Ten things I wish I knew before I settled my car accident case
We hear it time and time again. Someone was involved in a car accident, did not get an experienced personal injury attorney, and they settled for less than their case was truly worth. At SVHC, we want to maximize the value of your damages in any potential settlement and/or jury verdict. Car accidents can cause a wide array of problems for you in your life and change the course of your life forever. Both minor and serious injuries should be treated and cared for by the at fault driver’s insurance.
Although each case will be different, there are key factors that consistently play into maximizing the value of your settlement and/or potential jury verdict after a car accident injury.
- 1. Consider hiring an experienced personal injury attorney who is not afraid to fight. Talk to an attorney before you talk to your insurance company. Moreover, choose an attorney who has relevant courtroom experience, because insurance companies and adjusters know which lawyers are more likely to settle and which are more likely to fight in court. Our initial consultations are complimentary. Our personal injury lawyers can review and help move your case forward. An experienced personal injury attorney may be able to recover a fair settlement for you and ensure that you are not settling for less than you deserve.
- 2. Put your documents all in one place before you give them to your attorney. Documents you will want to put in one file for your attorney include: your medical records, your bills, work time that was lost, police report, pictures, any notes from the doctors and other helpful evidence. Maintain these records all in one file folder and keep a copy for yourself. Save your bills, receipts, and any paperwork related to the car accident.
- 3. File a lawsuit as soon as practicable. Time is of the essence, because you only have a limited amount of time after the car accident to file a lawsuit. The prescriptive period, commonly known as the statute of limitations, is typically one to two years after the date of your car accident depending on the claims and insurance companies involved. Hiring an attorney puts the pressure on the insurance company and they will take you seriously if they see that you have an attorney. The likelihood of the insurance company taking advantage of your inexperience in the value and damages you can claim in your case decreases greatly if you have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side. If you suspect that the other party may have been under the influence, you may be entitled to punitive damages
- 4. Go to the doctor. Go to the doctor to ensure you document your injuries and that you get on a treatment plan which can help get you as close as possible to medical maximum recovery. In addition to physical injuries, emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish, and potentially lost wages counts as damages caused by the car accident, so seek out counseling or a psychiatrist to help treat your emotional health if you believe that is necessary. Some car accident victims can suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of a car accident. Stay consistent with your treatment and follow the doctors’ orders.
- 5. Review your insurance policy, so you know what they are supposed to cover. Policy coverage vary in a car accident based upon whether you are making claims for injuries in a car accident against another driver’s liability policy or your own uninsured motorist policy. Additionally, property damage coverage vary based upon the insurance policy which is applicable to the car accident. An experienced attorney can help navigate the various insurance policies and coverage related to your car accident injuries.
- 6. Know your injuries. Some symptoms may not arise until weeks after the car accident. Therefore, it is important to stay tuned into what is happening with your body. Even if it does not hurt does not mean it is not injured. Make sure to be thoroughly checked by a doctor immediately after the accident.
- 7. Know your damages. Damages are the types of compensation you may be able to receive in a settlement from your car accident injury. Here is a non-exhaustive list of compensation you may be entitled to based on expenses incurred: cost of hiring a car service, cost of renting a car, cost of fixing your car, cost of hiring an in home worker (housekeeper, nurse, etc.), loss of income, loss of consortium, loss of business, cost for counseling, pain and suffering for your injuries, and cost of medical treatment.
- 8. Take pictures of your car, of the scene, and of any visible injuries. Make sure you get pictures from various angles, as well as taking both up close and big picture photos. Be sure to include all the cars that were involved in the accident.
- 9. Keep a journal of your injuries and emotional damage. Maintain a daily log of your emotions, appetite, physical pain, activities that you were not able to do, etc. This will be helpful when you go visit the doctor. Also, if you do end up going to court, a daily log can help you recount the details of your injuries to a jury. If you had any sort of physical or emotional symptoms that you would not have had otherwise, record it in a diary so that you can support your claim for damages in court.
- 10. Allow an experienced attorney to talk to your adjuster on your behalf. Although insurance companies promise loyalty and sell you on the idea that they are looking out for your best interest, they make profit off not giving people what they truly deserve by underpaying claims. You should make sure the adjuster knows how serious your injuries are. Do not let the adjuster pressure you into settling. The adjuster might try to get you to admit fault and agree to making a statement that could later be used against you. The best way to ensure that you are not taken advantage of by an insurance company is to have an experienced attorney in your corner.