After a car accident, the last thing you want to do is fight the insurance company only to find out that its final offer does not cover all of your medical expenses and there is no money for pain and suffering or loss of income.
Arguing with the insurance company can create stress, especially when you are trying to recover. When you retain a car accident lawyer, you can concentrate on physically recovering while the attorney handles the stress and helps recover the compensation you deserve instead of the pittance the insurance company insists on paying if it does not outright deny your claim.
Table of Contents
- Insurance Company Tricks
- Car Accident Injuries
- Recovering Damages After a Car Accident
- How Long it Takes to Settle a Car Accident Claim?
Insurance Company Tricks
Yes, tricks. Insurance companies may do anything possible to deny a claim. Barring that, they will offer you the least amount possible to make you go away. They know that you will get tired of arguing with them and eventually accept their lowball offer.
Some of the tricks insurance companies use include:
- Blaming you for the accident. Car accident lawyers tell people not to discuss the accident with insurance companies because they know that insurance companies will twist what you say to blame you, which means that the insurance company does not have to pay or can offer you less than you deserve.
- Admitting their client is at fault. This is fine, but in doing that, insurance companies will tell you that the most they can pay is what they are offering you. That is rarely, if ever, the truth.
- Delaying the claim. Insurance companies will delay the claim by confusing you with legal jargon or by telling you that claims take time. They are hoping that you will be so tired of waiting that you will accept a lower settlement.
- Offering a quick settlement. Never accept the first offer an insurance company makes. They are hoping that you will need the money so badly that you will snatch up that quick money. In reality, your claim is most likely worth much more than the insurance company’s initial offer.
- Discouraging you from contacting a car accident lawyer. No car accident case is a simple case. However, the insurance company often tells you that it is an open-and-shut case in the hopes that you accept its initial settlement offer, which is usually much less than what your case is worth. Insurance companies know that if you retain a car accident lawyer that you will learn the true value of your case.
Insurance companies do not like when you get a car accident lawyer involved in your case because they know that if they do not offer a fair and reasonable amount, the attorney will not hesitate to take your case to court.
After litigation, there is always the chance that the jury could award you an amount much more considerable than the amount you might have settled for. Additionally, the insurance company not only has to pay its attorneys for trial time, which is significantly more expensive than settling, but it will most likely have to pay your attorney’s fees and costs.
Even when the insurance company pays your attorney’s fees and costs as part of the settlement, the amount is much less than if you were to litigate.
Car Accident Injuries
During a car accident, you could sustain injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to catastrophic injuries or even death. However, minor injuries could become severe if they become infected or you develop a hematoma. In some cases, infections could become gangrenous and require amputation.
You should never take car accident injuries lightly, as they can always become significant which would require more compensation.
Accident injuries might include:
- Bumps, scrapes, bruises, scratches, and cuts. Any open wound has the risk of becoming infected, and any bumps and bruises could cause a hematoma to form.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled or torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries. Some soft tissue injuries, such as pulled muscles, could heal on their own with physical therapy. However, some, such as torn muscles and ligaments, might require surgery. As with cuts and scrapes, surgical wounds have a risk of becoming infected.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones and other crush injuries.
- Internal injuries, including punctures to internal organs, bruised organs, lung damage due to breathing in smoke or chemicals, and other internal injuries.
- Face and eye injuries, including blindness.
- Ear injuries, including deafness.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Full or partial paralysis.
The at fault driver is also responsible for secondary injuries, such as infections that develop due to cuts suffered in the accident or surgical wounds created to repair accident injuries.
Additionally, if the accident injuries worsen existing illnesses or conditions, the responsibility for the extra medical expenses and pain and suffering is on the at-fault driver’s shoulders.
Your injuries could cause long-term or permanent disabilities and this is what insurance companies want to avoid paying. Obtaining a quick settlement from you means that you might not find out about permanent disabilities until after the settlement. By then, you cannot go back and recover additional money once you settle and sign the waiver, that is all you get.
Recovering Damages After a Car Accident
After a car accident, you can recover much more than medical expenses and car repairs if your situation warrants it. Most accident victims can recover compensatory damages in the form of economic damages.
