As the victim of a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. However, navigating the legal process to obtain a fair settlement can be complicated and stressful. Many people are unsure of how a car accident settlement actually works or what is involved. The good news is that with the help of an experienced car accident attorney, you can get the settlement you deserve in a straightforward manner.
In this article, we will walk you through the key steps of obtaining a car accident settlement, from reporting the accident to negotiating with insurance companies to filing a lawsuit if necessary. While every case is different, understanding the general framework of how these settlements are reached can help you feel more at ease during what is often a difficult time. With patience and perseverance, you can come out the other side with your medical bills and other expenses covered so you can start to move on with your life. A car accident attorney can further detail how to proceed with your case.
Determining Liability in a Car Accident
To determine liability in a car accident, several factors must be considered.
First, establish who caused the accident. The at-fault driver is typically liable for damages and injuries resulting from the crash. Liability is usually clear when one driver commits a traffic violation or reckless act like running a red light or texting while driving. If fault isn’t obvious, accident reconstruction and eyewitness accounts can help identify the responsible party.
Second, consider the severity of negligence. Even if a driver made an honest mistake, they can still be held liable. But a deliberate act, like drunk driving, shows a higher degree of negligence and warrants steeper consequences. The at-fault driver’s insurance company is responsible for compensating victims in proportion to the driver’s negligence.
Finally, check if any exceptions apply. In some cases, liability may be shared or limited. For example, if hazardous road conditions contributed to the crash, the local government could share partial liability. Or if the victim was partly at fault, the compensation amount could be reduced. Liability may also be limited by the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage limits.
In summary, determining liability in a car accident settlement depends on identifying the at-fault driver, evaluating the degree of negligence, and considering any mitigating circumstances. An experienced personal injury attorney can help assess liability in your case and pursue fair compensation. With patience and persistence, you can achieve a settlement that alleviates the burden of your accident costs.
Calculating Your Damages From a Car Accident
To determine how much compensation you may be entitled to, you'll need to calculate your damages from the accident. This includes both economic and non-economic losses.
Economic damages refer to quantifiable losses, such as:
- Medical bills: All expenses related to emergency services, hospital stays, doctor visits, physical therapy, medications, medical devices, etc. Keep records of all bills, receipts and insurance statements.
- Lost wages: If you missed work due to the injuries, calculate the total wages lost during that time. Provide pay stubs, W-2s, tax returns or other earnings statements as evidence.
Non-economic damages are more subjective losses, including:
- Pain and suffering: The physical pain, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life you've endured as a result of your injuries. Though difficult to put a price tag on, insurance companies and courts do determine reasonable compensation for pain and suffering.
- Loss of consortium: If your injuries prevent or limit intimacy with your spouse, you may claim damages for loss of companionship and affection. Provide statements from medical professionals confirming your limitations.
By thoroughly documenting all accident-related expenses, lost income, pain, suffering and other losses, you can build a strong case for maximum compensation in a settlement or court award. An experienced personal injury attorney can help evaluate the full extent of your damages and pursue the settlement you deserve.
Negotiating a Settlement With the Insurance Company
Once the insurance company has completed their investigation into the accident, they will typically make an initial settlement offer. This is usually a low offer to start the negotiation process. Do not feel obligated to accept the first offer. Instead, you can counter with a higher demand supported by facts from your case.
To determine a fair settlement amount, consider the severity of your injuries and other damages. Provide the insurance adjuster with copies of medical records, bills, photos, and details on time missed from work. Calculate a total of your financial losses and use a personal injury settlement calculator to estimate a settlement range based on the type of accident and injuries.
You can negotiate with the insurance company through calls, letters, and meetings. Explain why their offer is too low and reiterate the key points of your case. Provide a counteroffer in the appropriate range along with justification. Be willing to compromise but do not settle for less than fair compensation.
If negotiations reach an impasse, you have the option to pursue a lawsuit. This can motivate the insurance company to make a more reasonable settlement offer to avoid the cost and uncertainty of a trial. You can also consider mediation, where a neutral third party helps facilitate a compromise.
Accepting a settlement offer will require signing a release of liability. This legally bars you from pursuing further claims against the at-fault party for the accident. Make sure the settlement amount adequately covers all your costs and damages before signing. If you have lingering medical issues or may require future treatment, negotiate to keep your options open for additional compensation.
