Lets say you got into an accident while having a very good time. You probably damaged your car, got injured or lost some very important things. It is very pertinent to get some money for the repairs or replacement of lost or spoilt items.
You probably might be wondering if you can get this money from a car accident all by yourself, without the presence of a lawyer. Of Course, you can. Here’s how.
It’s certainly possible to represent yourself in a personal injury claim after an accident comes away with a satisfactory result.
This is especially true if you have experience handling your own legal matters in the past, and you’re able and willing to stand up for yourself and your case.
Depending on the type of your case, obtaining legal representation may save you time and money. Consider the following factors to determine whether you would need an attorney to represent you or not.
The seriousness of Your Injuries
If you were involved in a fender bender, an insurance company could offer an uncontested settlement to cover damages to your property and medical expenses.
However, if you were involved in a more serious accident involving serious damages such as pain and suffering, a personal injury lawyer would at least want you to get a case assessment.
The more serious your injuries are, the more likely it is that the insurance company will receive an undervalued settlement offer.
Sufficiency of Evidence
You will need evidence, such as witness testimony and supporting documents, to make a successful claim.
If there is no evidence of your pain and suffering, the insurance company or the court will assume that you did not suffer such damages.
If you’re having a hard time obtaining evidence for your case, you should consider getting help from a lawyer.
Proof of the Other Driver’s Fault
When you make a claim against the other driver or his insurance company, make sure the other driver was responsible for the accident.
It will be straightforward to continue with your lawsuit without an attorney as long as it is clear that the other driver caused the accident.
Nonetheless, if a conflict occurs over who is at fault, or if the other driver makes a counter-claim, you can seek advice from a qualified attorney to determine the case.
You don’t want to press your lawsuit against the other driver or his or her insurance company until you are confident the other driver was at fault.
Calculation of Your Pain and Suffering
Although there is no fixed method to quantify this type of damage, you need to specify a specific amount of pain and suffering damages.
Many prosecutors use the “multiplier” method to calculate pain and damage sustained. When you can’t come up with a particular value of your pain and suffering harm, you can contact a lawyer for personal injury.
Personal injury attorneys are qualified to use their technical know-how and expertise to measure a reasonable amount of damage you have sustained.
Important First Steps & Tips
First steps to be taken before sending a demand letter to the other side’s insurance company:
Take pictures of the property damage, the accident scene, and the injuries.
Get a copy of the police report (for a car accident case)
Get the medical treatment you need, as soon as possible.
Use any “personal injury protection” (“PIP”) insurance coverage to pay initial bills, and then use your health insurance. Get copies of all records and bills.
Do not give a recorded statement to the other person’s insurance.
Make sure you understand the time limits for your claim—the personal injury statute of limitations varies by state.
Do not write about your accident on social media. This info can get to the other side of your case and can be taken out of context to damage your case or minimize your injuries.
Begin at the Accident Scene
Gathering good evidence to support your accident claim starts at the accident scene.
Immediately after the Crash:
Check if you, your passengers, the other driver, or anyone else is injured.
Call 911 to report the accident. Tell the dispatcher if anyone is injured, if the cars are severely damaged, if there are dangers at the scene, or if traffic is blocked.
While waiting for the police, write down the other driver’s contact information, insurance policy number, and the insurance company’s phone number.
Look for any witnesses. Ask them to write down what they saw and sign and date their statements. Be sure to get their contact information.
Grab your camera or cell phone, and take photos of the vehicles, skid marks, broken glass, and the surrounding area. You can never have too many pictures.
Write down the service number or police report reference number.
Cooperate with paramedics. Let them examine you. If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital, have a medical evaluation as soon as possible. A delay in medical care can ruin your claim.
Estimating Your Damages
There are two types of damages in most personal injury cases:
damages capable of exact calculation (often called “special” damages),
and damages not capable of exact calculation (“general” damages).
Damages Capable of Exact Calculation—Special Damages
Special damages include property damage (costs to fix or replace your car after an accident), lost earnings and lost earning capacity, medical bills, and other financial losses attributable to your accident.
They are capable of exact calculation because they can usually be added up.
This category of damages includes pain and suffering and mental anguish that results from your injuries.
There are no exact guidelines for determining the settlement value of an injured person’s pain and suffering. These types of damages are not capable of exact calculation.
Settling Your Car Automobile Collision Claim Without a Lawyer
Ok, so you have fully recovered from your injuries. Follow these steps to present your claim to the insurance adjuster:
Obtain the Accident Report. The accident report is the form filled out by the police officer that investigated your accident. You can contact the department the officer worked to obtain the report. Generally, the agency will be the city police or the sheriff’s department. The report will contain the officer’s conclusions on the cause of the crash. If the other driver received a ticket, this is important in making your claim. More information on accident reports is found in our Car Accident FAQ.
