What to Expect After a Car Accident

Nov 6, 2023 | Right Path Law Group
What to Expect After a Car Accident

Were you recently in a car accident? If so, you might feel overwhelmed and uncertain as you grapple with a painful recovery, unexpected bills, and lost earnings.

What happens next? Who pays for your medical care?

Here’s what you can expect as you move forward after a collision. Consult a seasoned car accident attorney in Fairfax for legal assistance.

What Should I Do After a Car Accident?

What to Expect After a Car Accident

After a car accident, proactively address your injuries and safeguard your legal rights.

After you are safely away from the scene and have had the chance to seek medical attention:

  • Contact a Knowledgeable Car Accident Attorney: An experienced attorney can evaluate the validity of your claim, protect your rights, and guide you on maximizing your compensation. The sooner you hire a car accident lawyer to represent you, the better, as they can complete many of the subsequent steps for you, leaving you free to rest and recover.
  • Follow Your Doctor’s Medical Advice: Adhere to any treatments your doctor prescribes and attend all follow-up appointments. This will bolster your recovery and generate documentation of your recovery efforts.
  • Document Your Recovery in a “Pain Journal”: Keep a detailed record of your pain levels, physical limitations, and how your injuries affect your daily activities. This documentation can support future pain and suffering claims.
  • Preserve Medical Records and Bills: Collect and organize any documents you receive regarding your medical care, including diagnostic test results, prescription receipts, treatment records, and bills. You need these to prove the extent of your injuries and their associated costs.
  • Gather Witness Testimonies: If you know of any witnesses who saw the accident, collect their statements and contact information. Their accounts can verify the facts of the case and confirm your version of events.
  • Notify Your Insurance Company: Alert your insurer of the accident so as not to jeopardize your coverage. Stick to the basic facts. Never lie, estimate, speculate, or guess.
  • Limit Discussions About the Accident: Avoid discussing the details of the accident or your condition with others, especially on social media. The insurance company could use anything you say or post against you later.
  • Say “No” to Early Settlement Offers: The insurance company might offer you a settlement right away, hoping you will take it before you realize how much your claim is worth. Consult your attorney before accepting any offers, as the initial one is likely insufficient to cover the full extent of your losses.

What Will the Insurance Company Do When I Notify Them?

What Will the Insurance Company Do When I Notify Them

Once you’ve informed your insurance company of a car accident, they will undertake several steps to assess, process, and resolve your claim, often likely in conjunction with the other driver’s insurer.

Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer might prefer to work with the at-fault driver’s insurance company directly. Here’s a detailed overview of what they will do.

Register Your Claim

The insurance company will start by registering your claim in their system. They will assign a specific claim number to your case, which will serve as a reference throughout the process. Additionally, they will designate a claims adjuster, who will be your main point of contact.

Make Initial Contact

Soon after registering the claim, the adjuster will reach out to you. They will gather essential details about the accident and discuss the available coverage. They’ll also inform you about the subsequent steps in the claim process. Remember to watch what you say at this stage, as the adjuster could use your statements against you later.

Investigate the Accident

Next, the adjuster will thoroughly investigate the accident. They will review the police report, any witness statements, photographs, and other pertinent evidence. Furthermore, they might delve into everyone’s driving histories to gather additional context about what happened.

Inspect the Vehicles

The insurance company will want a mechanic to inspect your vehicle, evaluate the damage, and estimate the cost of repairs. This inspection will allow the adjuster to determine whether the insurance company should pay to repair your car or declare it a total loss.

Evaluate Your Injuries

If you suffered injuries in the crash, the insurance company will request relevant healthcare records and bills to determine the cost of your medical care. They might also ask for an independent medical examination to verify the severity and nature of your injuries.

Determine Who Is Liable

After a thorough investigation, the adjuster will use the available evidence to determine which party is at fault for the accident. This decision plays a key role in your claim, especially if you’re in a fault-based state, as it determines who bears financial responsibility for the accident.

Calculate a Settlement Offer

The adjuster will compute a potential settlement figure using all the information they gathered. This amount will reflect your vehicle repair costs, medical expenses, and other accident-related losses. However, the amount they offer cannot exceed the applicable policy’s coverage limits.

Negotiate With Your Lawyer

The adjuster will then present you and your lawyer with their initial settlement offer. You may either accept this amount or have your attorney negotiate for a better figure if you believe it doesn’t sufficiently cover your losses. The negotiation process can involve several rounds of back-and-forth discussions.

Resolve Your Claim or Go to Court

If your lawyer and the adjuster reach an agreement, the insurance company will process the agreed-upon settlement amount. Depending on their system, you might receive this payment via direct deposit, check, or another method. If you do not accept the final offer, your lawyer can take the insurer to court on your behalf.

How Will Insurance Companies Determine the Value of My Claim?

How Will Insurance Companies Determine the Value of My Claim

Once you submit a car accident injury claim to an insurance company, the adjuster will conduct a detailed assessment to determine its value.

