Getting into a car accident can be frightening, stressful, and financially devastating. Medical bills, property damage, and lost wages accumulate quickly, leaving the victim wondering how to cover such expenses. Thankfully, insurance from the at-fault driver may provide financial compensation or settlement to help offset some of these costs.
However, negotiating a fair car accident settlement can be complex, and insurance companies will try to pay as little as possible. Knowing how to build a strong case is crucial for obtaining the financial assistance needed and deserved after an accident. The following steps can help attain the largest car accident settlement possible.
The first stage in settling a car accident claim is determining who is at fault or liable. Liability is typically determined by the insurance companies involved, based on details from the accident report, statements from drivers, and witnesses. They also use any available photos or footage of the accident scene.
If liability is clear, the at-fault driver’s insurance will accept responsibility for the damages. If you dispute liability, insurance companies may not determine fault immediately or may determine shared liability. Detailed investigation helps them establish liability before agreeing to a settlement.
Types of Damages
There are two main types of damages in a car accident settlement —economic and non-economic.
• Economic or Spatial Damages: These refer to quantifiable losses like vehicle repairs or replacements, medical bills, lost wages, transportation costs, or any other out-of-pocket losses.
• Non-Economic Damages: These refer to pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of enjoyment of life, or other intangible losses.
Settlement offers will aim to compensate the victim for all types of damages they incurred. Punitive damages punish the at-fault party but are rarely included in settlements.
Negotiating the Settlement
Once they determine liability and calculate damages, negotiations for a settlement begin. The insurance company often makes an initial offer, which the claimant can accept or counter. During negotiations, the claimant should provide documentation to justify a higher settlement, like repair or medical bills, vehicle valuations, and details on the severity of injuries. Compensation for pain and suffering may require testimony from medical professionals about the consequences of the injuries. The key is to negotiate thoroughly to achieve fair compensation.
Accepting or Rejecting the Settlement
It is best to accept the settlement if you reach a fair amount that adequately compensates you for all damages. Agreeing to it means signing a release of liability that prevents future claims.
However, if negotiations fail to result in an acceptable offer, the victim can reject the settlement. They can make a final demand in writing, restart negotiations, or file a personal injury lawsuit to pursue the matter in civil court. Lawsuits are riskier, time-consuming, and expensive but may result in a larger compensation.
Filing a Lawsuit
If negotiations fail, getting a personal injury lawyer to file a lawsuit is the only option to recover damages from a car accident. Lawsuits begin by filing a complaint in civil court alleging negligence on the defendant’s part. The defendant will typically respond by disputing liability or claiming shared fault.
You will then need to prove liability and damages in court through an exchange of evidence and witnesses testimonies. If the plaintiff succeeds, the judge or jury will award them damages. However, litigation is risky since there is always a possibility of losing the case and the compensation alongside it. You should try to pursue lawsuits if out-of-court settlements are not possible.
In the end, getting a fair settlement after a car accident comes down to properly documenting everything related to the incident and your injuries. A professional lawyer can guide you through the process, gather the necessary evidence, and fight for a settlement amount that covers your total damages and loss.