I hope that everyone had a Merry Christmas and is enjoying the holidays. I sure wish the weather were better though. Unfortunately car crashes happen 365 days a year and more often when the roads are bad. It’s raining now and sleet and ice are predicted for later in the week. And as we all know, Texans are not good at driving in bad weather.
I’m at the office today working for my injured clients. I wanted to post some thoughts on what you should do if you have unfortunately been injured in a car or truck accident in Dallas Fort Worth.
Almost all (98%) of auto accident cases settle without a trial. However reaching an out of court settlement that is fair to you if you don’t have a skilled professional at your side is virtually impossible. Without knowing the law and the tricks of the trade, you are at the mercy of the insurance company claims adjuster. And he or she knows this.
If you know how to make a compelling claim and negotiate, you will receive much more money. If you want to represent yourself, here are the basic steps a personal injury lawyer uses to successfully negotiate car wreck cases.
1. File claim as soon as possible
After obtaining the police report and conducting an investigation, my office notifies the at-fault driver’s insurance company about our client’s car wreck quickly. This gets the case off to a good start and lets the company know we mean business. We request that the adjuster verify receipt of the letter and outline any objections or defenses the liability carrier plans to raise. We then call to establish communication and attempt to find out how large the adverse driver’s insurance policy is. We investigate other insurance policies and ways to pay our client’s medical bills and establish contact with those entities as well. If there is Personal Injury Protection and other benefits like Medicare, we file the applications to get that process moving.
If you are not represented by a car accident lawyer, here’s a word of caution: only give out information to the insurance adjuster that is necessary to submit your claim. The less you say at this stage, the better. Do not give a recorded statement until you have had the chance to talk to an attorney. Insurance adjusters often take advantage of accident victims who are still in shock and are feeling pain from the accident, are impacted by painkillers, and may not have an idea how to proceed. Then they “swoop and settle” and get a full release of claims for minimal compensation.
2. Collect evidence regarding your injuries and damages
Every claim for damages must be backed by evidence. Keep all receipts, bills and other documents related to your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and out of pocket expenses. Also you’ll need your doctors’ reports, diagnostic testing results, medical bills, and health insurance and other sources of payment. We order and pay for these upfront to build a strong case for injury, disability, lost wages and diminished earning capacity, disfigurement, and other damages that our clients are entitled to under Texas law.
3. Analyze the letter the insurance company sends accepting, denying or reserving rights
The insurance company will notify your attorney or you that it has received the notice letter and advise if it is going to fight the case on the basis of liability, coverage, or other reasons. You should attempt to contact the other driver and get a statement from him or her. The filing of a lawsuit may become necessary depending on this letter and who the insurance company is.
4. Send demand package to the insurance company
After medical treatment is completed or we have a handle on our client’s medical diagnosis and prognosis, the demand letter is an important tool in the negotiation process. A well-drafted demand letter can
- Resolve your claim sooner for much higher damages,
- Save you thousands of dollars, and
- Avoid the anxiety and uncertainty of litigation
I forward a complete demand package by certified mail that includes a compelling statement of facts, the legal theories that support your claim, photographs and investigative material, itemized damages, and crucial evidence. I include an analysis of jury verdict potential to convince the adjuster that paying full damages is best for the company.
5. Plan and conduct your negotiating strategy
The insurance adjuster’s job, of course, is to pay as little as possible to claimants. Therefore you should not be alarmed if the initial offer is low. Your attorney will know the ball park for your case’s value. If you don’t have a personal injury lawyer, do not give in to pressure techniques. This is not a “one-time” offer and is not the “best you can do,” but rather is a typical step in the negotiation process.
6. Make counteroffers
We analyze case value and follow a mapped out strategy designed to highlight the value of damages incrementally. There are multiple rounds and the timing, communication, and nuance are critical. You need to know if hospital liens, subrogation liens from your health insurance company or governmental provider, and other medical providers are asserting the right to be paid from the proceeds and whether those claims can be negotiated down. We do this as a routine part of the process to help our clients secure larger payments.
7. Reach a final settlement and sign documents
In many cases, a good injury lawyer can reach an equitable settlement through strategic negotiations. You should expect payment within a week after you sign the agreement depending on the final documentation.
However you maintain ultimate control and can walk away from an unfair settlement. Although going to trial is uncommon, sometimes it is necessary to recover the money that you deserve. An auto crash lawyer can increase the chances that you will reach an equitable settlement and advise you if instead you should take your claim to a jury.