Here are the primary factors they will consider in their calculations:

  • Medical Expenses: The adjuster will review all your medical costs resulting from the accident. This includes hospital stays, surgeries, prescriptions, physical therapy, and any projected future medical costs due to the accident.
  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses: Any out-of-pocket costs you incur as a result of the accident could factor into your claim’s value. This includes the costs of renting a car, traveling to appointments, or buying medical equipment.
  • Income Losses: If your injuries caused you to miss work, the adjuster might consider the earnings you lost as a result. This includes any reductions in earning capacity if you can’t return to your usual role due to your injuries.
  • Pain and Suffering: This refers to the physical and emotional distress the accident caused you. Quantifying this type of compensation is challenging, so insurance adjusters use mathematical formulas to assign specific dollar values to pain and suffering. You do not have to accept their valuation, though. Instead, your lawyer will have learned the true extent of the pain and suffering you endured through their ongoing work with you. They can push back if the insurer tries to downplay these subjective losses, demanding the full amount you deserve.
  • Duration and Severity of Injuries: Long-term or permanent injuries usually result in higher claim values. The adjuster will look at the nature of your injuries, how they affect your life, and your projected recovery time.
  • Pre-Existing Conditions: If you had medical conditions before the accident that worsened because of it, the adjuster should account for this. However, they might also use your pre-existing condition as an excuse to avoid paying you fair compensation. Your lawyer can protect you from this tactic.
  • Your Age: Younger individuals sometimes receive higher settlements due to the potentially longer-term effects of crash injuries on their lives.
  • Evidence and Liability: The more evidence and documentation available, the easier it will be to justify your claim. But if there’s not much proof or liability is unclear, the adjuster might hesitate to pay what you are due.

What Evidence Could Affect My Car Accident Claim?

In the aftermath of a car accident, insurance adjusters, attorneys, and other investigators rely on an array of evidence to determine what happened, who is responsible, and who should pay.

Depending on the circumstances, any of the following types of evidence could affect the outcome of your car accident claim:

  • Police accident reports
  • Photographs of the accident scene
  • Security or traffic camera footage
  • Dashcam recordings
  • Witness testimonies
  • Medical records and bills
  • Rehabilitation and therapy records
  • Diagnostic images like X-rays or MRIs
  • Expert medical opinions
  • Correspondence with the insurance company
  • Vehicle damage repair estimates
  • Cell phone or GPS records
  • Drug and alcohol test results
  • Vehicle maintenance and inspection records
  • Skidmark analysis
  • Accident reconstruction reports
  • Weather and traffic reports from the day of the accident
  • Traffic signal timings and maintenance records
  • Receipts for out-of-pocket expenses
  • Pay stubs or employment records
  • Personal diary or “pain journal” entries
  • Prescription medication records
  • Vehicle safety features and recall information
  • Road maintenance and construction records

What Insurance Will Cover the Accident?

Different types of insurance serve distinct purposes and offer varying levels of financial protection under specific circumstances. Here’s a breakdown of the various types of insurance that could come into play after a car accident.

Third-Party Bodily Injury Liability Insurance

This type of insurance covers injuries the policyholder causes to someone else in an accident. So, if another driver causes an accident that injures you, their bodily injury liability insurance will pay for your medical expenses and related losses.

The term third-party refers to the fact that it pays benefits to someone other than the policyholder (the first party) covered by the company that insures them (the second party).

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments (MedPay) Coverage

If you have PIP or MedPay coverage, it should pay for your crash-related medical expenses, regardless of who caused the accident. While MedPay strictly covers medical bills, PIP can also cover lost income and other related expenses. These coverages are optional in many states. Other states require drivers to carry PIP as part of their no-fault insurance systems, while still others do not allow PIP at all.

Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage

UM/UIM insurance comes into play when you’re in an accident with a driver who either doesn’t have insurance (an uninsured motorist, or UM) or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your losses (an underinsured motorist, or UIM).

UM/UIM protects you from the full financial burden when the at-fault driver’s insurance is absent or insufficient. Many states require drivers to carry this type of coverage, but it’s optional in others.

Collision Insurance

Nearly always an optional coverage, collision insurance covers the damage to your vehicle regardless of who caused the accident. It can be useful if you need repairs while investigations into fault remain ongoing.

Health Insurance

Separate from your auto insurance, your regular health insurance can also cover your medical expenses after a car accident. If you exhaust your auto insurance coverage or need treatments it won’t cover, your health insurance policy could kick in to cover your remaining medical bills.

What’s the Difference Between Filing an Insurance Claim and Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit?

There are two primary avenues for seeking compensation after a car accident: filing an insurance claim and initiating a lawsuit. Typically, cases begin as insurance claims but may end up in court. Most settle well before going to trial, but some car accident claims make it all the way to a verdict if the parties cannot settle.

When you file an insurance claim, you’re making a formal request to an insurance company, asking for compensation under the terms of the policy it issued. This process usually begins with notifying your insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurer about the accident. The insurance company then assesses the claim and determines the amount they’re willing to offer as a settlement. The goal here is to resolve the matter without either party having to involve the courts.

On the other hand, filing a car accident lawsuit means you’re taking legal action against the at-fault party and asking the civil court system to decide on the outcome. This could be an appropriate response if the insurance company denies your claim or offers an unsatisfactory settlement.

In a lawsuit, both sides present evidence, and a judge or jury decides the outcome. While this approach can yield more substantial compensation, it’s also more time-consuming and less predictable than a settlement negotiation.

A seasoned lawyer can help you make informed decisions and decide on the best strategy following an accident.

How Can a Car Accident Attorney Help With My Claim?

Pierre Prialé, Car Accident Lawyer in Fairfax
Pierre Prialé, Car Accident Attorney

personal injury lawyer can support your case by:

  • Investigating the accident to identify liable parties and useful evidence
  • Exploring all possible sources of compensation to maximize your payout
  • Gathering expert and eyewitness testimonies to strengthen your case
  • Evaluating your medical records to determine the extent of injuries
  • Calculating the total monetary value of your claim
  • Filing all necessary paperwork within the appropriate deadlines
  • Negotiating with insurance companies on your behalf
  • Challenging any attempts to undervalue or minimize your claim
  • Representing you in court if your car accident claim goes to trial