Upon being in a car accident, everyone’s first instinct is to make sure all the participants are unharmed. This is an entirely natural reaction, and it is definitely something that you should do if you were to face this type of situation. After all, the most important thing is to stay calm and make sure that everyone else is okay.
However, this first step is only the beginning of a long process that you will find yourself in. Yes, we are talking about a personal injury claim that you will have to file, and in order to make sure that everything turns out great, there are several actions that you will have to take. Due to this reason, and with the goal of facilitating this process, we have written a short guide that you should follow.
The aftermath of the accident
Let’s start with the beginning. We have already mentioned that you have to take deep breaths and try to stay calm. Yes, we understand how scary being in a car crash can be, but panicking will get you nowhere. First things first, call the police. You are legally required to do this in some states, but even if it isn’t the case in your area, you should still do it. Why? Well, because one of the best ways to protect your legal rights is to have a police officer document the accident, and you will need that report later.
Next, take as many photos as you think necessary of the scene. This is another legal right that you have. Take pictures of the vehicle from different angles, especially from the one you have been moving. If there is any evidence on the road, such as skid marks, make sure to document those too.
Furthermore, exchange information with the other driver. Write down their name, data from the driver’s license and license plate number, ask for their insurance company’s information and policy number and note all the details regarding the other vehicle such as type, color, and model, and the location of the accident.
In addition, if there are any witnesses, you should also talk with them. Ask them if they are willing to make a statement, and later check if these have been recorded on the official accident report.
Another important thing – you are not required to give any statement to yours or the other person’s insurance company before consulting with your lawyer. This is a common misconception that many people have, i.e., that they are obliged to give a written or a verbal statement right after the accident. If you sign a wrong paper or say something that you shouldn’t have, it can negatively affect your case.
Dealing with the insurance company
The first thing you should do is write down everything that has happened the first moment you can. Try to recall the entire situation, and explain in great detail the accident. You can start with what you were doing and where you were going before the accident. Our advice is to note everything that you can remember, every detail, regardless of how insignificant it may seem.
In order to speed up the entire process, you should notify the insurance company as soon as possible. They will ask you some usual questions, and you should provide them with all the facts. If some of the questions seem confusing, or you do not have an answer, tell them that, and do not make any guesses.
When filing a claim, you will need copies of both the police and medical reports, as well as a copy of the bills you had to pay. Remember when we said that you have to call 911? Well, this is one of the reasons why you shouldn’t skip this step even if no one were injured. When it comes to the police report, it will usually take a few days for it to be ready, and you will have to go to the precinct to get it. Additionally, when it comes to medical records, you should consider signing a permission form so that the company can obtain all the necessary documents directly from your doctor.
Consider the settlement
The insurance company will soon present you with their initial offer. Even though it may seem generous at first, keep in mind that the first offer is always the lowest one. However, if it seems fair to you, you should accept it and conclude the entire process. On the other hand, if it appears to be ridiculous, you should hire an attorney. There is a simple way you can determine the fairness of the offer. Basically, calculate all the expenses that you had. Start with the damage on your car, and then move on to the medical cost, if you are being treated. This settlement should cover all the expenses, so you shouldn’t accept it, if it doesn’t.
If this is the case, you should consult a lawyer. Make sure to find one that specializes in personal injury law. Even though, at first, this might seem like an additional fee for you, not only will it be worth it in the end, but also, according to Bailey Greer, they won’t charge you unless they recover compensation for you. This means that you won’t have to pay anything in advance, but only after the settlement is reached. Besides, having a professional in your corner is of crucial importance if you are not familiar with every aspect of dealing with the insurance company. Remember, you have to fight for a fair settlement, so you need someone who will protect your legal rights and make sure you get the appropriate compensation.
Once you have consulted with your attorney, it is time to present the insurance company with the counter-offer. However, you cannot just think of a number and expect them to accept it. Those funds have to be based on evidence, costs you have paid up to that point, or those you will have in the future.
If they reject your offer, you still have the option of mediation, i.e., a third party will go over the case and try to help you reach an agreement. Even though this is an informal meeting, you should come with your lawyer because the insurance company’s representatives will definitely bring their attorney.
Upon reaching an agreement, you will have to sign settlement documents, and you have to make sure to read them thoroughly. Go over every point with the attorney, because once you sign them, you won’t be able to do anything if you don’t agree with some of the terms. Take a few days, and ask them for clarification if there is something that you don’t fully comprehend.