contract, or unfair claims practices.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me With My Car Insurance Problem?
While it is possible to negotiate with an insurance company or even file a lawsuit on your own, it can be a complex and challenging process. An experienced insurance lawyer can help ensure your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you deserve.
If you’re dealing with an insurance claim after a car accident, it’s recommended that you consult with an attorney before accepting any settlement offers or making any decisions that could affect your rights. An attorney can help you understand your options, advise you on the best course of action, and represent your interests in negotiations or court proceedings.
LegalMatch can connect you with an experienced attorney in your area. Whether you’re dealing with an insurance claim, a dispute over fault, or a lawsuit, a skilled attorney can provide the advice and representation you need to navigate the legal process and protect your rights. Don’t hesitate to take the first step toward resolving your car insurance issue. Find an attorney who can help today.