If your injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities, or if you lose a loved one in a car accident, you could also recover compensatory damages in the form of non-economic damages. In some states, you could also recover punitive damages.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value and include:
- Doctors’ appointments
- Surgeries and follow-up appointments
- Prescriptions and prescribed over-the-counter medications
- Ambulatory aids.
- Physical therapy appointments
- Occupational therapy appointments
- Cognitive therapy appointments
- Psychological therapy appointments
- Home health care
- Nursing home and/or rehabilitative home care
- Hand controls for your vehicle
- Accessibility upgrades for your home, such as handrails, grab bars, widened doorways, and wheelchair ramps
You could recover the loss of your current income in the form of wages and salaries from the time of the accident through the time you return to work prior to settlement or a trial award. You could also recover loss of future earning capacity if the accident injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities that prevent you from working.
If you can work but not at the same rate prior to the accident, or if you can only work part-time, you could recover the loss of partial future earning capacity usually until the time you would normally retire.
Not all personal injury cases allow for the recovery of personal property. However, car accidents do you could recover compensation to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property, including your vehicle and anything of value in your vehicle, such as cell phones and computers.
If you lost a loved one in a car accident, you could recover:
- Burial and funeral expenses.
- Cremation expenses.
- Certain probate court fees.
- Probate attorney’s fees and costs.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value.
In most cases, only those who suffer long-term or permanent disabilities as a result of car accident injuries or those who lost a loved one in a car accident recover non-economic damages, including:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make lifelong changes, such as taking prescriptions or using ambulatory aids.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy time with your family or attend family activities and events, including playing with your children.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a foot or arm.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight, hearing, or bladder.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, house cleaning, home maintenance and repair, and other chores.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
Some states allow you to recover punitive damages if you can prove that gross negligence or intentional actions by the defendant. Generally, the court must award you compensatory damages before you can recover punitive damages.
How Long it Takes to Settle a Car Accident Claim?
No one knows how long it takes to settle a car accident claim because every claim is different. Even though one accident might be similar to another, the way you respond to injuries is different. Also, insurance companies might settle for different amounts. You could have the same medical expenses and other losses as the next person, but the insurance company might settle for a different amount.
The basic steps in recovering a settlement include:
- A car accident attorney reviews your case and medical records. The attorney might investigate the case or might call in expert witnesses to discuss your injuries, especially if doctors expect your injuries to become long-term or permanent disabilities.
- The attorney opens negotiations by forwarding a demand letter to the insurance company. The demand letter includes the facts of your case, an amount you are willing to settle for, and a timeframe in which the insurance company must respond.
- The insurance company responds with a denial or counteroffer. The insurance company might accept the demand, though that is rare.
- If the insurance company denies your case, you can litigate. If the insurance company comes back with a counteroffer, you can accept it or send back a counteroffer to their counteroffer. Counteroffers can go back and forth several times it is up to you as long as the insurance company sends another counteroffer.
Once you accept an offer from the insurance company or the insurance company takes one of your counteroffers one of the attorneys (usually the defendant’s attorney) drafts a settlement agreement.
When your attorney receives and reviews the settlement agreement, they will go over it with you to ensure that everything is correct. If it is, you sign and notarize the settlement agreement and a release for the insurance company. It then processes the paperwork and cuts a check for the agreed-upon amount.
After your attorney receives the check, the attorney deposits the check into an escrow account. The firm can only take the next steps once the check clears the bank. That could take up to 14 days, depending on the amount of the check.
After the check clears, your attorney:
- Pays any outstanding medical expenses you might have.
- Reimburses your health and vehicle insurance if you used them to cover medical expenses while you were waiting for your settlement.
- Deducts attorney’s fees and costs.
- Writes you a check for the balance.
Once you receive the check, you can deposit it and use it as you please.
If you decide to litigate, should you prevail, once the jury makes its award, one attorney drafts a proposed final judgment. Both attorneys review it before forwarding it to the court for the judge’s signature. Once the judge executes the order, the clerk files the original and forwards the final judgment to you and the insurance company. The insurance company then cuts a check to your attorney. The subsequent steps are the same as when your attorney receives a check from a settlement.
If you suffered from injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident, Connect with our personal injury law firm in Philadelphia for a free case evaluation.