Obtain your Medical Records. You should contact every medical provider you saw – including any ambulance service – and obtain copies of your medical bills and records. These records will show the extent of your injuries, the treatment and the cost of the treatment.
Collect any Lost Wages Information. Even if you used vacation days, you are entitled to get paid for this loss.
Gather any Pictures of the Damaged Vehicles. This is especially important to show the severity of the accident which will confirm the doctor’s findings as to the extent of the injuries.
Take Pictures of the Injuries any Scars or Disfigurement. Pictures of injuries right after the accident as well as any permanent scarring or disfigurement are very persuasive in presenting your claim.
Get Health Insurance Payment Information. If you used your health insurance to pay your medical bills, call them and get a written statement as to how much they paid. The health insurance company will have a right to get paid back out of any settlement.
Once all of this information has been collected, send it to the insurance adjuster in a packet and either include a claim or request an offer from them.
You need to learn how much health insurance has paid out and what the unpaid medical bills are before making a claim or a bid. It will have to be paid out of any settlement funds and the health insurance company will have the subrogation privilege.
When you settle your car accident case for money successfully without a lawyer, then the insurance company will ask you to sign a release.
You can never make another allegation against the other driver once you do this and accept the payment–even if you find out that you need further medical treatment. This is why it is important to fully recover before you settle your case.
PLEASE NOTE: If you were hit by a drunk driver, you should not try to settle your case yourself. You may be entitled to additional damages that the insurance company will not pay if you do not have a competent attorney.
Mistakes Made Settling Injury Claim Without a Lawyer
Settling a personal injury claim to get money from a car accident without the help of a Lawyer is not like painting a wall or doing some other home improvement project where the eye can see if the job was well done.
With that in mind, here are the top six mistakes made settling injury claims without a lawyer.
1. Settling for too Little Money.
When you are injured in an accident due to the fault of another party, it will not be long before the insurance company of the other party can contact you.
They’re going to want to take your argument and get you to say things that would diminish your right to collect money or decrease your claim value. They may even offer you a quick sum of money to settle the claim.
A personal injury lawyer may help find out if insurance coverage is available from other sources, such as underinsured motorist benefits, medical compensation, employer plans, or other assets that can be used to compensate for your claim.
All of those variables will help to increase the claim’s worth.
2. Not Having the Confidence to Negotiate.
Being aggressive is the best way of negotiating an insurance claim. Feeling assertive is the best way to be violent. Knowing your rights and knowing the law is the best way to become confident.
Understanding your rights and understanding what the law entitles you to obtain in a given situation will let the insurance adjuster know you are not supposed to be taken lightly.
It is hard for an adjuster to see that if you are not an attorney or have no significant experience dealing with an insurance adjuster you are proactive and competent. Stay positive, though.
3. Settling Too Soon
You obviously want the personal injury case to be resolved as quickly as possible. But many mistakes are made when injured parties are faced with an insurance company’s offers soon after an accident.
For example, say you have back pain after an accident, and your doctor suspects that you had a muscle strain that will resolve in a short amount of time.
But what if you settle and then learn that the injury is actually a herniated disk that requires surgery, such as a discectomy?
What if your injury ends up being worse than thought and it keeps you from doing your job and providing for your family? Once a case is settled, it is done. It cannot be unsettled and you’ll need to live with the consequences, good or bad.
4. Settling a Property Damage Claim Without Knowing It
If you are injured in an accident and the insurance company offers you compensation for the claim, they will make sure the check and general release you sign ends all further claims you may have.
That means that you’ll most likely have to accept the check as settlement of any and all claims you have against the other driver.
This will create a problem if your car, motorcycle, or other vehicle is totaled or if it sustained damage that needs to be repaired.
In that case, the release you sign may lump the injury and property damage claims together and prevent you from seeking compensation for the damage to your car.
5. Not Providing Proper Documentation for the Claim.
To make a claim for insurance proceeds, it is vital that you provide evidence to support your claim.
You’ll need to show that you suffered an injury, that the other party caused the injury, and that you are entitled to compensation as a result of the other party’s carelessness or negligence.
That means you will need to provide medical records, lost pay information, and a variety of other information that may be necessary to prove the claim.
Injured parties should be very wary if the insurance company is willing to settle a case without first receiving all of the supporting documentation.
An insurance company that is willing to provide a quick payment in that situation probably knows that the claim is worth much more based on their investigation, and they want to obtain a quick and dirty settlement before the injured party hires an attorney to maximize the value of the claim.
6. Ignoring Valid Liens.
Many countries have anti-subrogation legislation that prevents health insurers from receiving compensation for insurance benefits they offer.
This ensures the health insurance company is unable to claim reimbursement for the health benefits that it provides for the medical care you got for your injuries. But this rule does have some exceptions.
