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Handling an insurance claim following a car accident can be an intimidating task. Having an attorney in your corner throughout the process has several benefits, including receiving the full value of your claim.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident and are wondering how long it may take to resolve a car accident insurance claim, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive a free case evaluation with one of our friendly personal injury attorneys.
WHAT TO DO AFTER BEING INJURED IN AN AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT
1. Seek medical attention
Even seemingly minor car accidents can cause debilitating injuries. For example, the victim of a fender bender may feel okay in the immediate aftermath of the collision; however, once the adrenaline from the accident wears off, pain can settle in. In addition to these dormant injuries, car accidents can also result in more severe consequences such as broken limbs, traumatic brain injuries, and death.
Therefore, the first and most important step a car accident victim can take following an accident is to seek prompt medical attention from a trained professional. Even a call to your family physician may be sufficient. In more serious cases, do not hesitate to make a trip to the emergency room.
2. Report the automobile accident
When you are feeling well enough to do so, be sure to file an accident report with local law enforcement. Creating a report can be helpful to your case for several reasons. For instance, a report will create an official record of the accident and will allow you to provide a first-hand account of how the accident occurred. A report may also serve as key evidence in your claim filing process. Therefore, when filling out the report, it is important that you include as much information as possible, including how the accident occurred, where it occurred, and what types of injuries you sustained.
3. Keep a record of documentation relating to the accident
A critical component of the post-automobile accident process is to create and maintain a running file of all documentation pertaining to the accident. Such documentation may include the accident report, witness statements, photographs of your injuries, photographs of the scene of the accident, copies of all medical records, and copies of car repair estimates. You can stay on top of this process by storing all such documentation at your home, office, or on your smartphone. Keeping this documentation will not only make it easier to recall the timeline of events, it may also help establish the viability of your claim.
4. Contact a car accident attorney
Consult with a car accident lawyer before discussing your claim with claims adjusters, insurance companies, or other parties. In many cases, car accident victims hastily accept a settlement offer without realizing that a more favorable offer can be negotiated. A brief consultation with a car accident lawyer may help protect your legal rights and can prevent you from accepting a settlement that is thousands of dollars less than your claim’s actual value.
THE INSURANCE CLAIMS PROCESS
It should come as no surprise that car accident victims frequently ask how long the claims process takes following an accident. This seemingly simple question does not have a simple answer.
To understand why, it is important to note that car accident victims are often in a precarious position after an accident. On one hand, victims are dealing with expensive medical bills and would like to be paid out as soon as possible. On the other hand, being patient and waiting to negotiate a more favorable settlement may result in a better payout.
Thus, the amount of time it takes to resolve an insurance claim depends on factors such as:
- The severity of the accident and the injuries sustained
- The extent to which the parties are covered by insurance
- The extent to which the victim is at fault for the accident
- The victim’s willingness to settle or negotiate further
Filing a Claim and Dealing with Claims Adjusters
Following an accident, you may need to file a claim with an insurance company. If the at-fault party has coverage, you may be able to file the claim with their insurer. If the at-fault party does not have insurance, you may file a claim with your own carrier.
After filing a claim, the claim will be assigned to an insurance claims adjuster. The adjuster’s job is to investigate the circumstances of your claim and report the findings to the insurance company. Thus, for the majority of the process, the claims adjuster will be your point-of-contact for resolving your claim.
It is important to remember, however, that the claims adjuster operates with the insurance company’s best interests in mind, not yours. Thus, refrain from admitting any fault to the claims adjuster or stating that you could have done something to prevent the accident. Such statements may harm the value of your claim.
Once the adjuster is done with his or her investigation, the adjuster will file a comprehensive report with the insurance company. The report may consist of a detailed summary of the financial aspects of the accident, including the total costs incurred. Using this information, the insurance company will come up with an initial settlement offer.
Negotiating and Settling Your Claim
Many individuals are unaware that an insurance company’s initial settlement offer can be negotiated. In fact, many insurance companies initially propose a low settlement with the expectation that the car accident victim will negotiate a higher amount. Thus, do not be discouraged if the insurance company’s initial settlement offer is lower than what you were expecting.
The actual claim negotiation process consists of back-and-forth communication between you and the insurance company’s claims adjuster. The goal of the negotiation process is to convince the claims adjuster that your claim is worth more than what his or her damage report says it is. Listed below are several tips for facilitating your position throughout negotiation:
- Establish a minimum settlement amount by calculating your expenses and do not accept less than that amount
- Emphasize and re-emphasize the severity of your injuries using photographs, medical records, and other similar documentation
- Do not admit fault for any part of the accident
- Do not say that you are desperate for quick money
In the perfect situation, a settlement amount that is satisfactory to both you and the insurance company will be agreed upon. If this happens, be sure to confirm the agreement in writing. If an agreement cannot be reached, you may need to explore the possibility of filing a personal injury lawsuit.
CAR ACCIDENT COMPENSATION
One of the most prevalent questions asked by car accident victims is what types of compensation they can receive after an accident. The compensation that may be awarded to a car accident victim, otherwise referred to as “damages,” comes in two general forms: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are identifiable, objective costs incurred by the victim of a car accident. This type of damages can be calculated with relative ease because such costs are reflected in bills, statements, pay stubs, and other documentation. In car accident cases, specific types of economic damages which may be available to the victim include:
- Medical bills (e.g., doctor’s appointments and hospital stays)
- Pharmacy bills (e.g., prescription drug costs)
- Rehabilitation bills (e.g., physical therapy)
- Future medical costs
- Property repair costs
- Lost income and wages
- Future lost income
- Loss of earning capacity
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are subjective “costs” incurred by the victim. These costs are not paid for in dollars and cents. Rather, non-economic damages relate to the victim’s diminished capacity to enjoy life. Non-economic damages are typically evaluated by the jury in a lawsuit. Types of non-economic damages in a car accident case may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages are a separate class of damages that may also be awarded if the governing jurisdiction so allows. However, even in such jurisdictions, punitive damages are uncommon. Because punitive damages are a form of punishment, this class of damages is reserved only for cases where the wrongdoer acted intentionally or with extreme disregard for the well-being of others.
LEGAL TIME LIMITS FOR CAR ACCIDENT CLAIMS
The law imposes legal time limits, referred to as “statutes of limitations,” the significance of which cannot be overstated. A car accident victim must file a claim within the applicable statute of limitations to avoid forfeiting some or all of their legal rights.
Statutes of limitations periods vary from state to state. Most states have a two- or three-year statute of limitations for car accident injuries. For example, Texas is a two-year statute of limitations state. Thus, if you were injured in a car accident in Texas on January 1, 2021, you would have until January 1, 2023, to file your claim.
Keep in mind, however, that a statute of limitations can be a moving target. In other words, specific circumstances may extend, or “toll,” the limitations period. One such example is when the victim is a minor. Because understanding your legal time limits is imperative, consider contacting an experienced car accident injury attorney for more information regarding your automobile accident insurance claim.
LET ZINDA LAW GROUP’S CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS HELP
Navigating the insurance claim filing process may very well be the last thing a car accident victim wants to do following an accident. Time spent having conversations with claims adjusters, filling out pages and pages of paperwork, and searching the internet is time taken away from family and healing. Car accident victims should not have to deal with these headaches.
Thankfully, Zinda Law Group’s team of car accident attorneys is here to help. While you focus on recovery and family time, our experienced lawyers will investigate your accident, gather helpful evidence, formulate a legal strategy, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and do everything else that is necessary to best protect your rights.
Our firm also believes that an injury victim should never have to worry about being able to afford excellent legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free consultations, and why you pay nothing unless we win your case. That's our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.