Car Accident Personal Injury Claim Process

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Two question get brought up a lot in just about any legal case: how much will this cost, or how must do I deserve? While putting a dollar figure on legal issues may seem to be greedy, the simple fact is when you are wronged, you deserve something. If you in turn wronged someone, they too deserve something. This gets complex, especially in car accident law, but this guide focuses on a basic question. How much is a car accident injury claim worth?

Know the Types of Damages
There are many forms of damages you can get after a car accident, depending mainly on what happened, who was at fault, and who is injured. Even in cases where fault is on both sides, the person hurt can recover damages. This includes damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, mental anguish, and loss of life enjoyment. While you may think medical expenses may be the big number here, actually pain, suffering, and mental anguish can lead to much greater damages.

Know Who You are Suing
Car accident claims can be high, but it depends on who’s at fault. If you’re involved in an accident with another car, that car owner and his or her insurance will be liable. On the other hand, if you’re hit by someone in a company vehicle, you might get more. The point here is that the bigger the person at fault is, the more he or she pays. That may sound unfair, but it’s how it works.

Valuing a Claim
Insurers first define claims by medical expenses and lost wages, not by pain and suffering issues. Medical and lost wages are where the process begins. Then, if the injuries are very severe, if the pain and suffering is a lingering issue, they may increase the initial number dramatically. However, the first offer may be a low one, and not factor in pain, suffering, and mental anguish. How can you get more?

Get a Lawyer
A personal injury lawyer is essential in proving liability, improving damages, and protecting your rights. You simply cannot do without one. You need not fork over a huge check either; an experienced personal injury lawyer will take a percentage of the final settlement. If you lack a lawyer, it may decrease the value of your claim. With a lawyer, you can make fair counter offers, and if need be take this issue to court. How much does a lawyer get? This depends on the complexity of the case. If you settle far before court, a lawyer may take around 25% of the settlement. If you fight a long, protracted battle in court, the fee will be more like 35%.

We are now back to the original question: How much can you get? That’s a question for a good lawyer. If he or she thinks you have a winner, you both will decide a fair number to take. So you make the number, not the defendant.

The best way to determine how much your injury claim is worth when injured in a car accident is to look at how an insurance company would value your claim. An insurance carrier will first look to the types and amounts of damages suffered and then degree of fault.

If you’ve recently suffered a car accident injury and are seeking an auto accident settlement, then the question of responsibility will greatly affect the amount of money you are paid. For instance, if it is determined that you are 20% responsible for the accident, then the claims adjuster will reduce your damages payment by 20%.

It used to be that if you were 100% responsible for the accident, you wouldn’t see ANY money from your claim. But the good news is, nowadays, most states have some form of “comparative negligence” that proportions out the blame so that even if it’s all your fault, you will be able to recuperate some damages.

If, deep down you know you are responsible for the accident, then if you be good to do some additional research on the types of designations that insurance companies classify: proportional comparative fault at 50%, proportional comparative fault (PCF) at 51% and pure comparative fault. But note — this varies wildly state to state.

The simplest way to understand these designations is that 51% PCF means you were more responsible than the other person, 50% PCF typically means both parties were responsible (and therefore may not receive damages) and pure comparative fault is, yup, you guessed — all one person or another.

The first step is to ask your claims adjuster at your insurance company to determine the relative degree of fault. Fortunately it’s not set in stone. You can argue your case can get their initial estimate changed. If they stick to their guns and don’t change their estimate (and you feel they’re wrong) then guess what, its time to get an attorney.

If you’ve ever heard of No Fault insurance, then I’m sure you now see how this relates. If you have it, then it doesn’t matter much if you were determined to be at fault. But if you didn’t get it before the accident, well, better luck next time.

Of course, one scenario we haven’t addressed yet is when the accident is entirely someone else’s fault and in that case – ka-ching! Maybe. You still have the other person’s insurance company to contend with.


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