From the initial investigation to the negotiation process, each stage plays a vital role in securing fair compensation for your damages. The process for a car accident settlement typically involves the five stages outlined below.
1. Notifying your insurance company
If you are involved in a car accident, you should notify your insurance company as soon as possible. But less is more when it comes to speaking to insurance companies, even your own. Stick to the basic facts and avoid divulging too much information.
The less you say to insurance companies, the less room for misinterpretation. Insurance companies often look for reasons to deny or reduce claims. Any further communications with insurance companies should be handled by an experienced car accident lawyer.
2. Obtaining documentation
Documentation provides evidence to support your car accident case. Without it, proving your case and receiving compensation may be difficult. It’s important that you save and obtain everything related to your crash and medical treatment. Your attorney can also gather documents and use them to build your case.
These documents include:
- The police report: This document provides crucial details about how your crash likely occurred. This includes witness statements, a car accident diagram, citations, and possible arrests.
- Insurance information: Gather the insurance information of all parties involved at the crash scene. Be sure to get their policy numbers and contact details.
- Medical records: Collect all medical records related to your injuries and treatments. These should include hospital records, doctor's notes, diagnostic test results, and any treatment plans or prescriptions.
- Photos and videos: Take pictures and videos of the crash scene. Make sure you get damages to vehicles, visible injuries, road conditions, and traffic signs.
- Witness statements: If witnesses were nearby, obtain their contact information and statements regarding what they observed. Their testimonies can help strengthen your claim.
- Repair estimates: Obtain multiple repair estimates for your vehicle damage. These estimates can help determine the cost of repairs and the extent of the crash-related property damage.
- Proof of expenses: Keep records of any out-of-pocket expenses. This may include towing charges and car rental fees.
- Correspondence: Keep copies of all crash-related correspondence. That includes emails, letters, or text messages exchanged with your insurance company, healthcare providers, and any other relevant parties.
3. Investigation and claim valuation
Your attorney can thoroughly investigate your car accident. They can examine the police reports, medical records, witness testimonies, and other relevant documentation supporting your claim. Your attorney can then use this information to establish liability and calculate the extent of your damages.
In complex cases, an attorney may work with accident reconstruction specialists to analyze the crash scene. A reconstruction specialist can examine skid marks, vehicle damage, and other factors to reconstruct the sequence of events leading to your crash.
4. Negotiating a car accident settlement offer
Once your attorney has placed a value on your claim, they can compile a comprehensive demand package that outlines your case. This will include the evidence and damages. It will also present a persuasive argument for why the other driver’s insurance company should settle.
If negotiations hit a roadblock, your attorney may suggest mediation or alternative dispute resolution methods. These are meant to facilitate a compromise between both parties.
In most cases, insurance companies will settle before going to trial. However, that’s not always the case. If necessary, your attorney may prepare your case for trial. Here, they can present evidence and make a persuasive argument before a judge and jury. This may also include calling on witnesses to testify in court. The goal is to recover all damages through a verdict.
5. Reviewing and signing the settlement agreement
Once your attorney and the other driver’s insurance company agree on the settlement amount, the terms and conditions are drafted. This document includes details such as:
- The amount to be paid.
- How and when the payment will be made.
- Any other specific agreements, such as the release of liability or confidentiality clauses.
Your attorney will review the settlement agreement to ensure that it accurately reflects the terms discussed and agreed upon. Any necessary revisions are made until both parties are satisfied. Lastly, both parties sign the document, acknowledging their acceptance of the terms. This makes the settlement legally binding.
After the settlement agreement is signed, the at-fault driver’s insurance company makes the agreed-upon payment. This can be a lump sum or structured payments, depending on the terms of the agreement.