How Do Insurance Companies Negotiate Car Crash Settlements?
When you suffer injuries in a car accident, you will typically need to turn to the liable driver's insurance company to recover compensation for the damages sustained during the accident. In most cases, that means a significant negotiation with the insurance company. Insurance companies generally avoid paying out any more than they must following an accident, despite the significant injuries and losses suffered by the victim.
However, by working with an experienced car accident lawyer, you can feel much more confident about the negotiation process and the outcome of your claim.
Investigating the Claim
Once you have filed a claim with the insurance company, the insurance company will investigate your claim. The insurance company wants to know two key details regarding your accident: what factors caused it, including whether anyone other than its covered party may have contributed to the incident, and what damages you can claim because of your injuries.
Keep in mind that the insurance company's investigation usually aims to reduce the compensation paid out to the injured party as much as possible, even in cases where the injured party might have sustained substantial injuries and deserve considerable compensation.
The insurance company wants to know whether the party it covers bears liability for the accident. In a car accident investigation, that may mean looking at all the elements that may have led to the accident and carefully determining how much liability its covered driver likely bears.
The insurance company may look into things like whether the liable driver:
Ignored the rules of the road, including traffic signs and signals
Failed to yield the right of way
The insurance company may look at several key pieces of evidence to help determine whether its driver caused the accident.
The Police Report
The police report from the accident will give an idea of where and when the accident took place. The responding officer may also note who caused the accident, including the liable driver’s dangerous behaviors.
If the police note particularly dangerous or reckless behavior, including signs of drunk driving, speeding, or running a red light or stop sign, the officer may issue the liable driver a ticket. That ticket can serve as evidence of the driver's dangerous behaviors and may make it easier for you to prove liability.
Often, the insurance company will want to talk to people who saw the accident. If you have witnesses to the accident, the insurance company may consult with them to better understand what they observed and how it may have contributed to the accident.
The insurance company may also want to take statements from you and the other driver involved in the accident. The insurance company may look for anything in your statement that does not add up or may accept liability for the accident, so make sure you plan your statement carefully. Talk to your lawyer about what you should tell the insurance company and whether you need to issue a statement about the accident to get a better idea of how you can protect yourself through that process.
The insurance company may look at any video footage from the accident, which can offer a better look at all the events that led to the collision. If available, video footage may include traffic camera footage, dash cam footage, and even security camera footage from local businesses.
Having that critical video footage can make it much easier to establish liability for the accident since it can provide clearer insights into exactly what caused or contributed to the incident. However, not all accidents will have video footage.
Examining One or Both Vehicles
The insurance company may want to look at the vehicles involved in the accident to get a better idea of the damage to the vehicles and provide better insight into what may have caused the accident.
In disputed liability cases, the insurance company may want to bring in an expert to look at the damage and the accident scene and provide more information about the factors that likely contributed to the accident.
Your injuries are key in determining the compensation you can recover as part of a car accident claim. The insurance company may want to closely examine exactly what injuries you sustained and how they impact your everyday life after the accident to get a better idea of how much compensation the company will have to pay out for those injuries.
Your Medical Bills
The insurance company may want to look directly at the medical bills related to your accident. The more severe your injuries, the higher your medical bills will generally run, and the more time you will need to take care of treatment for those injuries. The insurance company may want to check those bills directly, especially if you suffered any complications during recovery or chose unusual treatments for your injuries.
Your Medical Records
Your medical records can help provide deeper insight into what injuries you sustained, the proper treatment protocol for those injuries, and what limitations those injuries likely caused during the recovery process. Your medical records may include direct tests related to your injuries, including x-rays and scans, as well as reports regarding what injuries you sustained and what treatment you needed.
Furthermore, your medical records will help show the progression of your treatment and recovery, including whether you may have suffered any setbacks on the road to recovery.
Statements From Your Care Provider
A statement from your care provider can go a long way toward laying out the damages you sustained because of the accident. A statement incorporates some of the information from your records. Still, it may also share insights regarding how long you will need to recover, future medical bills you may have to deal with, and challenges you may face.
