Auto accident claims begin at the scene
In 2010, there were 5,419,000 motor vehicle crashes, killing 32,885 and injuring 2,239,000.
Whether it’s a motorcycle, car or truck accident, the collision may be shocking and traumatic. It’s important to try to remain calm so that you can get details you may need to file an insurance claim. If you or anyone else in the car has suffered major injuries, call an ambulance. Some injuries are not noticeable while your body is pumping with adrenaline, and may appear a day or two later. Still, go to the doctor to get it checked out as soon as possible and get documentation.
Under state law, any accident involving injuries or death or apparent property damage of at least $500 must also be reported to police. An officer will file a report if they investigate the accident. You may want to exchange basic contact information, driver’s license, insurance and registration information with other drivers involved. Writing down notes of the exact location, how it happened, accounts from any witnesses you talk to, and taking photos with your cell phone camera to document damage and any signs such as the speed limit sign may also help your claim.
Filing an auto insurance claim
With the finger-pointing over negligence or who was at fault in an auto accident clogging the courts, states like Florida enacted a no-fault insurance system, which allows those who have suffered injuries to receive awards to cover their medical expenses faster regardless of fault.
Starting this year, under Florida’s new Personal Injury Protection laws, you risk losing medical insurance coverage if you fail to see a qualified medical provider within 14 days of the accident.
PIP will only pay up to $2,500 in medical benefits unless the patient has an “emergency medical condition.” To qualify for the full $10,000 in medical benefits, symptoms must be severe enough to indicate that the lack of immediate medical attention would put the victim’s health in serious jeopardy, damage bodily functions, or cause a body part or organ to stop working properly.
Hiring an attorney after an auto wreck
In a case involving minor injuries from a rear fender bender where no fault is contested, you may be able to settle easily on your own, but if it is more complex, then “going it alone” may hurt your chances of receiving a proper settlement so it may benefit you to consult an attorney.
Even if insurers have in-house lawyers and the odds are stacked against you, qualified attorneys with knowledge of national and state laws and the leverage and experience to know how much you can ask for may give you a fair chance of winning while protecting your legal rights.
Lawyers may typically charge up to one-third of recovery, so if you’re not confident that you will be able to settle the claim yourself, two-thirds of something is better than all of nothing.
If you decide to hire an attorney, they are essentially working for you so it’s a good idea to do your homework so that you know what you are willing to settle for based on your injuries. Jot down out-of-pocket expenses such as medical expenses or lost wages or a rental car, then come up with an offer and counter offer so you are not tempted to settle for less than you deserve.
Settling for less now or more later
Don’t let the cute British-speaking “Gecko” from Geico auto insurance or quirky “Flo” from Progressive car insurance fool you into thinking that insurers are always your friend. Sometimes, insurers may care more about satisfying their shareholders than your interests as the customer.
Insurers may sometimes drag out a claim so that you are willing to accept less than you deserve to accelerate the process, but it may be worth holding out. For example, while you may be cash-strapped and $50,000 may look appealing, if your claim is actually worth $250,000, then this may be worth waiting for to help you recover from your injuries over a longer period of time.
Expected wait time for a settlement
The amount of time it takes to settle an auto accident claim varies widely from a few weeks to a couple years depending on the extent of the injuries, whether fault is contested, and whether there is litigation. If there are more serious injuries that affects the time it takes to settle because in order to assess the settlement for your medical bills you will have to reach maximum medical improvement to determine the threshold of how much they cost and future medical expenses.
Once you’ve reach maximum medical improvement and file the claim, then the plaintiff may hear back from the defense in a month or two. If both parties agree, then it may settle soon after, but if fault remains contested, then you may have to decide if it’s worth going to trial.
Going to court
While some attorneys may only want to settle, our attorneys at Swope, Rodante P.A. may go to court if the insurer denies their clients a fair settlement. Our firm is dedicated to fighting to help our clients, who have often suffered life-altering, catastrophic injuries such as paralysis or brain injury, recover from the harm and restore their quality of life to the greatest extent possible.