Automobile Accidents ~ Claims and Lawsuits

The Process Of Filing Insurance Claims and Lawsuits For Automobile Accidents

Somewhere between 20 and 50 million people are injured in automobile accidents every year and thousands of people across the globe die from these accidents. Unfortunately, the problem is only becoming worse as the roads are becoming an unsafe place.   That’s why it’s important to understand your legal rights and course of action when an accident does occur.

It All Begins With A Personal Injury Claim

If you were injured in a car accident, then one of your first steps is going to be filing a claim with the insurance company.  There are two categories of claims available.  They are first-party claims and third-party claims.  A first-party claim is one that is filed with your own insurance provider.  A third-party claim is filed with the insurance provider of another driver or business.

If the accident was your fault, then you will file a first-party claim with your auto insurance company.  If someone else hits you and they were at fault, then you will file a third-party claim with their provider.  The police report from the accident is useful for establishing who was at fault.

The first 24 hours following the accident are critical.  This is the time frame you will have to report the accident to the appropriate insurance company.  It’s also when the police report will be filed when you should visit the hospital, and when you should contact a personal injury attorney.  You want to have all of these tasks accomplished as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary obstacles during the claims process.

An investigation into the claim will be opened shortly after the claim is filed.  During the investigation, the insurance company will be collecting as much information and evidence as possible.  It will be helpful if you have collected some of this information yourself.  For example, it’s always a good idea to take photos of the accident to provide to the insurance company.

The insurance provider will also choose a preferred doctor to perform an independent medical examination.  This examination proves to the insurance provider that the injuries are real and that they are as severe as listed in the claim.  You should always speak with your car accident attorney before submitting it to an independent medical examination.

Eventually, the claims process will reach a point where the insurance company offers a settlement check.  You will discuss the value of the settlement with your lawyer to determine if it is appropriate.  If not, then you can attempt to appeal the settlement to receive a larger amount.

Filing An Automobile Accident Lawsuit

What if the settlement values offered are significantly less than the estimated medical values?  For example, what if your medical bills range from $50,000 to $80,000 and the insurance company is only offering $25,000 with the settlement?  If negotiations and appeals are not making a difference, then you are within your rights to file a lawsuit.

Most claims are settled fairly and there is no need to pursue a lawsuit, but there are some rare cases when the insurance provider will not budge and the case eventually lands in court.  Your personal injury attorney can advise you whether this is the best course of action. Keep in mind that a lawsuit is also more expensive than a standard claims process and can drag on for much longer.  The final difference in value may not be worth the extra effort.

A settlement may still be reached after filing a lawsuit.  After filing a lawsuit, the defense attorney for the insurance provider will perform an investigation. This investigation will likely take several months.  The insurance company will not offer any additional settlements until the investigation is completed.

The defense attorney will make a settlement recommendation to the insurance provider after the investigation.  It’s possible for the settlement to actually be lower than the original amount depending on what the attorney discovered.

Taking The Advice Of An Attorney

You should be working with a respected and experienced personal injury attorney from day one. If you’ve recently filed an insurance claim, but are not yet working with an attorney, then now is the time to contact one.  They can advise you on all of the legal matters involved.  They can help protect your rights during an independent medical examination, they can help you decide if you should pursue a lawsuit, and they can help negotiate a fair compensation.

Know Your Legal Rights

Attorney Byron Lassin has been serving the Queens and New York City area for over 30 years and is here to answer your questions.

Please call us for a free consultation at (718) 651–0500