Being involved in a car accident is traumatic. Aside from the usual tips, such as getting the other side’s insurance info, checking yourself for injuries, and moving yourself to safety, you have to consider your actions insofar as they affect a possible settlement, especially if you were the victim. The key points to consider are:
A trivial car accident is one in which you are 100% certain that you were not harmed. If the damage is to your car only, State law will mandate that you settle through the insurance company of the other side, not through a lawyer. If the accident had complications or you suspect any kind of medical damage, contact an attorney.
Mechanical error and other faults:
In rare cases, the fault may be shared amongst multiple parties. If you suspect that mechanical error in your vehicle could have contributed to the accident, some portion of the fault may lie with the mechanic who last worked on your car. Similarly, if there was an obstruction on the road, misleading sign, poorly placed cone or other issues, it is possible that a local government or highway contractor may be to blame. In cases where you suspect a third party sharing liability, contact an attorney to see if you have a case.
Type of fault:
If you suspect the other party of intoxication, distraction, or the violation of a traffic law, this completely changes the nature of the incident. Even if you are not harmed, you may need to contact an attorney to realize the maximum settlement. The judge may award additional, punitive damages against individuals in any combination of the following categories:
- Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Using a mobile device prior to the accident.
- Taking their hands off the wheel prior to the accident for whatever reason (common reasons include eating, checking their physical appearance, operating the GPS, changing music, etc.)
- Taking their eyes off the road (common reasons include talking to a friend, or looking at something outside the window).
- Violating a traffic law, such as running a stop sign, yield sign, or red light.
Don’t assume you’re fine:
You might feel fine immediately after the accident but that doesn’t mean you were not injured. It is not uncommon for people to develop chronic pains, soreness, muscle fatigue or anxiety following a car accident. Get checked out straight away as the speed with which you seek medical care may affect the total amount of compensation you are owed.
Pain and suffering:
One of the most widely disputed factors in an auto accident case is the degree of pain and suffering. Clearly, most accidents have some amount of pain and suffering inflicted upon the victim. The question is how much? How do you quantify something so intangible into an actual monetary amount?
Take the case of Paula. Paula was T-boned at an intersection, by a vehicle which failed to heed a yield sign. She suffered minor bruises and fracturing. The short-term cost of her medical care was $1,500.00. Damage to her car got her another $2,500.00. Additionally, she was awarded $4,000.00 by the insurance company for “pain and suffering” which she considered generous at the time.
But by working through the other side’s insurance company, she unknowingly allowed their adjuster to reduce the claim. Over time, she found that she experienced pain in her tendons and wrist, which led to moderate discomfort at work. She didn’t like driving long distances because of the strain on her wrist. This life-long discomfort will not only go uncompensated but she cannot get the specialized treatment she needs paid for because she already took the insurance company’s offer and closed the case.
She could have had the funds necessary to seek specialized treatment if she had pushed the traffic violation issue (the fact that the driver ran a yield sign would have upped the value of her claim if she had gone to court).
Now Paula is not a real person but a composite of many real-life cases we have encountered. The lesson is that unless you are 100% certain that you are completely okay, you need to call a lawyer.
Underhanded insurance company tactics:
Insurance companies are trained to get the best of you. Don’t be taken in by their tactics. Common tactics used include:
- Trying to get you to see their doctor, so that your symptoms can be contested later and the value of your claim driven down.
- Trying to get a copy of your medical report from another doctor, for the same reason listed above.
- Trying to get you to take an early (and speedy) settlement so you lose the power to ask for more damages later.
- Undervaluing your car or items damaged that were inside the car.
- Asking permission to record your statements in order to use them against you later.
- Get you to sign away your rights to certain aspects of the settlement process.
- Claim they can get you better care than they actually will (note: You are not required to use their doctors. You can get treatment anywhere you want and get it paid for by them).
- Follow you around with a detective in an attempt to prove that you’re exaggerating your injuries.
- Simply delay things as long as possible, making you more eager for a quick, cash settlement and driving up your fear that you may get nothing at all.
- Hide evidence about their client’s role in the accident.
Insurance companies like Allstate routinely try to force “smaller, walk-away settlements” (this is a quote directly from an Allstate training manual). They figure that if they lowball and make you scared that you might get nothing, they will earn a higher profit. And they’re right. This tactic works for them all the time.
The fact is that the average person just doesn’t have time to navigate the legal labyrinth and get these guys to play by the book. Hiring experienced counsel is the only way to fight fire with fire and ensure the highest possible settlement.
If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us.