If you have been hurt in a car crash, you may be wondering, “How do I settle my auto accident claim quickly?”
Your medical bills are starting to pile up, you may have lost time at work, a month or two has gone by since the accident, and a check from the other driver’s insurance company would certainly make life easier right about now…
So, how do you settle an auto accident claim? Understanding that every case is different, below we will discuss the process for settling an auto accident claim, when you may be able to settle an auto accident claim quickly, and why some cases will take longer than others.
How Much is My Auto Accident Claim Worth?
Assuming that we can prove that the other driver was negligent, and they are liable for the accident, the most important question is, “How much is your auto accident claim worth?”
Can you settle your auto accident claim quickly? If the insurance company can get away with not paying what they owe, they might write a quick, and small, check…
Before making a demand for settlement or entering any negotiations with an insurance adjuster or insurance defense attorney, first, we must understand what they are obligated to pay.
The “anchor” for any auto accident claim settlement is your economic damages – what were you forced to pay out of pocket (or what do you owe to creditors) because of the accident?
This is a broad category that can cover many different types of expense, but some of the more common types of economic damages include:
- Medical bills – doctor’s bills, emergency room bills, EMS, specialists, surgeries, and follow up care;
- Medications and medical equipment;
- Future medical expenses – if your injuries will affect you into the future, the other driver is responsible for your future care as well, which could include long-term care facilities, medical equipment, and the costs of doctors or surgeries that may be needed in the future;
- Therapist or counseling bills if your emotional or mental health is affected by the accident;
- Lost wages – if you were forced to miss work because of the accident or if your future earning capacity is affected by your injuries; and
- Other out-of-pocket expenses that were caused by the accident, whether it is current or future and whether you have already paid the creditor or you owe money to them.
The economic damages that you are owed include everything that you can quantify on paper with bills, invoices, or an expert’s projection of future costs. You are also owed non-economic damages – damages that, although they cannot be quantified with a paper invoice or bill, may be substantial.
For example, your non-economic damages may include separate damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, or permanent disfigurement.
Another type of non-economic damages is punitive damages – if the defendant was grossly negligent, or acted willfully, wantonly, or intentionally, you may be entitled to punitive damages as well.
If the defendant was drunk or intoxicated on drugs at the time of the accident, or if the defendant has been convicted of a felony associated with the accident, it’s likely that a jury will make them pay punitive damages and this must also be considered in the auto accident claim settlement.
What is the Process to Settle an Auto Accident Claim?
If there was clear liability and the damages award is likely to exceed the defendant’s policy limits, sometimes the insurance company will offer to settle the case early on – if they don’t act reasonably in settling the case, they could be on the hook for an insurance bad faith claim when their insured gets hit with a large verdict…
On the other hand, even in a “slam dunk” plaintiff’s case, and especially when there is a high policy limit and high damages, insurance companies will often delay settlement of your auto accident claim until they have finished the discovery process, taken depositions, and engaged in mediation, sometimes waiting until the eve of trial to offer a reasonable settlement.
Investigation and Initial Demand Letter
The first steps in settling your auto accident claim include investigating your case. Every case is different. However, in most cases, before demanding payment or accepting an offer to pay, we must:
- Interview any witnesses (and possibly take depositions of those witnesses);
- Obtain and review all potential evidence in your case, including the accident report, witness statements, expert reports like the results of a MAIT Team investigation, photos or video of the accident or the aftermath of the accident, medical records, and evidence that may be obtained through discovery;
- Retain experts when appropriate to determine the cause of the accident, to explain your injuries and the effect they have had on your life, to calculate future medical expenses or what it will cost to care for a permanently disabled person, or to provide a report or testimony when appropriate to prove liability or the amount of damages that you are owed; and
- Ensure that you have either 1) finished treatment for your injuries or 2) reached a point in treatment where we can accurately calculate your future medical expenses.
Once we know what full and fair compensation will be in your auto accident claim, including economic damages, non-economic damages, future costs, and the potential for punitive damages, we may send a demand letter to the insurance company letting them know what they must pay to fully compensate you for your injuries.
Negotiations and Mediation
In many cases, the insurance company will not pay your auto accident claim – it’s in their best interest to deny, delay, and defend every lawsuit when they can justify it with a colorable legal defense or a need to investigate further.
Throughout the discovery process, mandatory mediation, the eve of trial, and even after trial if the case is pending on appeal, the insurance company can decide to offer full and fair compensation and settle your auto accident claim.
We may have wanted a quick and fair settlement, but, in some cases, the insurance company will refuse, and a jury must decide your case.
Although we will help you to avoid trial whenever possible, your auto accident attorneys at Coastal Law are also experienced and trained trial attorneys who will not hesitate to fight for you in the courtroom.
SC Auto Accident Attorneys in Myrtle Beach
The Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyers at Coastal Law will help you to demand full and fair compensation to settle your auto accident claim, which includes economic damages, non-economic damages, and, in some cases, punitive damages.
Ready to speak with a personal injury attorney? Contact Coastal Law to discuss your case. Call us at 843-488-5000 for a free consultation or use our online form.