The Legal Process Following a Car Accident
Brian White | July 19, 2018 | Court
Navigating the process of filing an insurance claim and gaining compensation for your injuries can be difficult, especially when you don’t know what to expect. Being familiar with the legal procedures that follow a car accident can help you better prepare for what comes next. Learn how a legal proceeding works when you file a claim against an insurance company for compensation for economic and non-economic losses.
The Basics of Car Accident Claims
The vast majority of car accident claims follow a settlement process, which means you will likely never see the inside of a courtroom (exceptions to this rule exist, however). More often, insurance companies want to settle a car accident claim through the process of negotiation, not litigation.
The settlement procedures vary based on the insurance structure and applicable state laws. Texas, for example, is a traditional fault state when it comes to car accidents. This essentially means that you’re free to pursue an insurance claim against an at-fault driver to compensate for your injuries and other damages. Once you file an official claim with an at-fault driver’s insurance company, the negotiations and settlement process officially begin.
Timeline of a Settlement
Settling a claim is another term for handling the matter out of court, without the need for a trial. When you file a claim with an at-fault driver’s insurance company, you’re essentially asking for reimbursement for your economic and non-economic damages, which may include medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, and other losses.
The amount of your settlement depends on a number of factors, including the severity of your injuries and the amount of property damage involved. One of the first steps of the process is gathering evidence that supports your claim. An insurance claims adjuster will likely ask for information like medical records, treatment plans, receipts, photos of the accident scene, eyewitness testimony, and more.
Typically, a claim begins with a demand letter, in which you (or your attorney) will explain the extent of your injuries and other damages. After an investigation into your accident, the insurance company will either choose to deny or accept liability for the claim.
During this settlement process, keep a couple of important elements in mind:
- Never sign any documents, agree to recorded statements, or release your medical records to an insurance company without approval from an attorney. Insurance companies are in the business of paying out as little on your claim as possible. As a result, they can ask leading questions or twist your words in order to reduce the amount of your settlement. Additionally, releasing medical records before the full extent of your injuries manifest can also lead to additional hurdles in the negotiations process.
- Never accept the first settlement offer. This initial offering is a jumping off point for negotiations and often deserves a counter. Your car accident attorney will play an important role in the negotiations process, fighting on your behalf for full compensation for your injuries and other damages.
What If the Insurance Company Denies a Claim?
In some cases, an insurance company will deny a claim of liability following a car accident. In this case, you’ll likely want to file an appeal with the claims adjuster. Again, having an attorney to help with the process will be integral to your case: he or she can help ensure an insurance company is acting in good faith, and can begin the process of litigation should it become necessary. Ultimately, having an attorney involved encourages an insurance company to take your claim more seriously.
The legal processes following a car accident can be complex and benefit from the guidance of an attorney. Knowing what to expect is the first step of navigating your car accident claim successfully.