Many people wonder how to deal with a car accident without a lawyer, but it may not be as difficult as you imagine. The key components to seeking compensation include:
- Collecting evidence of the accident
- Staying in touch with the insurer and the at-fault party involved in the accident
- Quantifying your damages
- Putting together a claim
- Negotiating with the insurer
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), insurance company losses and expenses for private passenger insurance claims were over $206 billion in 2015. This number has grown over the years. Two reasons for this are an increase in claims per vehicle and higher payouts per accident. Follow the steps below to work your way through a vehicle accident claim.
Although insurance companies pay billions for accident claims every year, they strive to process claims quickly at a minimal cost. The dollar figure an insurance company is willing to pay you is, in part, based on how strong your car accident case is . You can start on the right foot by collecting compelling evidence of your claim.
First, you need to collect evidence to prove the duty of care. This means you must prove that the at-fault driver could have prevented harm to others on the road, and their failure to do so led to quantifiable damages and losses to you.
After the accident, you should have collected the contact and insurance information of the other driver, as well as the contact information of any witnesses at the scene. You will also want pictures and video of the scene and notes on whatever you can remember about the accident, such as if someone ran a red light or was driving in an impaired manner.
Evidence collection will continue even after the accident. You should gather medical records, test results, vehicle damage assessments, repair invoices, medical receipts, doctor’s fees, and any other forms of proof of damage that you can. Having a comprehensive paper trail for your expenses and losses is an important part of any accident claim.
Other forms of proof you can collect include lost wages shown on your paystubs, the official police report on the accident, and dashcam or CCTV footage of the accident.
Notify Your Insurers
Tell your insurance company about the accident and contact the other driver’s insurance company as well. You must notify them of your intent to file a claim before doing so.
Once you have notified the at-fault driver’s insurer of your intent to file a claim, an insurance claims adjuster will contact you. They may also send you a letter called a Reservation of Rights. This is sent to nearly everyone filing a claim. It simply says that the insurance company will investigate your claim, but that they reserve the right to deny your claim if the losses you report are not covered.
Depending on the type of claim you file, you may have to provide different types of evidence and follow specific steps outlined by the insurance company before they commit to or process a payout for you. The following are a few examples:
- For vehicle damage claims, you may have to take your vehicle to a preapproved repair shop that will assess your damages. You may be able to secure a rental vehicle while your car is in the repair shop based on your needs
- For bodily injuries, you may have to sign a medical release form that gives the insurance company access to your health records. Be careful when signing such a release, however. Make sure it only gives the insurance company access to medical records relevant to your accident
When dealing with a car accident without a lawyer, consider this additional advice:
- Do not rush to settle, especially if you are still undergoing treatments. After settling, there is no going back, and the insurance company will likely refuse payment for additional care costs even if they are due to your accident
- Don’t throw away any receipts or disregard costs or expenses, irrespective of how big or small they are
- The first response of the insurance adjuster may be that they cannot approve settlements of a certain amount, or that your claim does not warrant such damages. If this happens, simply reiterate your case, show all the proof you have of your losses, and let the adjuster get back to you
- Only sign a settlement agreement if you are satisfied with the offer and you have thoroughly read the terms and conditions of the payout
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For those who wonder “How do you deal with a car accident without a lawyer?”, the process may be straightforward in some cases, with the right knowledge of which steps to take, and when. Yet not all cases are simple, and often it can be intimidating to represent yourself. For additional assistance with your car accident case, contact the Fitch Law Firm in Columbus at (614) 545-3930.