- March 31, 2016
- Personal Injury Law
If you’ve been in a car accident, you’ll eventually start thinking about how to maximize your personal injury settlement in order to cover your bills. There are a few tried-and-true tactics that lawyers recommend when settling or litigating car accident claims. Here are 8 tips on getting the most money from your car accident claim.
1. Follow Up with Medical Treatment Immediately
In order to have a high-value car accident case, you must lay the foundation for your claim. Even though you might feel fine at the scene of the accident, it’s crucial to get care as soon as possible. If you do not seek treatment within 72 hours of your accident, the insurance adjuster will most likely deny your claim outright.
It’s always a good idea to allow emergency medical staff to evaluate you at the scene of the accident. However, it’s also fine to go to an urgent care or emergency room on your own as long as you do so as soon as possible. Resist the urge to try to tough it out. It will hurt your claim and more importantly, your health. If you are worried about how you will pay for the treatment, go to a hospital emergency room. They cannot turn you away if you are unable to pay.
Make sure to let your doctor know about any physical symptoms you have, even if you think they are minor. Reporting pain and stiffness is great, but also remember to report any dizziness, headaches, or nausea you feel.
Follow up with your primary care physician within the week and keep track of any intensified pain you feel, in addition to headaches, trouble sleeping, numbness, or any other physical or mental symptoms. Make sure to mention your symptoms at every appointment you make. You may think you sound repetitive or whiny, but consistently mentioning your symptoms keeps them on your medical records.
2. Follow Your Doctor’s Advice
Your priority after your accident is to get well as soon as possible. If your doctor referred you to a chiropractor, physical therapist, or other provider, make and keep your appointments. Many injured people stop going to physical therapy because they start feeling better, only to see their symptoms return a few weeks later. Gaps in your treatment make it more difficult to prove that your damages were caused by the accident.
3. Keep Records of Your Lost Wages
Keep copies of any out-of-work notes your doctor writes for you. This increases the value of your personal injury claim because it is direct evidence of the fact that you needed to miss work because of your injuries. Make sure to also get a wage verification letter or form from your employer. This documents the days you actually missed and the wages you lost because you had to miss work.
Remember that you need a doctor to write you out of work to claim lost wages; you cannot claim lost wages on days you called in sick because you just didn’t feel well enough to work.
4. Investigate Your Accident Thoroughly
Gathering all the information you can about your accident fills in important details that insurance adjusters usually need to know when processing a claim. If you don’t or can’t provide certain types of documentation, the insurance company will deny your claim. The information you need may include:
- copies of the accident report
- names, contact information, and insurance information of all parties
- accident witness names, contact information, and statements
- responding officers’ names and badge numbers
- photos of the scene of the accident, your injuries, and property damage to all vehicles involved
- plate numbers, year, make, and model of all vehicles involved
- copies of your medical records, bills, prescriptions, and other documentation of your treatment
You may not have been able to collect all of this information at the scene of your accident, particularly if you were transported to an emergency room for treatment. If you’re still recovering, you may be unable to devote attention to investigating your crash. An attorney may be able to help you investigate your accident so that you can focus on getting well.
5. Have a Witness Who Can Testify to Your Condition
Your family members, friends, and coworkers are the best witnesses to your injuries’ effects on your daily life and how your life has changed since your accident. It is often beneficial to have these people write statements that you attach to your demand letter to the insurance company.
At trial, lay witnesses – any witness who is not an expert – are often crucial to proving the severity of your injuries to a jury. Your spouse or children can illustrate how your quality of life has diminished as a result of your injuries. They can describe:
- your difficulties caring for yourself
- your loss of enjoyment of hobbies or activities
- any changes in your personality or mood since your injuries
- any other effects on your life
6. Do a Background Check on the At-Fault Driver
One of the best ways to maximize your personal injury settlement is to check into the at-fault driver’s background. If you can prove that the driver has been at fault for other accidents or injuries in the past, you can establish a pattern of poor driving or even reckless behavior. Insurance adjusters know that an at-fault driver’s poor driving record or criminal history usually looks bad in front of a jury, and they’ll be more likely to give you a higher settlement in order to keep the case out of court.
7. Be a Good Witness
Even though trying to get a personal injury settlement or litigating a car accident is possibly one of the most frustrating things you’ll ever do, it’s always best to be polite and professional when dealing with anyone involved. This includes the insurance adjuster, the insurance company’s attorneys, judges, and all court personnel. Conventional wisdom tells people they need to be tough to be effective advocates for themselves, especially when you’re dealing with people whose job is to give you less than what you think you deserve. However, politeness, patience, and honesty may be a crucial factor to maximize your personal injury settlement. These qualities pay off because they make you likeable.
Likeable accident victims are bad for insurance companies. Juries often award higher judgments to injured people who seem sincere, reasonable, and responsible. A pleasant person is much more likely to get a favorable settlement from an insurance company so that a jury does not hear the case and award higher damages.
In contrast, juries frown on people who seem unpleasant or who appear to be exaggerating the severity of their injuries to get more money. Insurance adjusters know how unappealing unpleasant witnesses are to juries. This usually leads to lower settlement offers.
8. Hire a Lawyer Who Will Take Your Case to Trial
Though most personal injury cases settle out of court, some cases must go to trial. Usually this happens when some aspect of the case is unclear. There may have been no witnesses to your accident who can testify as to fault, or you may have had pre-existing injuries that were made worse by your accident. This almost always leads to the insurance company either denying your claim or offering a settlement amount that is too low.
Some personal injury lawyers strongly prefer settling cases, even when it would be to their clients’ benefit to go to trial. There are many good reasons to settle, but if ambiguities in your case have put you at a stalemate with the at-fault insurance company, it may be time to take your case in front of a jury. Jury trials typically result in judgments that are much higher than settlement offers, so hiring a lawyer who is willing to go to trial could result in a much higher payout.
Maximize Your Personal Injury Settlement by Calling an Attorney
Because all accidents are unique, there is no set of rules to help you determine how to achieve the best outcome in your case. Consulting with a personal injury lawyer may help you determine what a realistic result will be. This can be valuable while you’re talking to the insurance adjuster, whether you decide to handle your claim on your own or hire a lawyer to handle it for you. Contact us today for a free consultation. Our Asheville personal injury attorneys will discuss your options with you and advise you on how to proceed with your claim.
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