Being involved in an auto accidents is a frightening experience that can drastically change your life within seconds. A car accident can cause debilitating physical injuries, emotional trauma, and costly property damage. And a serious car accident injury that prevents you from returning to your job (or that limits the number of hours you can work) can be financially devastating. Even an accident that occurs at a low speed, or that doesn’t result in much damage to your car, can cause physical injuries.
If you have been injured in an automobile accident and you were probably not at fault. I have put the following tips together to help you better understand some of the issues that may surround an injury claim. These tips are meant as general information and are not intended as legal advice.
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
WHAT IS AN INJURY CLAIM?
An injury claim is a request to an insurance company for repayment of your damages resulting from the accident. For damage to your vehicle or property you can potentially recover from the responsible party the cost of repair and diminution in value of your vehicle, or the fair market value of your vehicle upon a total loss. For your injuries, you can potentially recover payment for medical bills (past, present, and future), lost wages, impaired earning capacity and monetary damages for the pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of your daily life. The process of an injury claim can take many months (sometimes years) for a number of reasons including completion of your recovery and negotiations between all parties. Be aware that important time limits may be involved with your case and you should start the process early.
USE YOUR PIP
Your auto insurance most likely has a coverage called Personal Injury Protection coverage (“PIP”). Under PIP your insurance company will pay medical bills and some of your lost wages regardless of who is at fault. Using your PIP coverage does NOT affect your insurance rates and there is no deductible. In other words, it is great insurance and should be used without hesitation to treat and diagnose your injuries. The catch: you should not wait to use PIP coverage as it will expire one year after the accident.
WHAT IF THERE IS NO INSURANCE?
A common mistake is that people do not file claims because they do not believe there is applicable insurance coverage. If the accident was caused by an uninsured motorist, a relative, or a friend, there may be insurance that will cover your injuries. For instance, your insurance coverage includes coverage called underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). This insurance can take the place of the responsible parties insurance coverage, or lack thereof, to make sure you receive a fair settlement amount.
AN INJURY CLAIM IS NOT A LAWSUIT
You may not have any desire to sue anybody to resolve your injury claim. Fortunately, the vast majority of injury claims can avoid litigation if they are appropriately handled because insurance companies typically will eventually pay a fair amount when properly presented the strength of your case. To hold the insurance company to account you may need an attorney who has worked in the industry.
RUN YOUR SETTLEMENT OFFER BY AN ATTORNEY
There are two important thoughts when contacting an attorney. The first is that not all cases require an attorney, I would try to analyze your case to make sure it was one I could help you with. Secondly, the insurance adjuster has a distinct advantage the longer the claim is unresolved, because of factors like your mounting medical bills, lost wages, and the statute of limitations. I would strongly recommend that before you settle with an insurance adjuster, run your case by a personal injury attorney to discuss these issues. Settling an injury claim before properly discussing the settlement with an attorney is similar to buying a car without knowing how much the car is worth.