When you settle an injury claim without meeting your lien commitments, the employer or other health care provider will likely face a demand for payment.
And if that happens, you can find that some or all of your payout of insurance will be used to maintain those relations. That can be a gross awakening and it would have been much better to hire an attorney that identified any outstanding liens and advised your steps in light of those liens.
Things to Take Note Of
In most cases, seeking to resolve the car accident injury lawsuit without a lawyer is not a good idea.
The reason is that while this may be the first time you’ve tried to settle a claim, the insurance adjuster can manage thousands of lawsuits more than you do and have an unfair advantage over it. It may make sense in some instances though.
In cases where the injuries and medical expenses are minimal, hiring a lawyer on car accidents may not be worthwhile.
Actually, in such situations, depending on the facts, I would recommend that a potential client does not hire one if they could end up receiving more compensation without having to pay an attorney for a car accident.
The actions you take or fail to take immediately following a car accident can have an impact on the result of your claim.
If you have been involved in a car accident, the most important thing to remember is not to leave the scene of the accident; otherwise, you may face criminal charges.
Before thinking about the money, the first action you can take after a car accident is to call 911, or your lawyer if you have been hurt, or someone else.
You should also call the police, and file a report of an incident. It is important not to admit liability, as this is a legal matter and should be investigated properly later.
For all parties involved in the accident, and any witnesses to the accident, you should obtain the name and contact information. It is also a good idea to take pictures to document vehicle damage, road obstructions and injuries.
What Information Do I Need to Have to File a Claim?
To successfully file a claim after engaging in an automobile accident, it’s important that you get as much information as you can. Important information generally includes, contact information for all parties involved in the accident, contact information for any witness to the accident, a detailed explanation of how the accident occurred, photos of the accident scene and any other material that will help you show that the other party caused the accident.
What Do I Do if I Was the Victim of A Hit and Run?
If you’ve been a victim of a hit and run accident, you’re undoubtedly hurt, angry and confused about whether you can recover compensation for your resulting expenses and damages.
Just to any other incident, it is vital that you take some steps to protect your legal rights, such as 1) calling the police to file a report, 2) collecting contact information from any witnesses to the accident, 3) recording the accident scene and 4) seeking medical treatment.
If you have uninsured motorist (UM or UIM) coverage policy, you should also file a claim with your own insurance company. This provision in your policy allows you to recover compensation in the event of a hit and run accident.
What Do I Do if The Other Driver Doesn’t Have Car Insurance?
If you are involved with an uninsured motorist in a car accident, you might mistakenly believe you do not have options when it comes to collecting monetary damage for your vehicle and medical treatment.
Actually, as part of your insured and uninsured motorist (UM or UIM) coverage policy, you can seek compensation from your own car insurance carrier.
Sadly, if your State does not mandate that your insurance policy contain UM or UIM, the only remedy may be to file a suit directly against the uninsured driver. Some states have funds to protect those affected by uninsured driver accidents.
Should I Accept a Check from The Faulty Driver or The Faulty Driver’s Insurance Company?
The answer to this question depends on your case’s specific facts. The general rule of thumb, though, is that it is best not to accept a check from the defective driver or their insurance carrier unless you meet with an experienced automobile accident lawyer.
The explanation for this is that your counsel can tell you after reviewing the facts of your claim that the true value of your claim is greater than what the guilty party or their insurance company offers you.
If you accept a settlement offer too soon, the full value of your claim may not be obtainable.
What if The Faulty Driver Has Inadequate Insurance to Cover All My Damages?
If the faulty driver had inadequate insurance to cover all of your damages, you may be able to tap into your own underinsured motorist coverage policy.
UIM/UM coverage is relatively cheap, but an excellent way to ensure yourself and your family’s health in the event of a serious accident.
You should consult with an experienced car accident lawyer to determine how much money you get, or to see if underinsurance coverage is applicable to your claim.
Can I Reject a Settlement Offer?
The short answer to this question is yes. However, it is important to note that there are many factors that you should consider before accepting or rejecting a settlement offer from the negligent party or their insurance carrier.
Who Pays My Medical Expenses While My Case Is Pending?
When you’re injured in a car accident, typically no-fault insurance coverage will pay for your medical bills.
If your no-fault policy limits are exhausted or further treatment claims have been denied, your attorney may also be able to refer you to doctors who will treat you on a lien.
It is really possible to receive money after a car accident without having a lawyer. However, it is not very easy. When you’re out of options, hire an attorney.
If the insurance company is still not offering a satisfactory amount for your claim, it may be time to contact the court and start the lawsuit process.
At this point, to get good money, it’s highly recommended to contact a car accident lawyer – they have the knowledge and experience to go through the court proceedings to maximize your settlement and ensure you end up with an offer that meets your needs.
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