Being involved in a car accident can be horrifying and agonizing. On top of that, you’ve got to deal with insurance, which tends to be just plain frustrating at best. Even the smallest fender-benders aren’t immune.
When you innocently call about straightening out your clear-cut claim, expect long delays on hold, unreturned calls, letters demanding enormous amounts of info you’re sure have nothing to do with the case—even your tax returns and unlimited access to every medical record in your whole life, and possibly mean or unsympathetic adjusters who don’t seem in a hurry to help or do the right thing.
But, in this case, foreknowledge is power. We’d like to give you a hint or two about what you’re about to undergo, whether you go it alone, or decide to look into hiring a wreck lawyer to handle the frustration so you don’t have to.
The Car Accident Lawsuit Process After a Car Wreck
Generally, this is how a South Carolina car accident claim works:
- At the scene of the crash, the investigating officer will give you a green sheet of paper called an “FR-10.” Take this sheet to your insurance agent. Keep a copy to help you get an official crash report prepared by the officer.
- You will soon be contacted by the insurance company of the at-fault driver. The person who contacts you is called an insurance adjuster. The adjuster may be polite, even friendly; it’s important to keep reminding yourself the adjuster is NOT your friend. As we’ve said before, the adjuster’s motives aren’t really in your best interest.
- You will probably have two separate claims—an injury claim and a property damage claim for your car. There might be a separate adjuster assigned to each claim (I know: it seems like a two-headed monster to divide and conquer you).
- To pay some medical bills, you may have a claim with your own insurance company, if you have the right coverage. It’s called “personal injury protection” (PIP) or MedPay. You will also have an adjuster for that, but those claims tend to be pretty easy.
- There may be way more coverage available—and necessary—to help you recover financially from injuries. Read more about how auto insurance works, including the most important car insurance you can have.
How Car Accident Claims Get Paid
Claims are settled, or paid, when the insurance company decides it has enough information to value the claim and it agrees with you to pay a certain amount of money to end the claim. Here’s how settlement works, from the easiest to the hardest to settle:
- PIP or MedPay claims can usually be settled rather easily by simply sending copies of your medical bills to your insurance company. The insurance company will then send you a check reimbursing you, or you can instruct the insurance company to send the payment straight to the provider.
- Property damage claims are usually the next easiest to settle, especially if you agree to settle for the cost it will take to repair your vehicle, or for the fair market value of your car if it can’t be fixed. But if your crash got caused by a drunk driver, you should contact an experienced car accident attorney, as you might qualify for punitive damages- but not without a fight.
- Everything has been easy to settle so far…but now we get to the first major complication. If you were involved in a crash where the at-fault driver did something criminal—especially a DUI—you may be entitled to punitive damages. These might be hard for you to get by yourself without a car accident lawyer. To find out how our firm handles DUI crashes differently, contact us by phone at 888.230.1841.
- Injury claims are the ones that most often require a lawyer—but “often” doesn’t mean “always.” We’ve already covered some guidelines on whether you should handle the claim yourself. However, even in simple claims without a serious injury, the insurance company may set up roadblocks to your recovery. You can be sure there will be a big fight if you suffer severe injuries and you’re asking for a big settlement.
HERE’S A FREE POINTER IF YOU HANDLE IT YOURSELF
Don’t even think about taking their money until you’re done with all your medical treatments and have copies of all your medical bills and records, plus any other evidence about the claim, like pictures, the crash report, lost wage statements, etc. Once you have those, you can send them (copies only; keep the original documents) to the adjuster with a letter laying out how the accident was all the at-fault driver’s fault. You will summarize all the damages you suffered from the accident, including a list of your medical bills and a request for an amount you think is fair to settle your claim. Then you can discuss settlement with the adjuster.
What If Insurance Won’t Pay…or Won’t Pay Enough?
Then it’s time to file a lawsuit.
If you think you don’t need a lawyer at this point, remember what Abe Lincoln said: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” If you needed an operation, you wouldn’t do it yourself, would you? The legal system is complicated and what you could lose is too precious for you to risk making a huge mistake representing yourself.
If you cannot come to an agreement with the insurance company, or just don’t feel like you can properly handle all the details and the adjuster’s efforts to cheapen your claim, we will meet with you for free. You can also email or start a live chat to get your questions answered. Call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841 today.