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How Does A Car Accident Settlement Work?

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Any time you’re in a car accident with damage to yourself, your vehicle, and/or someone’s personal property, you’ll be placing a claim. If you’re responsible for that crash, your auto insurance company pays settlements to others and, most likely, repairs or replacement of your car. What if it’s not your fault? The same process applies. You file a claim against the other driver’s auto insurance.

You’ll be reimbursed for the cost to replace or repair your car. Your medical bills are covered by insurance. You can also get paid for the time you miss from work or school. Payments for your pain and suffering are also included in most settlements.

Things to Do at the Scene

After you’re in a vehicle accident, you or someone at the scene will call the police. You may not see a lot of damage to your car. It’s best to call the police and get a report started. The smallest amount of damage can be far costlier to repair than you might expect.

While you wait for police to arrive, take photos off the damage to any vehicles and personal property like fences and mailboxes. If you’re badly injured, you can usually get photos from the police later.

You should also ask to see a doctor. Again, you might feel fine, but shock after a crash often gets adrenaline racing. That adrenaline can mask pain. It’s best to be seen and learn there is nothing wrong than discover you have serious injuries hours later.

The Accident Investigation

Police will do their investigation and issue a police report. The insurance company will also investigate. They will look at the damage to your car, the accident scene, your medical reports and bills, the police report, witness statements, and the accident location.

In addition to those pieces of evidence that are used to determine the settlement amount, the insurance company often consults with accident reconstruction experts and engineers who can determine if road conditions or malfunctions in a vehicle were partially or fully to blame.

An appraisal of your car’s value is calculated. The value may be based on the cost to repair the car to its state prior to the crash or the Kelley Blue Book value at the time of the crash. The question for the insurer is if it’s cheaper to repair or replace your car.

If you’re going to have to replace your car or get it repaired, you’ll likely need a rental car in the interim. The cost of a rental car may also be part of the insurance claim.

Finally, the insurance company will find out how much time you had to miss. If you needed a week of rest after a head injury and missed five days of work, that will be considered. If you missed a day of college classes, the cost of the classes is also tallied.

The Settlement

When the insurance company has looked over all the evidence, you’ll often be offered a settlement. If you accept it, you’ll be asked to sign paperwork releasing the driver and insurance company from future claims.

What happens next depends on the actual ownership of your car. If you hold the title, you’ll have to turn that over to the insurance company if the car was declared a total loss. You receive your payout when you present the title. After that, you’ll be rushed to use that money to get a replacement car.

If the car is being repaired, the insurance company may pay the mechanic directly. If you were able to drive your car after the crash, you may get the check and have it repaired at your convenience.

If there was still an active loan or lease on the car, the financial institution is part of the process. If the car is being repaired, the repairs have to be made, so you’ll never see the money. If the car was totaled, the insurance payoff is given to the bank to pay back the remainder of the loan or lease.

Is the Settlement Offer Ideal?

Sometimes, it’s not to your advantage to deal directly with the insurance company. Don’t rush to get the money. It may not be the best offer in your situation.

You could have injuries that require years of medical care. Traumatic injuries can lead to PTSD that requires months and even years of counseling. The amount you’re offered in the settlement may not be enough to really replace the car you’ve just lost. This is when you need to talk to a law firm that specializes in personal injury lawsuits.

Isn’t it in your best interest to talk to a trial lawyer? Remember that another driver’s auto insurance company is working for the other driver. You may be offered a fair car accident settlement, but it’s not always the case. Insurance companies may offer a low-ball settlement to see if you’ll take it.

A free consultation with a personal injury lawyer helps you be certain the settlement is in your best interest. Talk to the experienced legal team at TL4J to be sure you’re getting the full compensation you deserve.

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Trial by Human

Nick Rowley founded Trial by Human, a nationwide legal education course to help trial lawyers improve their skills in the courtroom by "being human".