If you’re ever in any situation where you’re in a car accident, it’s stressful, to say the least. You may end up having to deal with insurance claims as well, which can leave you wondering whether or not it’s possible to settle without an attorney.
If you’re in an accident, there will be quite a few decisions you face. Whether or not to hire an attorney is one of the most consequential. In nearly all cases, it is advisable to hire an attorney. However, if you’re comfortable with gathering evidence and negotiating with an insurance adjuster, you may be able to do it on your own.
It’s also good to have a general understanding of how different kinds of insurance affect your claim and some of the basics of how the claims process works.
The following are general things to know about insurance claims and also what you should keep in mind if you’re considering whether you want to deal with it on your own without involving an attorney.
Situations When It Makes More Sense to Handle a Claim on Your Own
In some situations, it can almost always make sense to represent yourself. If your injuries are minor and the fault of the other party is apparent, then you can save money and get more of your settlement by dealing with it on your own.
Otherwise, you’re going to have to pay one-third of your settlement to your attorney, which is the standard under contingency fee agreements you’ll make with a personal injury attorney.
More specific considerations to keep in mind as you weigh self-representation include:
- Were you hurt badly? If you have a few minor bruises, then sometimes you may not have to deal with a lot of back and forth on the part of the insurance company. You may get a fast settlement covering your medical expenses and perhaps a little more to cover the inconvenience. If you were in a severe accident, and you’ve undergone comprehensive medical treatments and lost income, representing yourself may not be your best option.
- If your losses, also known as damages, are significant, everyone has a bigger stake in the situation. You deserve fair compensation for the injuries you’ve sustained, and the insurance company, which is typically the defendant in these cases, isn’t going to want to pay. Things tend to become adversarial in these situations where more money is involved. You’re likely going to need someone experienced to help during litigation.
- Is it truly clear the other party is at fault for your damages? You may think it is but consider that objectively before making a decision. If you have witnesses and it’s going to be easy to prove fault, that’s one thing, but that’s often not the case. It’s very easy for the defense to say you could have taken other actions to avoid the accident.
At-Fault vs. No-Fault
The state where your accident occurs will determine what needs to happen for you to deal with an insurance claim.
When you’re in an accident, settlement of insurance claims depends on what is called fault laws. So, if you’re traveling, for example, and you get into an accident, it’s the state where your accident occurs that serves as the jurisdiction for the insurance laws you follow.
Your medical bills are covered by your personal injury protection or PIP insurance if you live or are in an accident in a no-fault state, then If you don’t have any fault, the at-fault driver needs to pay money that spends on injury coverage.
In an accident, If you are at-fault state, then the coverage available pays only up to the limits of the at-fault driver’s policy.
Building a Foundation for Negotiation
If you’re going to attempt to settle a minor accident claim, you will have to show proof to the adjuster that the other party is at fault.
The steps you need to follow when you’re in an accident and especially if you’re planning to represent yourself include:
- Take pictures or videos of the scene of the accident and any injuries you sustain. Remember, you’re going to have to prove the other party was at fault, if you’re not responsible for accident, so the burden is on you to present the evidence showing this.
- Get a copy of the police report.
- Initially, when dealing with injuries and medical expenses, you should use your personal injury protection policy to cover your bills and then your health insurance. Make sure you get medical attention right away.
- Keep all copies of your medical records and bills.
- Learn what the statute of limitations is where the accident occurred.
The steps above are what you do essentially right away after the accident. From there, the following are some of the things you’ll need to do to deal with the insurance company.
- Once you’ve received medical treatment, the process will officially start with the insurance company when you send a demand letter. You should wait until you fully understand the impact of your accident injuries and how they affect your life.
- In your demand letter, you should highlight how the other person is liable for your injuries, go into detail about your injuries and the treatment you’ve needed, and highlight the financial losses you’ve incurred as a result.
- You’ll then work to negotiate a fair settlement, and you have to be careful about expecting too much. This can be just as problematic as accepting too little.
In most cases, you should hire a personal injury attorney, but in the few instances where you can probably do things on your own, it’s essential that you understand the process and what you’re going to have to show to get a settlement. Give yourself time to learn about the process and how to handle negotiations before you jump in.