How Do Car Accident Settlements Work?
Car accident settlements work when the at-fault party and injured party come to a settlement agreement. Before reaching a settlement, both sides need to plead their case and negotiate to reach a fair deal that they agree upon. While car accident settlements can often happen quickly, sometimes they can take months or years to resolve.
Often, the injured party can hire a car accident attorney to help them through the settlement process. An attorney will understand how car accident settlements work and can guide you through the process. They can take the necessary steps to build a strong case, such as determining the amount of compensation you deserve.
Car Accident Settlements Can Reduce the Time It Takes to Receive Compensation
After sustaining injuries in a car accident, you have the right to seek compensation from the at-fault party. Typically, their auto insurance company will cover the costs of damages. Your attorney can negotiate with the opposing counsel on your behalf to try to reach a fair deal.
Reaching a car accident settlement outside of court can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to receive compensation. If you cannot settle outside of court, your case may go to trial. You could wait over a year to have your day in court. Then, your attorney may have to prove to the jury that you deserve compensation for your losses. They will make the decision on if and how much compensation you will receive.
When you choose to hire a car accident attorney, they can handle negotiations for you.
The Car Accident Settlement Process Timeline
The car accident settlement timeline varies case by case. Insurance companies commonly reach out to the injured party soon after the accident offering a settlement amount. It’s important to know that their initial offer is typically far lower than the value of your case. Your attorney can take steps to help you determine the value of your case and gather evidence to prove your claims.
Finding a Car Accident Attorney
While you don’t have to hire an attorney to negotiate for you, you may want to consider this option. They can explain your legal options and how car accident settlements work. When you choose an attorney, you don’t have to interact with the insurance company or the liable party on your own.
To find the best car accident attorney for your case, you can have consultations with different law firms. Fortunately, car accident attorneys typically offer free consultations, so you don’t have a financial obligation to speak with someone.
Investigating the Accident
Once you hire a car accident attorney, they can begin investigating the accident. During their investigation, they can gather key evidence to prove the cause of the accident. Determining the cause of the accident can lead investigators to identify the at-fault party.
Common causes of car accidents include:
- Distracted driving: Distracted driving is anything that could take the driver’s full attention off the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one of the most common distractions drivers engage in includes texting. Other distractions include eating or changing the radio station.
- Driving while intoxicated: When people choose to drive a motor vehicle after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, they put themselves and the people in vehicles around them in danger. Intoxicated driving could cause impairments that include blurry vision, poor decision-making, and decreased motor control.
- Inexperienced drivers: Drivers who have little experience driving motor vehicles at all or in a specific area may have a higher likelihood of causing accidents. Their slower speeds or inability to make quick decisions could cause an accident.
- Driver fatigue: Driving while fatigued can cause a wide range of impairments many people don’t realize. In fact, fatigued driving is often just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
During the investigation, your attorney can collect evidence to prove who caused the accident. Examples of evidence could include video footage, photographs, and witness testimony. They can also review the police report to see if they can find pertinent information present.
Building the Case
Many car accidents occur because of another driver’s negligence. To prove their negligent actions caused your injuries, you must provide enough evidence to show they satisfied the elements of negligence. Negligence occurs when another driver exhibits careless conduct, such as texting while driving, and another person sustains injuries because of it.
Your attorney can help you prove the at-fault party acted negligently by establishing:
- The other driver owed you a duty of care: The at-fault party had a duty to keep you safe. This means following all road rules and refusing to get behind the wheel when they are exhausted, drunk, or distracted.
- The other driver did not uphold their duty of care: The at-fault party breaches their duty of care when they don’t drive carefully, or they violate the rules of the road. If they don’t drive in a safe way that a reasonable person under the same circumstances would, you can prove that they breached their duty of care. Examples could include failing to stop at a red light, not watching for oncoming traffic, or following the vehicle in front of them too closely.
- Their negligence caused your injuries: You must prove that your injuries occurred because of the at-fault party’s misconduct. An attorney can work hard to prove that if the at-fault party had not acted with negligence, you wouldn’t have sustained your injuries.
- You suffered damages because of their negligence: You must have incurred losses because of the at-fault party’s negligence. Damages you may have suffered include pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost income.
Attorneys know how to prove negligence and understand the evidence they need in a car accident case. Working with a lawyer may make the financial recovery process less stressful for you and your family.
Identifying Your Recoverable Damages
When another party causes your accident, you can pursue compensation for your damages. Identifying your recoverable damages is an important part of the car accident settlement process because it provides information about how much compensation to seek for your injuries.
Recoverable damages you could seek compensation for in a car accident case include:
- Medical expenses: After any kind of car accident, it may be necessary to seek medical attention. Your medical bills may be expensive, especially if you needed to ride in an ambulance or stay the night in the hospital. If you develop a serious injury, such as a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury, you could require extensive medical care. You could recover compensation for travel to doctor’s appointments, medications, assistive medical devices, and hospital fees.
- Non-economic damages: Car accident injuries could cause you distress both mentally and physically. You can recover compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, lost enjoyment of life, or scarring and disfigurement. Your attorney could gather strong evidence to prove you deserve compensation for the pain you endured. Examples of evidence could include testimony from your mental healthcare provider, doctor’s notes, expert witness testimony, and your medical records.
- Lost earnings: Your injuries could cause your earning capacity to diminish. You could lose your ability to work entirely, or at least for several weeks or months. Your attorney can help you prove that your injuries have prevented you from working. When determining how much compensation to seek for this loss, your attorney can take your age, occupation, and salary into account.
Without consulting a car accident attorney, you might not realize how much compensation you could receive.
Your attorney can begin settlement negotiations with the insurance company once they have gathered enough evidence to prove your case. The time it takes to conclude negotiations depends on how long it takes for both parties to agree.
If you agree to a settlement, the at-fault party can compensate you based on the agreed-upon amount. Typically, you can receive the money in less than a few weeks after the agreement.
An Attorney Can Provide Information on How a Car Accident Settlement Could Work in Your Case
Each case has different circumstances, which could change how the car accident settlement process works for you. To gain a better understanding, reaching out to a car accident attorney could provide you with more insight. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.
Other benefits of having an attorney represent you through this process include:
- They can handle all communications with the opposing party. When you need to focus on recovering from your injuries, the last thing you need is to deal with the insurance company. When you hire a car accident attorney, they can handle those communications on your behalf.
- They can ensure you don’t fall for bad-faith insurance tactics. Insurance companies may try to use tricky tactics to undervalue your case and save their company money. They could delay paying you or try to claim that your injuries are not as serious as you say they are. An attorney can protect you from these tactics and help you avoid accepting a settlement that is too low.
- They can provide legal advice throughout your case. During the settlement process, you have a lot of decisions to make. These decisions could significantly affect the amount of compensation you receive. Your attorney can provide legal advice based on their knowledge and experience to help you make the most informed decisions.
- They can prove you sustained injuries. Car accident attorneys understand the evidence they need to provide to prove you sustained injuries in the accident. A thorough investigation by them can ensure no piece of evidence is missed.
- They can advocate for you during negotiations and attempt to convince the other party to compensate you with the money you deserve.
- If your case goes through to a trial, they can represent you. You need someone in your corner who understands the complex lawsuit and trial processes.
- They can provide support during this difficult time. Your attorney has probably worked on cases similar to yours. They know how you feel and can advocate for you.
Having an attorney to explain how a car accident settlement works and provide support to you can relieve some of your stress during this difficult time. Many firms offer free consultations, which allow you to decide who to hire without spending any money.