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How to Settle a Car Accident Claim Without a Lawyer
Car accidents happen every day. In fact, over three million people are injured in those crashes every year. If a car accident injures you, you’re likely wondering if hiring a car accident lawyer is necessary. Indeed, you may want to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer.
There are a few steps you will have to take before you attempt to settle your personal injury case without an attorney:
- Investigate the accident and gather evidence. Hopefully, you took pictures of the accident scene and the damages to the cars involved. You should also get the contact information of other drivers, passengers, and any other witnesses. Of course, if the police responded, you will want a copy of any police reports.
- Who caused the accident? You will have to identify the liable parties.
- Are there any insurance coverage issues? For instance, was the at-fault driver underinsured? Did he not have any insurance coverage?Are there any legal issues? For example, did you get into a car accident with the vehicle of a state or local government agency? There are special rules and time limits if you are going to file a car accident claim against the government. Are there any statute of limitations issues with your case?
- Gather all medical records, including medical expenses, names, and addresses of treating doctors, records of physical therapy visits, etc. You will want to document the pain and suffering you went through.
- You then have to identify and calculate the value of all your damages.
- Next, prepare a demand letter to the insurance company for the at-fault driver. You will have to clearly describe how the accident happened. Also, you will have to outline why you believe the at-fault driver caused the accident.
- Likewise, in your demand letter, you will describe your injuries and damages. This goes beyond the physical damages done to your vehicle and any injuries you suffered. Total up the expenses you’ve incurred since your accident happened. Certainly, include everything from car repairs and medical expenses to income lost from missing work.
- Lastly, you will make a settlement demand based on your damages.
Certainly, it’s tough to juggle these tasks with no legal support. Moreover, you’ll have to do it all before running into a statute of limitations problem.
And what if you are still recovering from car accident injuries?
At some point, the insurance company will respond. You will have to speak with an adjuster for the company.
The adjuster will review the damage done to your car and any medical bills you have relating to the accident. They’ll also review the medical records you gave them.
The adjuster may also have spoken to any witnesses, including passengers, to the accident.
However, they will want to hear your version of the accident. And in deciding to settle your car accident claim without an attorney, have you considered whether you were in any way responsible for the accident? For instance, were you driving over the speed limit because you were late for an appointment?
Or were you distracted because you took a call or were checking your car navigation system?
In fact, you can bet the other driver gave his version of the accident to the insurance company adjuster-and it may differ from yours.
Insurance Adjusters Negotiate for a Living
You will try to settle with the insurance adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company. However, negotiating with insurance adjusters is not easy. In fact, they negotiate claim settlements for a living-do you? Sure, you may have negotiated with a car salesperson when you bought your last car.
Or perhaps you negotiated with the seller of your home when you bought it a few years ago.
But insurance adjusters and/or insurance company attorneys negotiate the settlement of claims every day.
And any settlement offers you get without an attorney will be low. So, if you don’t get an offer you think is fair, what are you going to do? Will you go to court against an experienced insurance defense attorney? An attorney who may have handled dozens of car accident cases.
Factors That Affect the Amount of Car Accident Settlements
Many factors affect the settlement value of car accident case:
Insurance companies are only required to pay persons injured in a car accident caused by their insured up to the policy limits. Therefore, if the victim was seriously injured or killed, and the damages are greater than the policy limits, the insurance company will only pay up to the policy limit.
Of course, the injured person can sue the insured for the unpaid damage amount. But if it is substantial, most people don’t have the assets to pay thousands of dollars in a serious car accident injury case.
Certainly, when liability is clear in a car accident case, there will be a larger settlement. The insurer representing the driver who is at fault for the crash will accept responsibility and likely provide a reasonable settlement offer with the goal of avoiding a lawsuit.
However, if it is not clear who caused the accident, no settlement may be forthcoming. Likewise, if both drivers negligently caused the accident, a settlement offer may be lower.
In some states, called contributory negligence states, if a driver is even 1% at fault for a collision, he cannot collect any compensation from the other motorist who was mostly to blame.
Alternatively, in pure comparative negligence states, a driver may collect damages from another negligent driver for injuries, even if the other driver was mostly at fault. For example, a driver 75% responsible for a crash could still pursue a claim against the other motorist. That driver could receive compensation for 25% of their losses.
However, in modified comparative negligence states, a driver who is also at fault can pursue a claim for damages if he is not 50% or 51% responsible for the crash. Again, the reduced settlement amount would reflect the driver’s share of the fault.
Severity of Injuries
Severity of injury is a major factor determining typical car accident settlement amounts. If a car accident injury is a sprained ankle or knee, the insurance company will only offer a low number (under $5,000).
Conversely, if someone gets a serious head or neck injury, personal injury lawyers would seek a high settlement (over $100,000).
Finally, the extent of the injured person’s financial loss affects a typical car accident case. Certainly, this includes losses related to injuries, such as a lost wage claim, as well as losses related to property damage.
Consequently, if a motorist sustained substantial losses because of missed work, medical bills, and extensive property damage, personal injury accident lawyers will push for a higher settlement.
Consider Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
While it is possible to represent yourself in court and settle a car accident claim without hiring a car accident law firm, it’s not the best idea.
Certainly, a car accident lawyer will have extensive experience helping accident victims get the money they deserve. Moreover, they can streamline the settlement process so you get your money more quickly.
Likewise, if you have to sue the other driver, your personal injury lawyers will prepare your case for trial. And they will be able to forcefully represent you in court.
In addition, they will be prepared to rebut any defenses raised by the insurance company attorneys and argue on your behalf before the trial judge.
Lastly, they can give any legal advice if there are complicated or unusual legal issues that arise with your case.
Experienced and Knowledgeable Car Accident Lawyer
As you can tell, we don’t believe it is a good idea for a person injured in a car accident to represent themselves. For the reasons outlined above, if a car accident caused by a negligent driver injures you, a close friend, or a loved one, you need an experienced car accident injury attorney.
We will investigate the accident and fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us at our Hammond office at 219-200-2000 or online at alexmendozalaw.com for a free consultation.