A car accident can be devastating. Loss of mobility, loss of work, and even loss of life can make life difficult for months or years. If someone else was responsible for your injuries and property damage, you could be able to seek compensation for your expenses.
If you are hurt in a car accident caused by someone else, you have the legal right to file a claim for compensation for your damages. A car accident claim can help recover your medical bills, vehicle damage repairs, lost wages, and even pain and suffering. To do this, you’ll need to understand how a car accident settlement works and how a car accident lawyer can help.
How Does the Car Accident Settlement Process Work?
There are several steps in a car accident settlement. You will need to complete each one to pursue compensation for your damages.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
When the other driver is at fault for the accident, they are legally liable for your damages. The types of damages you can claim are listed under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 51-12-1.
Damages you might have include:
- Medical expenses
- Vehicle repair costs
- Lost wages from missed work time
- Loss of earning capacity
- Disability benefits
- Pain and suffering damages
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- And more
Although the at-fault driver is responsible, their auto insurance is typically the one paying for your damages. You will need to file your personal injury claim with that insurance company.
You will need to let the insurer know that you’re filing a claim as soon as possible. The statute of limitations in Georgia is two years from the date of the accident, according to OCGA § 9-3-33. The claims process can be confusing and complex, so it’s best to contact an experienced car accident lawyer for help.
Investigating the Accident
When you file your claim, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will begin investigating the accident. Be very wary of how they do this. Insurance companies are known for pushing boundaries while investigating a claim. They do not want to pay out very much, and they may violate your rights in the process.
Avoiding giving any statement to the insurer or signing anything until you’ve spoken to a car accident lawyer. Make sure you don’t provide anything that can be used against you later. Also, you and your lawyer will need to do your own investigation of the accident when building your case. This includes:
- Taking pictures of the accident scene and your injuries
- Keeping track of all expenses
- Getting a copy of the police report
- Seeing a doctor for all of your injuries
- Getting the names of witnesses
Claim Approval or Denial
When the insurance company has finished investigating your claim, you will either get approval or denial.
If the insurer denies your claim, it’s usually because they are saying your accident isn’t covered by their policy or that there were errors in the claim. You should get an explanation of why your claim was denied. If this happens, contact a car accident lawyer right away.
If your claim is approved, it means the insurer agrees your damages are covered by their policy. However, this doesn’t mean they agree to fair compensation.
Seeking a Fair Settlement
If the insurance company accepts your claim, they will likely send you a settlement offer that is quite low. You do not have to accept it. It’s your legal right to negotiate for a fair settlement based on your costs and injuries.
It’s best to have a car accident lawyer for this. Insurance adjusters know personal injury law very well, and their job is to convince you to take less. It’s hard to fight for your right to full compensation without the right legal knowledge. Get a lawyer who knows how to handle insurance companies.
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What if the Insurance Company Won’t Agree to a Settlement?
Sometimes, the insurer will not budge on their settlement offer—even with the help of a lawyer. This doesn’t happen too often. In most cases, an agreement is reached and you get paid. However, there are options if it doesn’t go as planned.
The next step is to request mediation. You will meet with representatives for the insurance company in front of the mediator. The mediator is an unbiased third party who will listen to both sides and try to help you come to an agreement. Your lawyer can go with you to this meeting.
If the mediation is successful, you will finalize a settlement amount. You will probably need to sign a “release of liability” form that promises you won’t sue.
Filing a Lawsuit
If you and the insurance company cannot agree to a fair settlement, even with mediation, your lawyer may recommend filing a lawsuit. This is a huge decision, as lawsuits can be costly and lengthy. However, sometimes it is the best option. Make sure you have a car accident lawyer at this point who can help you do everything to win.
How Do I Collect My Car Accident Settlement?
How you actually get paid your settlement depends on the details of your situation. In most cases, the insurance company will write a check for the settlement amount when you sign the release of liability form. The payment may be made to your personal injury lawyer who will then take a percentage out as their fee before you get the bulk of the settlement.
It’s a different story if your case went to trial and the at-fault driver was ordered to pay you for damages. The outcome depends on whether or not the driver had insurance coverage and has the money to pay what you’re owed at once. At this point, you should have a car accident lawyer on your side who can help you understand how payment will work.
Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer for Free Today
Insurance companies will try to get you to accept a much lower settlement than you truly need. At car accident lawyers John Foy & Associates, we understand how costly car accidents can be. You should not have to pay a dime for injuries and costs you didn’t cause.
Let us help you hold the at-fault party responsible. Call us today for a FREE consultation to discuss the details. We have been helping car accident victims win the money they need for over 20 years. It’s also no-risk to work with us—we don’t get paid unless we win you a settlement. Call (404) 400-4000 (we’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week) or contact us here to get started.