Once there has been a car accident, the personal injury claim process begins. Responsible drivers will report a car accident to their insurance companies right away. This starts the claims process. Even if no one was “hurt” in the accident there will be property damage. Usually, even in low impact accidents, someone will end up feeling stiff or discover some injuries, in the days and weeks that follow the accident, Once you go to a doctor and to get checked out and explain you were in a car accident your claim becomes a not just an insurance claim, but a personal injury claim.
The First Steps
After an accident insurance adjusters from both your insurance company and the insurance company from the other driver will try and contact you to find out what caused the accident and see if you were hurt. Adjusters want to get as specific as they can. Remember, you are not a doctor or car crash reconstruction expert. You should always be honest, but don’t afraid to be vague. If the adjuster wants to record your conversation say you need to talk to your lawyer first and politely end the call. If you don’t have a lawyer yet it will be time to get one.
Most insurance companies will change the adjuster in charge of a claim if someone is seeking medical treatment for injuries. Then you will get a call from yet another person. Once you hire a lawyer the company may switch adjusters again, but they will talk to your lawyer and not bother you.
Personal Injury Protection
Regardless of who is at fault for the accident, your injuries should be paid for by the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) part of your policy. You usually have to fill out an application to receive these benefits. This is a legal document and your lawyer should help you complete the application because it will impact your claim.
If you have to miss work due to injuries from the car accident you may also be able to get some money right away from the PIP policy. This policy will also pay your medical bills while you are getting treated up to a certain dollar amount and time period.
If you have hired a lawyer, they will usually wait until you are done treating and are well into recovery to make a demand from they other insurance company. This usually is the start of a process. The insurance company will ask for documentation and they will negotiate with your lawyer about what the appropriate settlement should be. Most cases go smoothly and an agreement is reached. You always have final say about accepting an offer. A settlement will almost always be for less than the original demand.
Filing a Lawsuit
Sometimes because of time limitations or because of a difficult adjuster your lawyer may have to file a lawsuit. While an insurance adjuster will still be assigned to a case, your lawyer will start negotiating with the insurance company lawyer. This does not automatically mean a case is going to court.
But, there will be status hearings that your lawyer attends and there may be depositions. This is when you are asked questions about the accident and your treatment under oath. It is usually done in a lawyer’s office.
Most cases with a personal injury claim will still settle before an actual trial is held. But, if the side cannot come to an agreement, a trial will be held in front of a jury. The jury will decide who is at fault for the accident and how much money in damages the winner of the suit should get.
If you have been involved in a car accident, make sure to consult with a lawyer to understand your rights. You can click here to find experienced personal injury lawyers near you that offer free consultations.