Many people do not want to contract a lawyer to help them handle their car accident claims, especially if those claims primarily involve property damage or you sustained only minor injuries in the accident. However, if you need to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer, you must understand how much your claim is worth and what steps you need to take next.
The Insurance Process
After your accident, you will start by contacting the liable driver’s insurance company to notify the company about the accident and the damages you sustained. Typically, insurance companies will not begin the claim process until they have received an admission of guilt from the driver that they cover. However, in some cases, if you can provide a police report or other evidence, the insurance company may go ahead and start the ball rolling on your claim.
1. Get an estimate for damages.
If you sustained only damages to your vehicle and no injuries, you could start by taking your car to a garage approved by the insurance company and getting an estimate of the damages to the vehicle and what it will cost to repair it. The mechanic who looks over your vehicle will know that they are putting together an insurance claim, which means they may have specific standards that need to be met: for example, they may have to use only new parts. They may have to return the car as close to its original condition as possible.
You have the right to have your car repaired wherever you wish. However, you may need to take your vehicle to a shop approved by the insurance company to get an estimate that the shop will accept.
2. Collect your medical bills, if relevant.
If you suffered any type of injury in the accident or sought medical attention and evaluation to ensure that you did not suffer injuries, you may have the right to pursue compensation for those medical bills. In Texas, drivers must carry personal injury protection insurance, which covers the initial cost of medical expenses after an accident regardless of who caused the accident. However, if your medical costs exceed your PIP protection, you may need to pursue compensation from the other driver’s insurance company.
Do not forget to estimate any future medical expenses related to your injuries. For example, if your doctor lets you know that you will need a future joint replacement, or that you will have ongoing medical costs related to your injuries, you may want to include those costs as part of your claim.
3. Note any other relevant financial damages.
Did you have to miss time at work? Did you suffer property damage other than your vehicle? If so, you may need to collect estimates for how much it will cost to repair or replace those items.
Once you have calculated the full extent of your damages, you can submit that claim to the insurance company.
4. The insurance company will review your claim.
Getting property repairs approved is often a relatively straightforward process after a car accident, particularly if you use a shop approved by the insurance company. However, getting approval for your medical bills and other related expenses can become much more complicated. Often, the insurance company will issue a settlement offer that reflects only a small percentage of the damages you sustained as a direct result of the accident.
Some insurance companies even have an AI platform that will directly calculate the compensation you should receive for your accident and your injuries. They may base that calculation on a percentage of your economic damages.
5. Evaluate your settlement offer.
Once you receive a settlement offer, which may come verbally or through written communication depending on the extent of the damages, you can evaluate that offer. Carefully consider how a settlement offer compares to the damages you actually suffered in your car accident. Make sure you break down the costs, including what you have spent on medical treatments, from emergency care to physical therapy.
For example, suppose that you suffered $10,000 in vehicle damages and have faced $5,000 in medical bills once you used your personal injury protection insurance. A settlement offer of $12,500 might not reflect the full extent of those damages and could leave you struggling. Likewise, if it costs $15,000 to repair your vehicle and the insurance company offers you $10,000, you may want to continue negotiating.
However, the limits of the policy can dictate how much compensation you recover. A lawyer can help you take a more in-depth look at the actual losses you have faced and how they compare to that settlement offer.
6. Negotiate, if needed.
You do not have to accept any settlement offer issued by the insurance company, particularly if it does not meet your needs after the accident. If necessary, issue a counteroffer that reflects your real damages. You can verbally turn down an offer made over the phone or ask for time to consider the offer before you accept. Try to avoid a knee-jerk acceptance of a car insurance settlement after an accident. While that offer might seem to get money in your hands faster, it could also leave you without the full compensation you really deserve.
If the offer does not reflect your needs, get a lawyer to negotiate. They will let the insurance company know how much compensation you expect and why. You may need to go through several rounds of negotiation to arrive at an offer that both you and the insurance company consider acceptable.
Do You Need a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
Yes. It’s too hard to do this on your own. If you suffered injuries in the accident, you want a car accident lawyer to take over your claim and fight for the compensation you deserve. If you have any questions about the settlement process, contact a lawyer for a free consultation.