Can I Get a Settlement From My Car Accident Without Hiring an Attorney?
While it is possible to represent yourself in a settlement from a car accident, hiring an attorney is the wiser choice. There is no law in place that requires an injured victim to work with an attorney, but it is in their best interest to do so.
An experienced attorney knows how the claim process for an accident works. Having one on your side can help you secure a fair and just settlement amount. And if your case ends up in court, your attorney will argue for you against the legal team representing the insurance company and the at-fault driver.
Getting a Fair Settlement: Thoroughly and On Time
Often following a car accident, an injured victim might not know how to file a claim. Just as often, the victim may not know that there are strict timelines for filing their settlement claim.
Every state has its own limit, or statute of limitations, for filing a claim. For example, in Illinois, the statute of limitations is quite a bit shorter than it is in neighboring Missouri. A personal injury claim must be filed in Illinois by a victim within 2 years from the date the car accident occurred. In Missouri, it is 5 years from the date of the incident. There are a few exceptions that can be a factor, under special circumstances, but they are rare. An attorney will make sure that documents are filed before these deadlines expire.
If a victim is negotiating with the insurance company directly, they might feel pressure to accept a settlement as soon as possible. The bills are piling up, time is running out. And in some cases, the insurance company will appear to be acting fairly and with genuine concern for the victim’s healing and well-being.
However, it is important for a victim to understand that an insurance company’s main goal is to minimize the financial impact on their business. This means that their team of attorneys are dedicated to negotiating the smallest payout they can with the victim alone. The insurance company’s legal team might further try to claim that the injured victim was at fault in order to reduce or deny the claim.
It is equally important to understand that once a settlement agreement is signed, a victim’s claim ends. It has been finalized, agreed to, and there is no chance for further compensation for added expenses that may show up later on.
How Does an Attorney Help With a Car Accident Settlement?
The victim of an accident must be able to prove that the other person was at fault to recover fair and just compensation for damages and losses. To do this, they will need to provide evidence of the circumstances surrounding the accident.
- A victim must provide copies of medical bills, doctor statements, and dates/estimates for future and ongoing treatment to recover the costs for medical care received for injuries from an accident.
- To prove the accident’s circumstances, a victim will need to provide reports from law enforcement on the scene. They will need to share any available surveillance video footage and photographs of the accident and injuries.
- The injured victim should also provide eyewitness statements and documentation from medical personnel.
An injured victim might find it overwhelming to pull together all this important evidence. This is one key area where an experienced attorney will help a victim with filing a thorough claim.
An attorney can locate important pieces of evidence, interview witnesses, and expertly examine all the factors involved in the claim. In some car accidents, outside experts may be needed because the details are unclear. Experts may be needed to reconstruct accident scenes. They can also identify costs related to ongoing and future medical treatments. Or they may be needed to determine the impact of lost income or provide further medical expert testimony. An attorney has greater access to these experts and resources.
Being able to prove who was at fault, who was negligent, and who is liable in a car accident is central to a successful settlement claim. The average person might not have the skill to prove this without an experienced attorney’s help.
The fault lies with whomever directly caused the accident with their negligent actions. And the American Bar Association says to prove the at-fault driver acted “negligently,” the at-fault driver’s actions will need proven to be outside of what “an ordinary reasonable person would have done” under similar circumstances.
Calculating Costs in a Car Accident Settlement Claim
An injured victim might wonder what is included in a settlement claim following their car accident. And it can be difficult to know the required documentation for each expense. An experienced attorney can help to make sure a claim is filed that includes all of the necessary documents, allowing the victim to focus on recovering.
If injured by a negligent, distracted, or reckless driver, a victim’s costs to recover as well as replacement for damaged property, should be paid by those at fault. Typical costs to be included in a claim are:
- Current and future medical-related costs:
- The ambulance ride, along with the costs for any care provided at the scene
- Treatment in the ER
- Resulting hospitalization, surgeries, and/or outpatient services
- Physical, occupational, and speech therapy or other rehabilitative services
- Prescription medications and ambulatory aids such as a walker, cane, or wheelchair
- Counseling and any other mental health and wellness services
2. Property damage repair and replacement costs:
- Vehicle repairs or complete replacement because of the extent of the accident
- Other valuables lost or damaged in the accident, such as tools, musical instruments, luggage, laptops, and phones the victim may have had with them
3. Costs that come with pain and suffering:
- Physical pain and emotional distress. A serious injury can require the victim to stay in bed, unable to enjoy everyday activities. The victim may also have permanent scars or disfigurement, causing physical and emotional pain, and making it difficult for them to leave home. Such outcomes may further cause anxiety when going out in public or meeting new people. It is not uncommon for car accident victims to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
4. Other costs resulting from the victim’s injuries:
- Examples include the installation of a wheelchair ramp and safety rails, lower countertops, levered handles or power-assisted door openings, and other accessibility accommodations to the injured victim’s home
- A new vehicle that includes a lift or ramp, hand controls, or other accessibility accommodations might also be needed
- Lost wages due to injuries and the inability to work during the recovery period or perhaps permanently if the victim is unable return to work at all
5. Costs if a loved one is lost in a car accident:
- Funeral or cremation expenses
- Loss of the loved one’s financial contributions and support
- Loss of the loved one’s companionship to the survivors
- Surviving children’s loss of guidance from the loved one
A fair and just settlement should cover all the victim’s medical care for their sustained injuries, now and in the future, as well as any other compensation to be “made whole” physically, mentally, and financially. Injured victims can better ensure being “made whole” again by working with an experienced firm like Hipskind & McAninch. The firm has successfully handled many personal injury cases including car accidents. They have extensive experience in dealing with insurance companies to get fair and just compensation to victims for all their injuries, damages, and losses, for now, and for the future.