Many people do not want to hire an attorney to help them after a serious car accident. Some may want to minimize legal costs or feel that you can best handle the claim on your own.
If you choose to represent yourself with a car accident injury claim, make sure you follow these tips.
What Car Accident Cases Can Be Handled Without a Lawyer?
Did you have a relatively minor car accident, and feel that you may move forward without having to worry about hiring a lawyer? You may not need a lawyer if:
- You can clearly show that the other party bears liability for the accident, and you think there is no chance of the other party’s insurance company disputing liability.
- You suffered no injuries or only minor injuries, and do not need to pursue considerable compensation.
- You have a solid idea of how much compensation you should expect and how to pursue it.
- Dealing with insurance companies does not cause you undue stress.
- You are prepared to negotiate.
When Should You Get a Car Accident Lawyer?
There are several instances when you should contact an experienced car accident attorney.
Sometimes, you may know that you need an attorney right off the bat. Other times, you may discover as you pursue your claim that you need more assistance than expected.
Ideally, you should get in touch with a car accident lawyer as soon after your accident as possible to maximize the benefit of working with an attorney. You should call in a car accident lawyer when:
- Liability in the accident is disputed, with the other driver or their insurer claiming that you partly caused the accident.
- You suffered severe injuries in the accident and know you need as much compensation as possible to help pay for your medical expenses.
- Your medical bills exceed $10,000.
- You expect future medical expenses.
- The insurance company lowball offer does not reflect the compensation you know you deserve for your injuries.
- You have any questions about the legal process, including how much compensation your injuries are really worth or how to pursue compensation for injuries in addition to compensation for medical bills associated with the accident.
- A commercial insurance policy is involved.
The First Steps in Dealing with the Adjuster
If you plan to handle your car accident claim on your own, make sure that you take photos of the damage to your vehicle, the scene of the accident, and any injuries you suffered ahead of time. Having photo evidence can help validate and prove your case.
Adjusters will need evidence to evaluate your case before any settlement discussions take place. Typically, a car accident victim should furnish the adjuster for the negligent person the following:
- The police report and names of witnesses
- Photos of the damage to your vehicle and any injuries
- Copies of medical bills and records from every place that treated you.
- A lost wage statement from your employer, if applicable.
- Estimates for the property damage claim.
Only after an adjuster is certain of liability and has a handle on your damages will an offer be extended. Many times, a negotiation is stalled simply because the adjuster has not interviewed their insured. It can be very frustrating to the victim, but in Texas, the other person’s insurance company owes you no duty.
So do not expect the adjuster to care about the inconvenience to you of a delay. You may need to obtain a rental car or other transportation on your own in the event of a delay.
In order to negotiate a car accident, claim on your own, you need to have a good idea of how much compensation you should expect. With car accident claims, damages break down into two key types.
Special damages include all the damages you can calculate directly. They have a specific monetary value, usually based on financial losses you have faced after the accident. These include:
- Your medical expenses following the accident. (Texas uses the legal standard “paid or incurred”)
- Property damage, including damage to your vehicle or any items in it
- The specific income you lost as a result of your accident and your injuries
General damages are damages that you might not have the ability to calculate directly. General damages, also known as “pain and suffering,” include the non-financial losses and suffering you faced due to your accident and your injuries.
General damages may include physical pain, emotional anguish, or general losses caused by the accident, including factors like the loss of enjoyment of life or the loss of specific, anticipated activities you expected to enjoy.
Usually, general damages are based on a percentage of your special damages, usually based on the medical costs associated with your claim. The more you suffered as a result of your accident and the more severe the injuries, the more you may need to claim in compensation.
How Much Should You Ask For?
As part of your initial demand, you should calculate all of your medical costs, all your financial losses, and the pain and suffering associated with your accident. Keep in mind that baring special circumstances, the insurance company will offer you less than you asked for initially.
If you ask for too little, you will have left bread on the table. However, if you ask for an amount that is clearly outside the norm, the negotiations will stall after their expected lowball offer as they feel they are wasting their time trying to settle with you.
Negotiation Tips for Your Injury Claim
Ready to start negotiating? Keep these tips in mind.
- Plan for a fair settlement. A car accident claim is designed to provide compensation for the financial and other losses you faced due to your injuries, not necessarily to offer you a windfall.
- Know when you’ll accept a counteroffer and when you would prefer to continue to negotiate.
- While going through negotiation, keep information about your accident off of social media. Avoid any statement that might accept liability for the accident or appear to diminish the extent of your injuries.
- Give immediate feedback to lowball offers. Something like “are you kidding” or “is that all?” will let the adjuster know the offer is unacceptable.
- Understand that with minor injury there is a limit to what an insurer will pay voluntarily. If your injury is not minor, you really should have a personal injury lawyer.
- Don’t consider a quick injury settlement with “estimated medical expenses” when you know you will get further medical care. This approach simply shifts the risk of loss to you.
- Consider a free consultation with a truck accident attorney near you.
Get Help from a Houston Trucking Accident Attorney
Did you suffer serious injuries in a Houston accident? If you want to maximize the compensation you can recover for your damages, contact our award-winning truck wreck law firm in Houston for a consultation on your rights and options.