With patience and perseverance, you can negotiate a fair car accident settlement. Do not feel pressured into accepting an offer that does not meet your needs. Seek counsel from a personal injury attorney to help you navigate the process and maximize your claim.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Once you have decided to pursue legal action against the at-fault driver in your car accident, you will need to file a personal injury lawsuit. This starts the legal process to determine who is at fault and the amount of compensation you may be entitled to.
Filing the Lawsuit
To begin a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney will prepare a complaint stating the details of your accident and injuries, then file it with the court to officially commence the lawsuit. The complaint should name the at-fault driver as the defendant.
After filing, the defendant will be served with the complaint and given a chance to respond. Their insurance provider may offer an initial settlement amount at this point to avoid litigation. If unsatisfactory, the pre-trial process begins where evidence is shared between parties, witness depositions are taken, and negotiations continue.
During pre-trial, both parties work to establish fault and evaluate the severity of injuries. Your attorney will gather evidence like medical records and bills, photos of the accident scene, witness statements, and expert opinions to build your case. The defense will do the same to attempt reducing liability and damages.
If a fair settlement is not reached, the case proceeds to trial where both sides present their evidence to a judge and jury. Witnesses provide testimony and are cross-examined. The jury deliberates and determines if the defendant is liable for your injuries and the appropriate amount of compensation.
A personal injury trial and settlement can take months or years. Patience and persistence are required. While waiting, focus on your recovery. Your attorney will handle communications and negotiations to get you the maximum settlement for your losses. Though the process is complex, hiring an experienced attorney to advocate for you is key to obtaining fair compensation from the liable parties in your auto accident.
Medical Liens and Subrogation
As part of settling your car accident claim, the at-fault driver's insurance company will evaluate any liens placed on the settlement by medical providers. A lien gives a medical provider the right to part of the settlement to pay for services rendered. The two most common types of liens are medical liens and subrogation claims.
Medical liens are placed on the settlement by doctors, hospitals, physical therapists, or other healthcare professionals that treated you for injuries from the car accident. They have the right to recover the cost of the medical care and treatment they provided. The at-fault insurance company will negotiate the lien amount with the medical providers. They will try to reduce the total lien amount to increase the net settlement paid to you.
Subrogation claims are made by your own health insurance company to recover money they paid for medical bills related to the accident. Most health insurance plans have subrogation clauses that give them the right to recover costs from any settlement. The at-fault insurance company will also negotiate subrogation claims to reduce the amount, but they have to satisfy the health insurance company's subrogation rights before finalizing your settlement.
To maximize your settlement amount, provide records of all accident-related medical expenses to the insurance company. Be prepared to justify and defend the lien and subrogation amounts on the bills. You can also negotiate with medical providers and your health insurance company directly to possibly reduce their lien or subrogation claim. A personal injury attorney can help handle lien and subrogation negotiations on your behalf to increase your net settlement.
Following these steps will help you understand how medical liens and subrogation claims factor into your car accident settlement amount. With proper negotiation, the total liens and subrogation can often be reduced, resulting in more money in your pocket from the settlement.
Call Fletcher Law To Understand How Your Settlement Would Work
Once you have been in a car accident, the next steps typically involve filing a claim with the insurance companies involved and potentially pursuing a settlement. To understand how a settlement may work in your case, it is best to consult with a personal injury attorney.
A settlement is an agreement between parties to resolve a dispute without going to trial. In a car accident case, a settlement would be reached between you and the other driver’s insurance company. The settlement amount would be determined based on factors like:
- The severity of your injuries and prognosis for recovery
- Lost wages from time off work
- Damage to your vehicle
- Pain and suffering
Call Fletcher Law To Discuss Your Options
At Fletcher Law, our experienced attorneys will evaluate the details of your accident and injuries to determine a fair settlement amount to pursue. We will negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf to reach an agreement that fully compensates you for your losses. If a settlement cannot be reached, we are fully prepared to take your case to court to fight for the maximum amount you deserve.
Don’t delay - call our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We will walk you through the settlement process, answer any questions you have, and provide guidance on the best path forward based on the specifics of your case. You don’t have to go through this difficult time alone. Our dedicated legal team will stand by your side every step of the way.