The legal process can be complicated, particularly if the victim suffered significant damages or fault is contested by the insurance company. The longer it takes to resolve a claim, the more steps there can be in the process.
While each case is different, most cases have similar steps. Below, we discuss the basic steps in most car accident claims and why it is vital to have an experienced attorney guiding you through the process.
1. Reporting the Crash
Crash victims usually call 9-1-1 so a police officer will be dispatched to the scene to investigate the crash and file a report. Calling 9-1-1 also brings emergency responders to the scene to provide treatment to those who were injured in the crash.
While calling 9-1-1 is always important, as you never know how serious your injuries may be and whether you may have a valid claim, the law requires crash victims to call the police after some crashes.
The police report serves as an official record of what happened, and insurance companies often will not process a claim without a police report. If there is no police report, the insurance company may think the crash was not that serious. It can also be difficult to prove a crash happened and link your injuries to it without a report.
2. Documenting the Scene
Crash victims may be able to help their attorney by taking steps to document the scene before they leave. For example, they can take pictures of the damaged vehicles, ask witnesses for contact information (phone number, address, etc.), and document license plate numbers and insurance information.
However, victims should focus on their injuries. If a victim is physically able to do so, gathering evidence can be helpful. Victims should not put themselves in harm’s way or aggravate their injuries just to take some pictures. Your attorney can also document the scene.
3. Seeking Medical Treatment
After contacting the police, crash victims usually go to the hospital. In some cases, victims are taken to the hospital in an ambulance directly from the scene.
By getting treatment, victims help to link their injuries to the crash. The treating doctor will note how the injuries occurred, along with the diagnosis, in the victim’s medical records. When victims receive treatment, they may start considering their legal options and reach out to an attorney to discuss the situation.
After receiving treatment, victims may wonder if they have a valid claim. They may have been unsure about it before being diagnosed with injuries, which may be significant.
4. Contacting a Lawyer
Some crash victims contact the insurance company before calling a lawyer. However, this is often a bad idea because insurance companies know how to manipulate crash victims. They may offer a settlement that is far below the value of your claim because they know you may be tempted to take it. However, once you sign a settlement offer, you cannot seek more compensation from the insurance company for the same accident.
Insurance companies also know how to trick victims into saying things that hurt their claims. For example, they can trick victims into downplaying their injuries or admitting fault.
By calling a Lafayette-based vehicle accident lawyer first, you can learn more about your claim from someone committed to your best interests. At Galloway Jefcoat, we are prepared to deal with the insurance company on your behalf, as we have dealt with insurance companies for decades and know how to protect claims.
Our attorneys can also explain your potential options moving forward, so you know what to expect from the legal process. If we validate your claim, we can also start documenting the accident scene.
5. Filing an Insurance Claim
Our firm can file a claim on your behalf, but sometimes victims file a claim on their own and then contact an attorney. Once a claim is filed, the insurance company and your attorney can begin an investigation.
6. Investigating the Crash
Our attorneys are looking to gather evidence to prove another driver is at fault and determine the full value of your past and future damages. Some of the evidence we may gather includes:
- Police report
- Pictures of the accident scene (damaged cars, visible injuries, landmarks, damage to the roadway, etc.)
- Statements from those who witnessed the crash
- Medical records related to the victim’s injuries
- Testimony from the other driver about what happened
- Video footage, if any is available
- Bills and receipts for medical expenses
- Documentation of missed time from work from your employer
- Other evidence of your damages, such as your account of how your injuries have affected you
Our attorney may also need to consult experts to help build your case. For example, we may need to meet with an accident reconstruction specialist to determine how the crash occurred and link your injuries to the cause of the crash. We may also need to meet with economic and medical experts to build your case.
The insurance company will also do its own investigation, but they have different goals than your attorney. The insurance company wants to find evidence to use against you to discredit you, downplay your injuries and assign fault to you. They want to find a reason to deny or at least underpay your claim.
7. Making a Settlement Demand
After investigating and gathering evidence, our attorneys can determine the value of your claim and send a demand letter to the insurance company. The insurance company can then decide what to do:
- Deny the claim
- Pay what the letter is asking
- Make a counteroffer
8. Negotiating for Compensation
Once we make a settlement demand, negotiations can begin. Typically, insurance companies do not agree to the first settlement demand. They often make a counteroffer for much less than the demand letter is asking.
Insurance companies and attorneys often go back and forth multiple times before reaching an agreement on a settlement. It is important to hire an attorney who is prepared to go to court because it can affect how the insurance company responds to settlement offers. If your attorney does not go to court regularly, the insurance company may be less likely to make a fair settlement offer.
9. Agreeing to a Settlement or Filing a Lawsuit
If both sides agree on a settlement, the claim can be resolved. However, if the insurance company does not make a fair offer, the only option for securing compensation may be to file a lawsuit.
Our attorneys know negotiations may break down and we are ready to file a lawsuit. There is a deadline for seeking compensation through a lawsuit and we always keep an eye on that deadline. We are prepared to file before the deadline passes.
We understand crash victims may be anxious about a trial. However, it is important to remember claims often settle before a trial takes place. The insurance company may not want to go to trial, and it may make a better offer as the trial date gets closer.
Contact Us for Experienced Legal Assistance
If you have questions about your legal options following a car crash, give us a call today to schedule a free legal consultation. An experienced attorney can explain how he or she may be able to assist you.
At Galloway Jefcoat, our goal is obtaining full compensation for your damages, and we are prepared to take cases to court if necessary. There are no upfront fees with our services, and you are not obligated to hire our firm after your initial consultation.
Need legal help? Call Galloway Jefcoat: (337) 984-8020.