Some car accident claims do end up going to court as personal injury lawsuits. Most are settled by insurance claims adjusters, drivers, and sometimes their attorneys.
The settlement process follows a standard path, with the same basics steps involved every time. As a driver involved in a car accident, you’ll need to understand how the process works and who is involved in settlement negotiations.
The Claims Process
After a car accident, you must notify you own insurance company but you will also be responsible for submitting a demand letter for damages to the insurance company of the other driver. The demand letter makes your argument, including why the other driver was at fault and what damages you are owed.
See our Car Accident Sample Demand Letter for more information on what to include.
Even before you submit a demand letter though, you will need to call the insurance company of the other driver to notify them of the accident and to let them know they will be hearing from you regarding damages. Be sure to record the name of the person with whom you speak and the date and time you called.
Building Your Case
Before submitting any demands, you must build your case. This includes collecting evidence like:
- copies of the accident report from the police,
- witness statements, from credible and verified witnesses,
- pictures of:
- your injuries,
- the accident scene,
- and any damage to your vehicle
- copies of all expenses associated with the accident, like:
- ambulance fees and ER visit invoices
- doctor bill and prescription drug charges
- repair invoices for your vehicle
- rental car charges while your vehicle is out of service
- a written statement from your employer reporting lost wages
Don’t forget to consider how the accident has affected your life in other ways. For example, if your injuries have kept you from attending family events, participating in regular activities, enjoying your hobbies and interests, then you may wish to include a demand for pain and suffering compensation along with your other demands for damages.
Contacting the Insurance Company
When it is time to contact the insurance company of the other driver, you will be connected with an insurance claims adjuster who will handle all investigations and negotiations associated with the accident. The claims adjuster is the one who:
- reads and analyzes your demand letter,
- determines the value of your claim,
- negotiates any damage settlements,
- and decides if the insurance company should issue payment for damages.
It is the claims adjuster’s job to try to achieve a settlement that satisfies you but also keeps costs down for the insurance company. They will offer a settlement that is lower than your claim is actually worth. This is why several rounds of negotiations are usually required before a settlement is achieved.
In your demand letter, you should ask for an amount that is higher than what you will settle for. This allows you negotiation room as well.
In the case that you don't want to file a lawsuit, you can proceed with arbitration. Please visit our What is the Arbitration Phase of a Car Accident Claim? to learn more.
How a Lawyer can Help Settle a Car Accident Claim
An attorney can help you collect evidence and compose a winning demand letter. He or she can also handle communications with the insurance claims adjuster, including acting on your behalf during negotiations. An attorney can potentially get you a better settlement. If you are unable to settle your accident claim, a lawyer can also file a law suit for you and argue your case in court.