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Do You Always Get a Settlement From a Car Accident?

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 2.74 people were injured in a total of 6.76 million car accidents reported by police in 2019, up from 2.71 million injuries resulting from 6.74 car accidents the previous year. Drivers have insurance that is supposed to safeguard them against the financial repercussions of an auto accident, and they expect the insurance company to pay for the damages. After all, every month they pay a sizeable sum in premiums to ensure they’re covered. If the accident is the other driver’s fault, then that driver’s insurance company should cover the damages. The truth is, however, that you don’t always get a settlement from a car accident.

Understanding the Legalities

When you get into an auto accident, two factors contribute to settlement decisions. The first is how serious your damages and injuries are, and the second is who is at fault for the crash. Depending on where you live, the laws may seriously limit your ability to receive compensation for your losses.

Negligence Laws

Every state has some form of negligence laws on the books. These regulations establish parameters for collecting damages for car accidents and personal injuries. It’s important to know which form of negligence law exists in your state. There are four basic structures:

  • Contributory negligence: In the four states plus the District of Columbia that have contributory negligence rules, you would be unable to collect compensation for damages from a car crash if you bear any responsibility at all for the accident.
  • Pure comparative negligence: In the 12 states with pure comparative negligence regulations, you would be able to collect damages for an accident for any portion that was the other driver’s fault. If you were 99% responsible and the other driver was 1% responsible, you would receive 1% of your total assessed damages.
  • Modified comparative negligence: In all the remaining states, except South Dakota, that have modified comparative negligence laws, you would be able to collect damages for the other driver’s share of the liability, as long as your contribution to the accident does not cross a specified threshold. Twelve states have a 50% threshold, and 21 states set their threshold at 51%. Depending on where you reside, if you are either 50% or 51% liable for the accident, you are unable to collect any compensation for your losses.
  • Slight vs gross comparative negligence: If you live in South Dakota, your state follows a slight vs gross comparative negligence rule. Under this law, you would be unable to collect any compensation for your losses if you were more than slightly responsible for the accident.

The laws in your state play a large part in determining whether you receive a settlement for a car accident and how much you are compensated.

Coverage Limitations

The second factor that can prevent you from getting compensated for your losses is coverage limitations. If your insurance coverage, or the other party either does not have a policy sufficient to cover the cost of the damages or lacks insurance altogether, then you would not receive a settlement for the crash.

Understanding the Settlement Process

Annual economic losses from car accidents are high, ranging from $528 million in Vermont to $20 billion in California. If you’re eligible to receive compensation, your settlement offer rests on the outcome of the settlement process. Insurance companies are invested in reducing the money they spend on claims. They frequently send out offers for amounts that do not cover all the injured party’s losses.

Insurance companies count on people being in a hurry for their settlement, not understanding what they’re entitled to and not understanding the full extent of the damages. A car accident and personal injury lawyer can help you through the claims process and fight for fair compensation for your losses. It’s a good idea to seek legal assistance before you file your claim with the insurance company.

Information Collection

Before you file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance provider, you need to assemble pertinent information about your injuries and damages. You should gather:

  • A copy of the police report
  • Any photos or videos you took of the scene,
  • Your notes about what occurred in the accident
  • Receipts for any related expenses you’ve already paid out
  • Estimates of future expenses

An attorney can work with you to ensure you have all your documentation in order. The lawyer can also obtain additional information from other sources that may help you prove liability as well as the extent of your injuries and losses.

Insurance Claims

Once you have everything in order, you need to file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance provider. If you’ve hired a personal injury and car accident lawyer, your attorney helps you through this process. Your claim should contain your compensation demands, along with the evidence to substantiate liability and losses, though oftentimes people wait for the insurance company to calculate their total losses.

Accident Investigations

No matter how much evidence you submit, the insurance company conducts investigations of the crash. Sometimes, a claims adjuster visits the scene of the accident to examine the area. Adjusters also rely on police reports to determine cause and fault. They use this information to allocate liability responsibilities, which impacts how much they offer.

Loss Assessments

The insurance company comes up with a calculation of losses. It’s almost always lower than what the injured party demands. If you waited on the insurance company to come up with a figure without submitting your demands, you should be aware that the offer provided is most likely going to be a low-ball figure.

Negotiations Process

After the insurance company comes up with its calculations and sends you an offer, you can negotiate for a higher amount that comes closer to compensating for your total expenses and losses. Sometimes, an insurance company will outright deny a claim, refusing to pay anything. Having an attorney who fights aggressively for you may improve your chances for a better outcome. You can leave it to the lawyer to handle the challenging negotiation process.

Understanding Your Options

When it comes to settling your car accident claim, you have options. You do not have to leave the outcomes solely in the hands of the insurance company.

Offer Acceptance

If you are satisfied with the insurance company’s settlement offer, you can accept it. Once you do, your case is closed. Before accepting the offer, though, be sure that you are truly OK with the numbers. Waiting for your cash can be hard, but it may be worth it. If you accept the offer, you have very little recourse for additional compensation if your expenses continue to mount beyond the compensation you receive.

Legal Claim

In many instances, you have the option to file a personal injury lawsuit in court. While many states establish a threshold for injuries before you can sue, if your injuries meet the threshold, you can file a lawsuit. The good news is, most of these cases never see the inside of a courtroom because both parties reach an agreeable settlement before trial.

Getting the Legal Help You Need With Your Car Accident Case

If you’ve been in a car accident, the attorneys at Fielding Law are here to lend a helping hand. We have the skills you need to fight the insurance companies for fair compensation for your car accident injuries. Get in touch with us today to find out what we can do for you.