If you suffered injuries in a car accident that you didn’t cause, you may seek compensation for your losses. Yet the process of filing a claim can often feel confusing. Understanding how car accident settlements work can help you feel prepared as you take steps to recover the compensation you deserve.
Investigating the Accident
The car accident attorney will investigate the accident to determine who was at fault and to gather the insurance information from that party. This investigation may involve collecting evidence, such as photos of the accident scene, witness statements, and police reports. The insurance company might also get an insurance adjuster to call you to make a statement about the crash.
Refer them to your attorney when they call. The insurance company’s primary interest is to trick you into making a statement they could later use against you to reduce the value of your claim.
In Indiana, car accident settlements typically revolve around the concept of fault. The party at fault for the accident is responsible for paying for any resulting losses or injuries. In some cases, liability may be clear-cut, such as when one driver runs a red light and causes of a car accident. In other cases, liability may be more difficult to determine, such as when multiple parties are at fault for the accident. In such circumstances, you might claim compensation from more than one insurance company.
How to File a Car Accident Claim
Once your attorney has located the at-fault party’s insurance information, the next step in the settlement process is to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
When filing your claim, provide the insurance company with as much information as possible, including:
- The date and time of the accident
- The location of the accident
- The names and contact information of any witnesses
- The names and insurance information of any other drivers involved
An experienced Indiana car accident attorney knows how to follow the correct processes to get your claim filed on time.
Calculating the Value of Your Losses
After filing the insurance claim, the next step in the settlement process is to calculate the value of your losses. This process involves determining the total amount of economic and non-economic losses you have suffered due to the accident.
Economic losses are relatively easy to calculate because they involve actual financial expenses such as medical bills, lost income, and property damage. Your attorney will gather documentation and evidence to support your claim for economic losses.
Non-economic losses, on the other hand, are more subjective and difficult to quantify. They include things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. Compensation for these intangible losses should cover non-monetary losses you have experienced due to the accident.
Indiana law places limits on the amount you can recover for non-economic losses. Specifically, Indiana Code 34-51-2-19 limits the compensation you could obtain for pain, suffering, and other non-economic losses to $750,000. If your case involves a catastrophic injury such as paralysis, traumatic brain injury, or permanent disfigurement, the limit increases to $1.25 million.
Negotiating the Settlement
After calculating the value of your losses, your attorney will send the insurance company a demand letter outlining the amount of compensation you need and providing supporting documentation.
In response, the insurance company will likely make an initial settlement offer. This initial offer is just that – an offer. You have the right for your attorney to negotiate a higher settlement if the initial offer does not adequately compensate you for your losses.
Hiring a personal injury attorney to represent you during the settlement process can help ensure that you do not say or do anything to inadvertently undermine your claim. An experienced attorney can negotiate a fair settlement and protect your legal rights throughout the process.
Mediation and Trial
In some claims, negotiations between you and the insurance company may not lead to an agreement on the settlement amount. If this is the case, you might need to consider other options, such as mediation or trial.
Mediation is a process in which a neutral third-party mediator tries to help you and the insurance company come to a mutually acceptable settlement agreement. Mediation can be a comparatively cost-effective and efficient way to resolve a dispute, as it avoids the time and expense of going to trial.
If mediation is unsuccessful, a lawsuit might be the only way for you to recover compensation. A trial can be a lengthy and expensive process. Nevertheless, going to court can allow you to present your case to a judge and jury, who will then decide who was at fault, whether you get a settlement, and the settlement amount.
If you decide to go to trial, your personal injury attorney will prepare your case and work to present it effectively in court. Your attorney can prepare evidence, call on witnesses, and prepare you to give your testimony to ensure you have the optimal chance of success at trial.
Ultimately, whether you choose to pursue mediation or trial will depend on the specifics of your case and your personal preferences. Your attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of each option and make an informed decision about which approach is best for you.
Receiving Your Payout
Once you reach a settlement agreement, the at-fault party’s insurance company will issue a payout to you. This payout will typically include a lump sum payment that covers the cost of your losses minus any deductible or other costs associated with the car accident claims process.
In some cases, you might choose to receive ongoing payments instead of a lump sum. This option is most likely if you require ongoing medical treatment or have a permanent disability due to the accident. Your attorney can help you understand your rights and choices regarding ongoing payments.
Remember, remain patient throughout the settlement process and seek the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney in Indianapolis who can advise you about what steps to take along the way. With the right approach, they can confidently manage the settlement process and work toward recovering the compensation you deserve.