Victims of car crashes often want to know how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer. Settling auto accident claims without an attorney is possible, but it’s not an easy task. In fact, one 2016 study found that claimants working with lawyers receive higher settlement amounts from insurance companies than those working alone. So, you must collect enough evidence, determine the liable parties, assess damages, send a detailed demand letter, carefully examine any settlement offer, and file a claim on time. Taking the right steps can maximize your odds of receiving a payout covering all your accident-related economic and non-economic damages.
Can You Settle a Car Accident Claim Without a Lawyer?
Victims can settle their claim without a lawyer. However, unrepresented claims are rarely as successful as those with legal help. Settling a car accident claim on your own leaves you vulnerable to an insurance company’s bad faith tactics.
If you do choose to file your claim without a lawyer, you will need to take the following steps:
Collect Sufficient and Compelling Evidence
Build a strong and convincing case to stand a better chance of getting a decent settlement offer from the insurer. You must present adequate and convincing evidence to prove the other driver was liable for the accident and your resulting injuries.
Evidence collection should start at the accident scene. Take pictures and videos of the scene from different angles and distances. Take pictures of your injuries and damage to your vehicle and valuable possessions like a smartwatch, camera, and smartphone.
Obtain the other driver’s details and record statements from eyewitnesses. Ensure you record the name and badge number of the responding officer, so you can obtain a copy of the police report later.
Medical records help document your injuries and link them to the accident. So, ensure you go to a hospital or medical facility for treatment, even if you feel uninjured. Keep a pain diary to record the effects of your injuries and pain on your life.
Determine the At-fault Party (or Parties)
A review of collected evidence will help you determine the parties to hold financially accountable for your injuries and other arising losses. Generally, you will pursue compensation from the other motorist or the other motorist’s insurer.
Sometimes, however, other parties could have also partially contributed to the accident and ensuing injuries. You can recover compensation from these parties as well. You can, for instance, pursue compensation from the other motorist’s employer if that motorist was performing a job task when the crash happened.
Calculate the Value of Your Car Accident Claim
The driver and any other party liable for the accident should cover all your losses arising from the accident. Some examples of these losses include medical expenses (past, present, and future), lost wages or income (past and future), pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and property damage.
Ensure you know the value of your claim before embarking on settlement negotiation. Consult professionals to help you calculate the scope of your medical expenses and lost wages. Take your vehicle to a certified auto repair shop for an estimate of repair costs. Also, find out how insurance companies determine the value of non-economic damages.
File a Claim with the Other driver’s Insurance company
You can open a claim with the other driver’s insurance company on the claims section of its website. Alternatively, you can call the company’s customer care reps and seek guidance on initiating a third-party claim.
The company will assign your claim to an adjuster upon receiving it. The adjuster will then evaluate the claim and provide feedback on the possible settlement amount. Typically, the insurance company quotes a settlement figure that falls short of your demands. Do not worry about this initial lowball deal, you can still negotiate upwards for better payouts.
Send a Detailed Personal Injury Demand Letter
Carefully look at the settlement amount offered and write a comprehensive demand letter to the insurance company. Use this letter to express your grievances with the settlement sums offered. Explain why that sum is insufficient for the resulting damages and medical expenses. Use actual expense figures to detail the arising expenses
Your letter should articulate the at-fault party’s negligence. It should show why his or her insurance company is financially responsible for the arising losses. The letter enables you to bargain for better payouts. It also signals your unbowed resolve to fight for your justice.
Nevada insurance companies have 30 business days from when they received proof-of-loss documents to decide on a claim. No law, however, requires insurance companies in Nevada to respond to your letter within a specific time. So, it’s just a matter of hoping the insurer will reply to your letter within 30 business days if you submit all the required information.
You can turn down the insurer’s counteroffer if it falls short of your needs. Turning down the counteroffer implies you are prepared to take the matter to court.
Preparing for Court
Conduct due diligence on your case facts and claim procedures before moving to court. You can do that through online research or by talking to your friends, relatives, and workmates who may have been victims of motor vehicle accidents. Another option is to speak with car accident lawyers. Most of them offer free initial consultations. Doing that helps you understand the average court fees for filing a case with the appropriate court. It also allows you to figure out the estimated time the lawsuit process might take, so you can set time aside from your schedule.
The court’s final decision rests on the weight of your legal arguments and evidence. So, ensure you furnish the court with compelling, evidence-supported arguments on why you are entitled to the compensation.
When to Get an Attorney for a Car Accident
Get a car accident attorney if your case involves severe injuries or significant damages. Having an attorney in your corner can also come in handy when your claim involves multiple at-fault parties.
Though you are allowed to represent yourself before a judge, it is not always the right move. As a layperson, building a solid claim is an uphill task. Also, remember that insurance companies have adequate resources and a team of skilled legal representatives.
These legal representatives know how to identify loopholes in your claim. They can use these legal technicalities to reduce or deny your claim. Accident victims who represent themselves receive lower payouts than those represented by lawyers.
Getting a lawyer to represent your best interests against the insurer is usually in the best interests of a victim. Having legal representation forces the insurer to take your claim seriously. Most importantly, your attorney ensures you get the time and space to recuperate from your accident-related injuries, as the lawyer works to secure the best possible settlement or compensation on your behalf.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, car accident victims have two years to file an auto accident claim. Courts usually throw out a claim filed after the two-year statute of limitations has passed. So, do not wait until it’s too late to get a lawyer for a car accident and start a claim. Hiring a lawyer after the statute of limitation expires will most certainly do you no good.
Settling a Car Accident Claim
The first step in settling a car accident claim is contacting the insurer (your own or the other motorist’s), reporting the accident, and informing it that you plan to file a claim under the existing auto insurance coverage. The insurer’s representative may then request specific information regarding the accident or ask you to provide that information on the company’s website or app.
After initiating a claim, an insurance adjuster will contact you for additional information and documents. A signed medical record information release form is one of the documents you may need to give to the adjuster. This form allows the adjuster to obtain medical records of your accident-related injuries from your treating doctor.
Be careful when providing any information to the claim adjuster. The adjuster may try to use your statements to reduce your potential recovery, even when the other driver is 100% liable for your accident-related injuries.
The other driver’s insurer might offer you a settlement immediately after filing a claim, or just before you do it. This move is usually an attempt by the insurer to trick you into taking a low settlement. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead, carefully review the offer and respond with a comprehensive demand letter, outlining specific details of your claim and listing all of your recoverable damages.
Often, the first thing that comes to mind when talking about car accident settlements is the compensation for physical injuries and the resulting medical expenses, lost earnings, and out-of-pocket expenses. In reality, however, auto accidents also result in non-economic losses caused by emotional injuries.
Getting compensation for physical pain and injury, and property losses, is straightforward. Getting a settlement for emotional trauma, on the other hand, is quite complex. Emotional injuries likely to appear after auto accidents include depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
You must know how to claim an emotional injury after a car accident to maximize your potential recovery. Recovering these damages involves proving that the at-fault party acted negligently and his or her actions led to the accident. Further, you must also show that the resulting auto crash caused the emotional injuries documented in your claim.
Written statements from your family members, friends, workmates, and employer can be instrumental in proving your emotional injuries. Submitting evidence of medical treatment for symptoms arising from your emotional injuries can also help strengthen your claim.