If you've been injured in an auto accident, there's a good chance that you're entitled to some form of compensation. Auto insurance policies often cover the costs associated with injuries incurred as a result of an accident. Also, even if you're found to be primarily at fault, there could be an opportunity to recover some money based on the percentage that the other driver contributed to the circumstances that caused the crash.
In these cases, you'll be contacted by an insurance adjuster and given an offer. By accepting this offer, you waive your right to pursue further compensation from the other motorist or the insurance company. However, the first offer you receive is rarely their best one. The good news is that, if you follow a relatively simple progression that starts immediately after the incident, you'll know how to proceed when that call comes.
Step 1. Collect All Your Records
A lot of paperwork is created when an auto accident happens. Police reports, witness testimony, and medical bills are just some of the documents that you'll need to have at the ready when it's time to determine your settlement. Incomplete records can often lead to difficult estimations of a fair settlement—and can kill a case should it go to trial.
The best way to prevent this scenario is to never find yourself in it. To accomplish that, you should keep a folder starting from the first day you arrive home after the accident. In this folder, place any and all paperwork that you think is even remotely related to the incident. Receipts, pay stubs with missing days, even police blotter reports from the local newspaper can help ensure that you have all of the information you need.
Step 2. Keep a Running Total
Assuming you're keeping a meticulous folder, the next step is to begin a running tally of the expenses that have come about as a result of the crash. Damaged property and medical bills are certainly a big part of that total. That said, the cost of an auto wreck often goes beyond those basic categories.
If you were required to take a personal day from work in order to take your car to the shop, log it at your daily rate. Any missed payments, late fees, or other penalties brought about by financial hardship should also enter into your tally. You'll be surprised at just how much these categories can contribute to the overall total.
Step 3. Know When to Say No
At some point, the adjuster is going to contact you with an offer. If you have your folder and your running tally, you'll know right away if the offer is reasonable or not. Even if the offer appears close to your total, though, you'll need to consider a few things.
First, there is the issue of your pain and suffering. You're entitled to something for those issues, particularly if the other driver was at fault. Also, insurance settlements are a negotiation; there's almost no way that the company's first offer represents their best one. Don't worry, though—over 95% of personal injury lawsuits don't go to trial. Rejecting the first offer isn't going to doom you to a messy jury trial.
Step 4. Don't Be Afraid to Ask For Help
The circumstances of your accident might make it extremely difficult to know whether your offer is a fair one or not. On top of that, without a complete understanding of the legal landscape in your area, you won't know how much your individual hardships are worth in a courtroom. If you feel that your rights have been violated after taking these steps, your next call should be to an attorney through law firms like Gibbs and Parnell. Their fee is more than worth the peace of mind you'll have knowing that your interests are being protected.