Every year, an average of six million car accidents occur nationwide.
If you’ve been in a recent car accident, chances are you have questions about how car accident claims are settled.
Dealing with a car accident claim can be scary and stressful. The good news, though, is that you don’t have to go at it alone.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about this process. Armed with this information, you’ll have all the tools you need to handle your case with ease and get it settled in a timely manner.
The first step in the car accident claim process is the investigation. During the investigation, an insurance rep will evaluate your case and get to the bottom of what happened. This helps them to ensure they provide you with a fair (at least, to them) settlement offer).
There’s often a lot involved in the investigation process, especially if there’s confusion among the drivers about what happened or who is at-fault for the accident.
During the investigation, the insurance agent will assess the police report (if one was filed), photographs of the damage caused to the cars, and photographs of the accident scene.
If you received medical care after the accident, they’ll want to know more about your injuries, the cost of your treatment, and how long your doctor anticipates you needing treatment. They’ll also send you a medical authorization form, which allows them to review your private medical records.
Once the investigation is complete, the insurance company will send you a settlement offer. This offer tells you how much the company is willing to pay to cover the damages to your vehicle, as well as the cost of your medical care.
Sometimes, the offer is enough to cover everything. In other cases, it can be on the low end, as the insurance company is trying to save money wherever possible.
If, before you receive a settlement offer, you do your own research into the anticipated costs of your repairs and/or treatment, you can send the insurance company a demand letter (this is also known as a settlement proposal).
The demand letter outlines who is at-fault for the accident, the damages sustained, and how much you estimate them costing. Sometimes, your demand letter will influence the offer. It may also open the door to negotiations.
You may need to negotiate with the insurance adjuster to get a settlement offer that’s fair and covers everything you need after the accident.
You can handle these negotiations on your own, but it may be in your best interest to hire a car accident lawyer to help you. Many car accident lawyers will take your case on a contingency basis, meaning you don’t have to pay them unless you win.
Keep in mind, though, that hiring a lawyer and going through several rounds of negotiation will draw out the claim and settlement process. As a result, it’ll take longer for you to get the money you need for repairs and paying your medical bills.
How Long Does It Take?
The average car accident case timeframe is hard to calculate, as every case is different. In general, though, the more complex your case is, the longer it’ll take to get things wrapped up.
For example, if your accident involved two drivers and one person is clearly at fault (they backed into your car in a parking lot, for example), the car timeframe will often be pretty short and straightforward.
If several cars were involved and it’s unclear which driver is at fault, it’ll likely take longer to tie up the case.
The same is true if you decide to negotiate with the insurance provider or work with a lawyer. Having legal representation can definitely be worth it. Just remember that it can draw out your case.
What Can You Do?
There are certain steps you can do to speed up the accident claim and settlement process.
Be sure to follow these guidelines after your accident occurs. They’ll help you get a fairer settlement offer from the insurance company and help you get the whole case settled faster:
1. Document Everything
Start by making sure you’re documenting everything related to your case. Save the police and accident reports, as well as all of your medical records.
If you take your car to a mechanic to get a repair estimate, hang onto those records, too. They will likely come in handy if you have to negotiate a higher settlement.
Remember, it’s better to have too much information than not enough. If you have doubts about whether or not you need to save something, err on the side of caution and hold onto it.
2. Report the Accident Right Away
Report the accident as soon as it occurs. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can start creating a paper trail. You’ll also have an easier time recalling what happened and remembering details about the case that can work in your favor.
3. See a Doctor as Soon as Possible
Keep in mind, too, that, if you suspect you have any injuries, you need to seek medical care as soon as possible. This will help to verify the seriousness of your injuries and ensure you receive fair compensation for them.
4. Consult an Attorney
If you plan on hiring an attorney, reach out to them right away as well. The sooner you have an attorney on your side, the easier the negotiation process and the higher your settlement offer will likely be.
You Know How Car Accident Claims Are Settled: What’s Next?
Now that you have a clearer idea of how car accident claims are settled, it’s time to take action.
The sooner you get to work reaching out to the insurance company and hiring a lawyer (if needed), the sooner you’ll be able to get your car repaired and get the compensation you deserve.
Do you want to learn more about the right way to handle a car accident? If so, check out some of the other accident- and legal-related information on our blog today.