If you have been involved in a car accident resulting in damage to your vehicle or physical injuries, you will most likely file a claim with the insurer of the party at fault (with some exceptions). Only a tiny percentage of car accident cases go to trial, since they are typically settled among the insurance companies first. This section focuses on car accident claims and settlements, including a basic overview of the claims process in general. Articles in this section cover such topics as pain and suffering damages, the accuracy of online car accident settlement calculators, and whether an uninsured driver can sue an insured driver who is at fault for an accident.
The Basics of Car Accident Settlements
It's very uncommon for injury or vehicle damage claims following a car accident to be heard in a trial; these typically are resolved by the insurance companies. And even if a claim is filed against an individual (not the insurer), it's most likely going to be settled without a trial. Therefore, it's important to have a general understanding of how car accidents claims and settlements typically are resolved.
A settlement is a compromise among the parties involved in a dispute, typically negotiated by attorneys. Once the settlement is finalized, the details of the case are kept confidential and neither party admits wrongdoing.
In the event that you're not satisfied with the estimates provided by the opposing party's insurer, you may write what is called a "demand letter." This explains your damage and injuries resulting from the accident in more detail, along with a request for a different monetary amount. The parties involved will review the demand letter and then will move to the settlement negotiation phase, which often requires much back and forth before a resolution is reached.
Negotiations and Alternative Dispute Resolution
If there are disagreements or firm differences that prevent a satisfactory settlement agreement, you can always seek mediation by a disinterested party. While mediators are licensed attorneys, their decisions are generally non-binding and meant to provide guidance to both parties. Failing a resolution, however, the case may proceed to trial. But keep in mind that a settlement may be reached at any time before the trial is closed for deliberation.
Car Accident Insurance Claims at a Glance
When you are involved in an accident, it always helps to get a police report in order to have an official record of what happened and who is likely at fault. While there is no exact, universal time frame for how long you have to report an accident after it occurs, you're better off doing it as soon as possible. If it's the other motorist's fault, make sure you call their insurer the same day or soon thereafter (and always get this information from the other party at the scene of the accident).
While it's natural for there to be "two sides" to the story, make sure you're being as honest and accurate as possible. If you are caught lying about important details of the accident or damages, it will jeopardize your ability to collect.
In addition to taking detailed notes about your injuries at the scene of the accident (or shortly thereafter), you also should keep ongoing notes of any injuries that show up later, such whiplash or concussion.
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