If you were injured or had your vehicle damaged in a car accident, you want to recover any costs or expenses that result from that incident, especially if that accident was due to someone else’s negligent behavior. In cases where there is greater damage, injuries or fatalities, getting that settlement is more complex, and you will need competent legal representation from an experienced Car Accident Attorney. With minimal damage claims, settlement can be a fast and simple process. In tougher cases, it means relying on the legal system to reach a fair settlement with the other driver or their insurance company.
You benefit most in this situation when you find an experienced Car Accident Attorney to help you find justice and to reach a fair settlement offer. Begin to build a foundation for your settlement quest as soon as you have done all that you need to do at the accident scene to help others and contact the police. Collect as much evidence and witness information as possible at the accident scene.
Starting the Settlement Process
The process of settlement actually begins at the time of the car accident. It begins when you gather information about the accident. All this information can be used by your attorney to prepare your case; it is basic evidence. The evidence will support your claims of injury and damage.
Items of evidence and information to gather include the following:
- Facts – What happened, when and where it happened, and if you can determine it, why the accident happened. You won’t always be able to determine this, but your attorney should be able to after looking at the evidence, the accident scene and whatever expert witnesses present about the event.
- Hard Evidence at the Scene – This includes supporting documentation. You need copies of the police report, witness statements and photos of the accident and vehicle damage. Start to keep a written diary of information about the accident.
- Additional Evidence to Support Claims – Medical records will provide details about your injuries and your recovery. Medical bills and other invoices for injury treatment show the financial costs. A statement verifying your income losses and other financial repercussions related to your accident help build strength for those claims. Also provide evidence of your pain and suffering.
Your Attorney’s Role
An experienced Car Accident Attorney may play several roles during the process of settlement. Pre-trial negotiations and talks with all parties may be conducted at mediation or arbitration meetings. Once you have selected the right attorney to work with, your settlement quest moves forward. You will meet with the attorney and present all your car accident information and evidence to that attorney. They will listen to you, look over the documentation and give you some estimate about what would be a reasonable settlement offer to pursue and give you options for that pursuit.
You may be able to get a satisfactory settlement from the insurance company right away, when your attorney first advises them of your claims. In most cases, the insurance company may balk at your request and further legal action will be required. If agreement is reached, that company will have you sign a release letter, which prevents any further demand actions on your part. If you are not happy with their offer, you can have your attorney proceed with further collection activity.
The role of your attorney is to act on your behalf, always trying to get the best possible outcome for you. Insurance representatives are not on your side; they work for the insurance company and want to minimize any payments. Do not say anything to them without first contacting your attorney and discussing the situation. Do not admit guilt, fault or sign anything without consulting your attorney first. If you do, you may lose any chance to recover compensation for accident injuries and damage claims.
The Financial Offer
Settlement involves acceptance of a financial offer and release of further liability of the insurance company or the other person or company that was liable. This offer is what you will receive to recover money you paid or owe for medical care, future treatment, vehicle repair or replacement, and work losses. If you are disabled temporarily or permanently, the settlement should be significantly higher than if you only suffered minor injury or vehicle damage.
Most personal injury lawsuits are settled pre-trial, because it is less expensive for the defendant to do that rather than hire a lawyer and go to a court trial. If you agree to a settlement offer, you give up all rights to any future claims for that accident. Alternative methods for reaching settlement offers include mediation or arbitration. Your attorney can act as a mediator or arbitrator. With mediation, the opposing parties come to an agreement, but in arbitration, the arbitrator acts like a judge and determines the settlement. If no agreement can be made, the case then moves into full litigation, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
Accepting the Car Accident Settlement
Before you accept any settlement offer, make sure everything possible is included. Remember the costs of vehicle repair or replacement, car rental, personal property that was damaged in the accident and out-of-pocket expenses. If you have serious bodily injury, you want some expert projection of how much it will cost for future medical care and expenses. Sometimes, physical or mental injuries do not show up until later on. Anything you have not included in a settlement agreement will be uncollectible later on, after you and any insurance companies signed the agreement.
If no agreement can be made, you and your attorney will move into litigation and a court trial. Getting everything resolved through the settlement process is less expensive and faster than litigation. If you feel comfortable with an offer and your attorney agrees that it is reasonable and fair, a settlement can be very beneficial to you.