If you’ve suffered injuries in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you could be eligible to recover damages related to the accident and your injuries. You might be unsure about what comes next and how the claims process works. We’ve put together this guide to provide information on guidelines you can follow that give you the best chances of getting paid after a car accident and where the money could come from.
However, fault plays a major role in determining whether you have a viable car accident claim. So, let’s start by looking at some common causes of car accidents that warrant an insurance claim and possible legal action.
Common Causes in Car Accident Claims
Traffic crashes are not always straightforward, and sometimes more than one party’s negligence contributes to the accident. However, certain driving behaviors often cause car accidents and typically signal that you have a strong case against another driver. This is especially true when a driver does not follow the rules of the road and violates one or more traffic laws.
Examples of common causes of car accidents that often entitle victims to seek compensation include:
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence
- Failure to yield
- Improper turns
- Loss of vehicle control
An experienced car accident lawyer can review the facts of your car accident and determine if you have a viable claim against another party. Sometimes businesses and government entities can be liable for car accidents instead of another driver. Your lawyer will advise you if this applies to your case.
Guidelines to You Get Paid After a Car Accident
A viable claim is only the first element of getting paid after a car accident. Receiving compensation for damages requires car accident victims to take some other steps to support their claim for damages. These guidelines give you the best chance of recovering the maximum compensation after a car accident.
Hire an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer
Car accident claims, especially those that involve severe injuries can be complex, with many moving parts. The best way to get paid after a car accident is to hire a car accident attorney to help you navigate the waters and advocate for you. It costs you nothing for an initial meeting. During a free consultation, a lawyer can review the facts of your claim, determine its viability, and identify one or more parties responsible for your economic and noneconomic losses.
Once you hire a car accident lawyer, they can:
- Gather documents and relevant evidence to support your car accident claim
- Handle communications with the insurance company and other relevant parties
- Negotiate a settlement on your behalf to avoid costly litigation
- Litigate your case when settlement isn’t an option
When you let an experienced car accident attorney fight for compensation, you have more time to focus on healing from your injuries.
File an Insurance Claim With Your Auto Insurance Provider
You might choose to file an insurance claim before contacting an attorney. However, your lawyer can help you through the claims process if you are uncertain about how to proceed, making it in your best interest to contact a lawyer before you file a claim.
You should have already reported the accident to your auto insurance provider, even if another driver is undeniably at fault. Most auto insurance carriers require policyholders to report accidents immediately in cases where coverage might apply.
If you live in New Jersey or Florida, the law requires you to carry no-fault insurance coverage. Pennsylvania also has no-fault insurance, but motorists can opt-out.
Filing a claim under your no-fault insurance puts some money in your pocket quickly. Each state varies, but your no-fault coverage likely includes benefits for a portion of your medical expenses and a portion of lost earnings. Once you exhaust any no-fault coverage, your lawyer can help you take further action to recover additional compensation.
Follow Your Medical Treatment Plan
During your initial emergency room visit or sometime shortly after, you and your treating physician or regular doctor have discussed the best treatment option for your injuries. Treatment might include various things, including surgery, medication, and physical therapy. The weeks and months following the car accident typically include various medical appointments. Keep all these appointments and follow the plan you discussed with your doctor.
If you don’t follow the doctor’s orders, you give insurance companies grounds to argue that you aren’t healing as you should because you aren’t complying with your treatment plan. The severity of your injuries directly translates to the amount of money you could get paid after a car accident. Following your medical treatment plan preserves the value of your claim and makes it hard for insurance companies to downplay your injuries.
Keep Proof of Economic Loss
You must prove all damages to get paid after a car accident. The economic loss you’ve incurred because of the accident makes up a portion of your entire claim. The more severe the injuries, the higher amount of economic loss. Keep all documents that prove your economic loss and share copies with your lawyer.
Documents and other information you should keep and record include:
- Medical bills. Keep anything related to medical treatment for your injuries. This includes bills for ambulance transport, emergency room treatment, surgery, hospitalization, x-rays, lab tests, and doctor visits.
- Receipts. Keep all receipts related to the car accident and your injuries. This includes receipts for prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and things you might need during your recovery, such as bandages, ice packs, or anything else you pay for out of pocket.
- Travel information. Keep a log of the miles you drive to and from doctor appointments, physical therapy appointments, legal appointments, and appointments related to the accident and your injuries.
