Knowing what to expect during the car accident claims process, what documentation to gather and keep, and how to hire an injury attorney can help injured victims survive the complications that often arise after a serious motor vehicle crash.
What Is a Car Accident Claim?
A car accident claim is a request filed with the insurance company by an accident victim to receive financial compensation for injuries and other losses after a crash. Car insurance companies in the United States pay out millions of dollars in accident claims every year.
When determining when, how, and where to file a car accident claim, a variety of factors come into play. While some people file accident claims on their own, others turn to car accident attorneys for guidance and to ensure all the proper steps are followed.
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Steps Involved In the Claims Process
It takes between several months and a few years for the claim process to reach completion. The reason the claim process takes so long is that insurance providers tend to deal with the lowest-paying claims first. If an accident victim settles for lower compensation than he or she is eligible for, the victim will receive the money faster. If he or she stands firm and demands maximum compensation, the insurer may try to force the victim into submission by intentionally slowing down the claims process. The following are the key steps of the claim process:
The investigation step is a period of collecting information. It involves obtaining and reviewing witness statements, police reports, and medical records to develop a compelling case on both sides.
- Initial Settlement
The insurance company provides the accident victim with an initial settlement at this phase. This initial offer is usually low and created to benefit the insurance company. If a victim accepts this settlement, he or she must renounce the ability to seek further compensation by signing an agreement.
- Demand Letter
If the initial settlement is insufficient, the victim or the attorney may submit a demand letter, which is basically a counteroffer, to the insurance company. A demand letter must clearly outline the reasons for its submission. These reasons usually range from medical expenses, lost wages, and repair costs, to physical and emotional distress.
If the demand letter is rejected, the claimant’s attorney may try to negotiate with the insurance provider. If negotiations are unsuccessful, a trial may be inevitable. This stage of the claim process is an important part of a complete recovery.
- Final Settlement
For a settlement to be reached after litigation, the claimant must approve and any arrears in medical costs and legal charges must be paid. The claimant must also sign a release of claims to eliminate the likelihood of further legal action.
Taking Pictures and Keeping a Record of All Crucial Documents
While remembering every detail of a car crash is difficult, an accident victim should try to preserve his or her memory, witness accounts, and evidence of the accident. He or she should make a recording of what took place at the accident scene. If traffic cameras are present, accident victims should acquire the footage to support their claim.
The victim should take pictures of his or her car and any other cars involved immediately after the crash. If the victim has suffered injuries, he or she should take pictures of the injuries and have them checked by a doctor. This documentation is instrumental in supporting the claim. He or she should also assemble all documents and crucial information about the accident, including its date, place, and description, along with a copy of witness testimony, police report, relevant medical documents, and a pain journal.
An investigation of a car accident claim may make a victim feel like he or she is on trial. However, with the right documents, detailed information about the accident, and an attorney, he or she will have higher chances of getting maximum compensation.
Hiring an Attorney
If a person is injured in a car accident and the insurance provider delays approving the claim, he or she should consider getting professional legal assistance. Many Las Vegas car accident attorneys offer a free initial consultation to help a potential client decide whether they are the best choice for his or her case. This initial consultation also prepares the client to handle an adjuster who might ask similar questions.
An injured person who has accumulated high medical expenses may face an insurance provider that attempts to evade paying for his or her treatment. The insurance provider may legally obtain a victim’s medical history and try to demonstrate that he or she had existing injuries prior to the accident. The provider may also keep giving baseless excuses regarding why the claim is taking too long to process. The professional legal services of a car accident attorney comes in handy in such situations.