After a car accident, you may collect compensation from the at-fault driver for your injuries and losses. The amount you ultimately receive will depend on several factors, including the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage, the extent of your injuries, and whether your doctors expect your injuries will result in long-term or permanent disabilities. Your final recovery will also very much depend on your attorney’s negotiating skills.
Car Accident Negotiations
People sometimes believe that they can save money by negotiating a settlement themselves, without an attorney’s help. However, in almost all cases, those who do not retain a car accident attorney to help with negotiations end up leaving money on the table.
Insurance companies know that a person without legal training does not know all of the laws, and oftentimes have a lot of tricks up their sleeves to minimize the claim. They use these advantages to twist the injured person’s words to put some of the blame for the accident on the accident victim. Furthermore, insurance companies know that those who do not use an attorney to help negotiate a settlement are less likely to file a lawsuit if the accident victim believes a settlement offer is not fair.
Choosing an Attorney
When looking for an attorney to help you settle your car accident case, look for an attorney who has extensive experience both settling car accident cases and bringing them to court. Don’t ignore the litigation side of it. While you probably hope to settle your case, you might need to file a lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to come to a fair and reasonable settlement. The attorney you choose should have extensive experience both in settling claims and litigating claims.
Many attorneys post their case results on their web pages. When you schedule a free case evaluation with an attorney, you can ask them to tell you about any additional case results, especially if the results page does not include any cases that are similar to yours.
At the Accident Scene
You can start helping prepare for a successful case right after the accident. While the police and investigators will collect evidence at the accident scene and compile an official report, if you are uninjured enough to gather your own evidence, doing so can help your case.
If you can, take photos of the accident from all angles. Be sure to capture skid marks and damage to real and personal property, including lawns, light poles, fences, and mailboxes. Additionally, if you can, obtain the other drivers’ contact, registration, and insurance information, as well as contact information from passengers and witnesses. You can also ask witnesses what they saw and make notes.
Obtain Medical Attention
At the scene of the accident, allow emergency medical technicians to check you over. Document if you received medical attention at the accident scene, including what the medical technicians told you.
Even if you believe your injuries are minor, you should go to the hospital as soon as the police release you from the scene. Tell the medical professionals at the hospital that you were in a car accident and that you need a comprehensive check to determine whether you have injuries that you haven’t noticed.
After you are home, pay close attention to how you feel. Some injuries don’t manifest symptoms for hours or even a day or three later. If you suspect a new injury is related to the accident, see your doctor as soon as possible so that they can document the injury and treat the injury in an effort to make sure it’s not getting worse.
Document, Document, Document
Documentation helps you to remember what happened during the accident and after, as you recover. You can document by taking notes, by recording a narrative of what happened, saving video from dashcams in your vehicle, taking photos of the accident scene, and writing down anything witnesses say.
You can also document your case by documenting every medical appointment you have and what happened at the appointment. Document surgeries, hospital stays, follow-up appointments, and therapy appointments. Include any physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, and other psychological therapies, which are often required for months or years after a serious accident.
You should also document any money you pay out of pocket for medical expenses and other expenses related to the accident. Keep receipts or invoices with your notes about each doctor’s visit.
Keeping documentation helps if someone else forgets to document something. It also keeps important information at your fingertips if you take care to create an organized documentation system.
Always keep appointments unless you have an emergency and can’t make it. If you are going to a therapist and miss appointments, you can bet your bottom dollar that the defendant will argue that you don’t really need that therapy, regardless of what type it is. If you do miss an appointment, document the reason for missing the appointment, e.g., a conflict with another appointment, severe illness, funeral, etc.
Always communicate with your attorney or their staff. If you have a concern, you remembered something else about the accident, you think you relayed incorrect information—no matter what it is, make sure your attorney knows about it.
On the other hand, leave communicating with insurance companies to your attorney, whether yours or the defendant’s. The only information you should give any insurance company is your contact information, the date and location of the accident, your policy number, and your attorney’s contact information. Insurance companies love to twist your words to try to blame you. It gives them a reason to deny your claim or offer you an undervalued settlement that might not even cover your medical expenses.
Your damages, including past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and emotional distress could add up to quite a sum. We have won cases worth millions of dollars—and insurance companies do not want to pay that kind of money if they can help it.