If you get injured in a car accident, you will file an insurance claim to receive financial compensation for your medical expenses, property repairs, and other costs. After you file, you and the insurance company will go over the facts of the car accident and enter into negotiations, if the claim is accepted. Although each car accident case is unique, most settlements involve the same key processes.
The first step is filing your insurance claim. The law in the state where your car crash took place will determine where you must file a claim. West Virginia is a fault state, meaning you will file with the insurance provider of the at-fault party. Before you file, therefore, you must determine who or what caused your car accident. If you believe the other driver is to blame, you will call his or her insurance company to file a claim. If the other driver does not have insurance or you were injured in a hit-and-run accident, you will contact your own insurance carrier.
After receiving your claim, the insurance company will investigate the car accident. The insurance company will assign someone called an insurance claims adjuster to your case. Most investigations begin with interviews of all parties involved. You may receive a phone call from the adjuster with questions about your car accident shortly after the collision. Be careful what you say to adjusters, as they are not on your side. You can trust a car accident attorney to communicate with the adjuster for you if you do not wish to deal with this on your own.
Then, the insurance company may continue to investigate the car accident with:
- Requests for information from accident victims
- Reviews of evidence submitted
- Reviews of medical records
- Photographs and video footage
- Interviews with eyewitnesses
- Independent medical examinations
- Reviews of the insurance policies
- Consultations with experts
Protect your legal rights during an insurance investigation by carefully reading anything sent to you by the insurance company before you sign. If you are given a Medical Release Authorization Form, for example, make sure the company is only requesting access to certain medical records, not your full medical history. Looking at your full history is a tactic the insurer may use to deny your claim based on a pre-existing injury.
Negotiating a Settlement
If the insurance company believes you have a valid claim to damages, it must notify you of claim acceptance within 15 days (or 45 days if it has a valid reason to request an extension of the investigation). If your claim is accepted, you will enter into settlement negotiations. The adjuster will analyze the value of your case and offer an amount he or she believes is adequate for your injuries and losses. You then have the chance to submit a counteroffer. It is important not to accept your first offer until you have spoken to a lawyer, as it may devalue your claim.
Having a car accident attorney negotiate for you can improve your chances of a successful settlement. Your attorney will know aggressive and proven legal strategies for going up against an insurance company. Your lawyer can provide evidence of your injuries from your doctor, for example, or use testimony from qualified car accident experts to strengthen your case. Your attorney can argue for a fair and just amount based on the extent of your injuries.
Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit
If insurance settlement negotiations do not result in the compensation you deserve, or if the car insurance company wrongfully denies your claim, your lawyer can take your car accident case to court instead. Although most car accident cases in Texas end in settlements, some require court trials for fair resolutions.
Your case may end via settlement at any point before your trial date. Otherwise, a jury will determine whether or not you are eligible for financial compensation after listening to both sides of the case. A car accident attorney can guide you through the civil process, including the discovery phase and depositions. Contact an attorney in San Antonio for more information about the car accident settlement process in your particular case.