A car accident can cause significant damages for a driver. If another driver caused an accident due to negligence or illegal activity, he or she is liable for the injured driver’s damages. However, insurance comes into play in most car accident cases. After some accidents, an insurance adjuster will consider several factors in offering a settlement to a claimant and will generally look for any reason to lower the settlement amount, delay the claim, or deny it outright. A car accident attorney will make sure the insurance adjusters cannot take advantage of you.
State Laws for Car Accident Claims
Some states follow no-fault laws requiring drivers to file claims against their own policies after accidents and only allow them to sue for severe injuries or accidents that meet specific criteria. In other states that follow fault-based systems, an injured driver has the option of filing a personal injury claim against a negligent driver if the negligent driver’s insurance coverage does not fully cover the injured driver’s damages.
Every state imposes minimum auto insurance coverage requirements for drivers. A typical minimum coverage insurance policy includes coverage for bodily injuries or death per person in an accident, total accident coverage, and property damage coverage. Policyholders must remember that a minimum coverage policy may not fully cover the costs of an accident, and policyholders will be liable for any remaining damages.
Insurance companies rely on data compiled from decades of accident claims to assess the value of a claim, and often use a multiplier to determine the potential value of a claim. For example, if a claimant proposes $5,000 in damages and the adjuster uses a multiplier of three, then the adjuster will value the claim at $15,000. This may seem arbitrary, as no solid formula to calculate the value of a car accident claim during the adjustment or estimation process exists, but insurance adjusters rely on multiplier figures to determine the potential trial value of a car accident claim.
Litigation is expensive, even for big insurance companies, so it is in the insurer’s best interest to settle a car accident claim rather than allow it to go to trial. However, the insurer will still look for ways to reduce the company’s financial obligation to a claimant. If a claim exceeds the available coverage in an at-fault driver’s policy, the at-fault driver could face a civil suit from the claimant to recover the remainder.
Damages Available in Most Car Accident Claims
An injured driver can recover several types of compensation from a successful car accident claim.
- Medical expenses, such as hospital bills, prescription costs, and any fees for ongoing treatments following the accident, like physical therapy.
- Lost income, if the claimant’s injuries prevent him or her from working and collecting wages for an extended time.
- Property damage, such as repair costs for a damaged vehicle.
- Pain and suffering compensation for the claimant’s physical pain and psychological suffering following an accident.
Injured drivers should understand the risks associated with accepting a settlement offer too soon. An insurance adjuster that recognizes the validity of a claim will offer as little as possible in the hope of the claimant accepting the offer and moving on instead of fighting for more compensation. An injured driver may not fully realize the scope of his or her injuries until much later after the accident, as some injuries will not show symptoms immediately. It is important for a claimant to have a sound medical report that includes a prognosis of his or her future medical concerns resulting from an accident.
Accepting a settlement offer for a car accident claim usually comes with the condition that the claimant releases the at-fault driver (and by association, the at-fault driver’s insurance company) from any liability for future claims for the same event. For example, if a claimant accepts an offer that covers his or her immediate medical expenses but discovers additional injuries after accepting the offer, he or she would not have the option to file another claim for the newly discovered damages. A personal injury attorney can help an injured driver manage insurance claims and maximize his or her compensation after an auto accident.