- Payroll information. Your injuries have likely forced you to miss some work. You’ve also probably had to use paid time off (PTO) like personal days, sick days, and vacation time, especially if you spent some time in the hospital. Keep all payroll information that shows lost income and benefits related to your accident.
- Vehicle repair documents. Keep any document related to damage to your vehicle, including repair estimates and the final bill if your car was not totaled in the accident. This also includes the tow truck bill to transport your vehicle to the repair shop, if applicable.
Keep Proof of Noneconomic Loss
Car accidents impact the lives of those involved in various ways. You can think about the noneconomic losses you’ve incurred because of your car accident as the ways the accident and your injuries have affected your life physically, emotionally, and financially.
The major difference between economic loss and noneconomic loss is that your lawyer can easily add up numbers to value your economic loss. Noneconomic loss encompasses things that are more difficult to quantify, so it’s crucial that you fully describe these losses to your lawyer.
Keeping a journal is the best way to document noneconomic loss, so you get paid after a car accident. You can write in a daily journal, keep a video log on your phone, or both.
Here are examples of the types of things and questions to consider as you document noneconomic loss:
- Are you suffering from physical pain?
- How do your injuries impede your movement and ability to do everyday things like combing your hair, brushing your teeth, and getting dressed?
- What events have you missed because of your injuries?
- What hobbies and activities can’t you do because of your injuries?
- How have your injuries impacted your relationships, physically and emotionally?
- Do you feel depressed or anxious? What other negative emotions are you struggling with?
- Have you had financial consequences from your injuries, such as foreclosure or repossession?
Document as much information as possible. If you cannot physically document your noneconomic loss, enlist a trusted friend or family member to help. Your lawyer can edit what you provide and advise you on what information supports your claim.
The Process of Seeking Compensation After a Car Accident
As you heal and document proof of loss, your lawyer will because the claims process. Once you have exhausted all no-fault insurance options, your lawyer can prepare and file a claim against the other driver or other liable parties, if applicable. Here are the most common steps lawyers take to help clients get paid after a car accident:
In most situations, lawyers prepare a demand letter to send to the other party(s) with a claim for damages. A demand letter outlines the specific damages and demands an amount to resolve the claim. Additionally, the demand letter lets the other side know what steps come next if they choose not to pay. In most car accident cases, the demand letter is the starting point for settlement negotiations.
The vast majority of car accident claims end with a settlement agreement. However, negotiations take time. As you might imagine, auto insurance providers usually do not pay out a claim after receiving a demand letter, especially in high-value claims. They do what they can to avoid financial liability for their policyholders. Upon receipt of the demand letter, most insurance companies make a counteroffer that is far less than the amount requested, initiating negotiations.
During settlement negotiations, your lawyer and the insurance companies could go back and forth several times. The goal is for your lawyer to convince the insurance carrier to pay out an amount that fairly compensates you for your economic and noneconomic losses. Both sides have an incentive to reach an agreement because going to trial is expensive, and it takes much longer to ultimately resolve the claim.
Reaching a Settlement Agreement
In most car accident cases, victims get paid once they accept a settlement offer from the insurance company. Once your lawyer presents an offer to you, and you choose to accept it, you will have to sign papers to finalize the agreement. The final agreement includes more than simply agreeing to a number.
You must also waive your right to sue for damages, releasing the insurance carrier and its policyholder(s) from any future liability for the accident and your injuries. After you sign all necessary paperwork, the insurance company will issue a payment for the agreed-upon amount. It’s likely the payment will go to your lawyer, who will pay any unpaid medical bills and deduct costs of representation before giving you the rest.
When Settlement Is Not an Option
Some car accident claims are so complex or involve major liability disputes, making settlement difficult, if not impossible. In these cases, the insurance company refused to offer a fair amount of compensation for damages.
Although settlement is likely, sometimes settlement is not an option. If negotiations fail, the next step includes bringing a lawsuit against the driver and their insurance company. Once a claimant files a lawsuit, a settlement can still happen until the trial date.
If your case goes to trial, your lawyer can advocate for you in the courtroom and present your case to a judge and jury. After the trial, the court determines whether the defendant is liable for damages related to the accident and your injuries. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, they will also award damages.
The process for receiving compensation works the same after a court awards damages. The insurance company issues a payment for damages that typically goes to the law firm. The client receives any money left after the firm pays unpaid medical expenses and deducts attorney fees and other legal costs.