How Does the Car Accident Settlement Process Work?
Getting into an auto accident triggers a chain of events that can be very confusing as a first-time plaintiff. If you suffered physical injuries, emotional distress or property damage in the car accident, you will have to navigate the legal process to pursue a financial settlement. Learning as much as you can about the car accident settlement process can help you achieve greater peace of mind during this difficult time.
Free Lawyer Consultation
You always have the right to meet with an attorney after a car accident in Phoenix, Arizona. A conversation with a plaintiff’s attorney at the very beginning of your case can help you understand and protect your legal rights. If you decide to retain an attorney, he or she can walk you through the entire car accident settlement process from start to finish. Most car accident lawyers offer free initial consultations, so you can get legal advice at no cost or obligation.
Initial Insurance Claim
The action that initiates the car accident settlement process in Arizona is the filing of an auto insurance claim. According to Arizona’s fault law, the party at fault for an auto accident will have to pay for your damages. This means that as the injured party, you will file your claim with the insurance company of the careless or reckless party.
If another driver caused your car accident, such as through drunk driving or distracted driving, that party’s insurance carrier will be liable for your related medical care and other bills. If you are not sure who is at fault for your car accident, contact an attorney to help you investigate the crash and help you determine fault. Your attorney may also be able to assist you in working with your insurance company to cover your losses if you have medical pay coverage, collision or comprehensive insurance. In most cases, Gallagher & Kennedy attorneys do not charge any fee for helping clients resolve auto accident claims for group health insurance, medical payments coverage and property damage.
Investigation of the Accident
Upon filing your insurance claim, someone called an insurance claims adjuster will investigate the car accident. The insurance claims adjuster will analyze all available evidence to determine who or what caused the collision. Evidence may include:
- Eyewitness testimony
- Police information
- Medical records
- An in-person vehicle inspection
The adjuster will also call you to ask questions and obtain more information about the car accident. While you are required to give a statement to your own insurance company, you are under no obligation to do so for the other driver’s insurance company. We recommend contacting an attorney before giving any statements to any insurance company.
Pretrial Negotiations for a Settlement
If the insurance claims adjuster concludes the defendant did cause your car accident, the company will accept your claim and offer a settlement it deems reasonable according to your proof of losses. It is very important, however, not to rush into a settlement agreement. The initial offer may not adequately cover your injuries and losses. Once you sign off on your acceptance, you generally cannot reopen your case. And several insurance companies try to offer settlements that are far less than the true value of a claim.
A car insurance company expects you to counter its initial offer and negotiate. Most insurance companies offer low settlements with the expectation that the plaintiff will issue a counteroffer. Rather than accepting the first offer, bring it to an attorney for a review. A lawyer wants the opposite of the insurance company – to maximize, not diminish, your car accident settlement. An attorney can help you negotiate the value of a settlement until reaching a fair agreement.
Car Accident Court Trial
If a car insurance company fails to provide benefits that are adequate for your losses, your personal injury attorney may need to take your car accident claim to trial in Phoenix. A personal injury trial typically involves evidence and witness testimony presented before a judge and jury.
The jury will listen to all of the evidence and determine whether the defendant is at fault for causing the car accident. If so, the jury may award you a judgment it deems fair for the extent of your losses. For assistance with the entire car accident settlement process, contact an attorney as soon as possible after your crash.