Furthermore, your care provider can share more information about the specific impact those injuries have had on you, including any complications that may have impacted your likely recovery and what long-term limitations you will likely face because of those injuries.
Sometimes, the insurance company may want you to undergo an independent medical exam to determine how much limitation and pain you face because of the accident. While you have the right to choose your own treatment and care providers, the insurance company may want to conduct its own investigation with a care provider it chooses to determine the extent of your injuries and your long-term limitations.
During that independent exam, the care provider may want to test the range of motion, pain, or direct injuries. Your lawyer can provide more insight into what the insurance company may expect during your exam.
Issuing an Initial Settlement
Once the insurance company has a solid idea of the extent of your injuries and who bears liability for your accident, the company will issue an initial settlement offer. That initial settlement offer often reflects only a small percentage of the damages you sustained in the accident, even if the policy claims to cover far more.
Many insurance companies have programs that automatically run claims through the system and create an offer that reflects only a predetermined percentage of any medical losses claimed by the injured party. The insurance adjuster you speak to about that initial settlement may not even have the authority to increase that offer substantially.
Once you receive an initial settlement offer, review it with your lawyer. Remember that you do not have to accept a settlement offer that does not fit your needs and that an early settlement offer likely does not include the full compensation you can reasonably recover after your car accident.
When you receive an initial settlement offer that does not fully reflect the damages you sustained in the accident or the compensation you reasonably deserve for those losses, you have the right to negotiate for fair compensation. Your lawyer can help you with the negotiation process.
Your lawyer will put together a demand package that includes the damages you sustained during the accident, including compensation for the pain and suffering you had to deal with. Then, the insurance company will look over that offer.
In most cases, the insurance company will not simply sign off on your demand package. Instead, you will generally receive another offer, higher than the initial offer but lower than your demand package.
Your lawyer will go back and forth with the insurance company, often through several rounds of negotiation, until you reach an agreement that fits the needs of both parties. If you cannot reach an agreement through negotiation, your lawyer may recommend that you take the case to court.
Before going to court, you may get a final attempt to negotiate through mediation. During mediation, both parties will sit down with a mediator, often a judge or retired judge, and present the case. The mediator will recommend what the court will likely decide and how the two sides can reach a reasonable agreement.
How a Lawyer Can Help With the Negotiation Process?
When you suffer any injury in a car crash, you may need an attorney to help you with the negotiation process. Insurance companies can prove tricky, and they often utilize several tactics designed to reduce the compensation the injured party can recover. Working with a lawyer, however, increases the odds that you will get fair compensation for your injuries and losses.
1. Learn About the Compensation You Deserve
When you work with a lawyer, you will have more information about the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Insurance companies often leave out details: areas of compensation they might offer, policy exceptions that could provide you with more overall coverage, and even the policy's limits.
Furthermore, insurance companies might not provide information about how to claim compensation for the suffering you had to deal with because of your accident.
A lawyer, on the other hand, can help lay out all the damages that may have accompanied your accident and the compensation you should realistically expect as a result. That can help ensure you do not miss out on any compensation you should expect for your injuries.
2. Collect Evidence of Your Own
When the insurance company investigates the accident, its agents look for details that could shift liability to another party, including you. Your lawyer, on the other hand, will look for evidence that establishes liability for the accident, including anything that shows the liable party's negligent actions.
Your lawyer can also help identify any other factors, like a faulty vehicle, that could have contributed to the accident, allowing you to pursue compensation from other parties that may have contributed to the incident.
3. Negotiate Confidently
A lawyer can help take on negotiations on your behalf, making you feel much more confident overall about the outcome. Lawyers have more insight into the traps that insurance companies often throw out during the negotiation process, and they can help you avoid them.
For example, a lawyer can help you avoid statements that might accept liability for the accident or minimize the suffering you have gone through, both of which may reduce the compensation you can ultimately recover.
Contact a Lawyer for Help With Your Car Accident Claim
Having a lawyer on your side can make a huge difference as you negotiate with the insurance company after a car accident. Contact a personal injury law firm in San Diego as soon as possible to learn more.