Anyone who is involved in a car accident, if they are able, should take pictures of the accident and get the other driver’s contact and insurance information, as well as the contact information for people who witnessed the accident. They should also call the police so that they can file an accident report. Finally, they should call their insurance company and let them know that they were in an accident and the location of the accident.
When the police say that everyone is clear to leave the scene, anyone who was involved in the accident as a driver or passenger should go to the doctor or the emergency room to get checked out, even if it feels like they haven’t sustained any injuries. Some injuries can show up hours or even days after the accident.
Contacting the Insurance Company
Drivers who were involved in an accident and choose not to hire an attorney must contact their insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company to file claims. Unfortunately, insurance companies will always try to pay the least amount possible. A car accident victim who does not choose to retain an attorney and accepts a settlement from the insurance company will not be able to reopen the claim if they find that injuries showed up later or that they didn’t get enough money to cover future medical bills. And if the other driver was completely at fault, the victims of that driver’s gross negligence can only recover punitive damages if they file a civil lawsuit.
Filing a Claim
A vehicle owner who chooses to file a claim without an attorney must contact their insurance company and provide the other driver’s contact and insurance information. The insurance company will investigate the claim and make a settlement offer based on damage to the vehicle and the police report.
While police reports are accurate as to what the police officer believes, they may not always be accurate in determining fault. The insurance company puts a lot of weight on the police report, even if it’s incorrect. While the insurance company is investigating the accident, the vehicle owner should get three repair estimates for the vehicle and submit the estimates to the insurance company. The insurance company will then decide whether to pay for repairs or declare the vehicle a total loss.
The vehicle’s driver and any passengers also need to submit any medical bills or proof of loss of wages resulting from the accident, if they have any. If anyone involved needs compensation for pain and suffering, loss of companionship, or other non-economic damages, they should submit that request along with their medical bills. The insurance company will determine what it thinks is fair and offer a settlement.
In most cases, the settlement will be low, and may not even cover the medical bills. After all, insurance companies are in business to make a profit, and they always pay the least amount possible to be done with the claim. Once the driver and passengers accept that settlement, they will not be able to get any other compensation from the insurance company for that accident.
Working With a Car Accident Lawyer
A car accident attorney can take over the process and work to get their client the fairest settlement possible. If the insurance company makes a low-ball offer, the attorney will try to negotiate a better offer that covers all of the expenses their client needs to cover. If the insurance company will not counter with a fair settlement, a car accident lawyer can take the case to court.
While the insurance company will rely mostly on the police report, a car accident lawyer can investigate the case more thoroughly. The attorney might take statements from witnesses, look at pictures of the accident, review medical records, check over the insurance company’s finding regarding repairs for the vehicle, and look at any other available information, including the police report.
If the attorney finds evidence that their client is not at fault, even if the police report points to their client, the attorney will fight for their client’s rights. Any information the client was able to gather at the scene of the accident can make a big difference in this process.
Future Medical Expenses and Lost Wages
Some injuries may be severe enough to cause a car accident victim to be out of work for months or even permanently. These types of injuries usually require future doctors’ appointments and sometimes additional surgery. When car accident victims settle with an insurance company, they may not get enough money to cover these future expenses, including lost wages.
A car accident attorney will look at their client’s injuries and may even retain expert witnesses to testify that their client is unable to return to work and will need future medical care. If the insurance company will not settle for a fair amount, the attorney may take the case to court. In most cases, once the court or a jury looks at the evidence, including testimony from expert witnesses such as doctors, the client will receive more compensation than what the insurance company offered as a settlement.
Compensation for a Car Accident
Car accident victims can receive the following types of compensation after an accident:
- Economic damages: These cover medical bills, car repair or replacement costs and other expenses that have a dollar amount assigned to them.
- Non-economic damages: These are payments for pain and suffering, loss of companionship, stress, and other types of damages that do not have a specific dollar amount, but are still very real.
- Punitive damages: These damages are only awarded when the defendant’s grossly negligent actions caused the victim’s injuries. For example, if the other driver was drunk when they caused the accident, a court might consider that gross negligence and the victim or victims could receive punitive damages. These damages are often referred to as a punishment for the defendant and are hopefully a deterrent so they don’t do anything similar again.
Contact an Attorney if You Are Having Trouble With an Insurance Claim
If you were in a vehicle accident and are having trouble getting insurance to pay for your injuries, The Law Offices of George Salinas can provide more information and guide you through the process. Give our San Antonio office a call at (210) 944-8584 today, to see how we can help you.