What Is the Car Accident Claim Process?
Dealing with the aftermath of a car crash can be frustrating. You just want to heal from your injuries and get on with your life again, but insurance companies may be putting up obstacles and red tape while you’re trying to obtain compensation. A Birmingham car accident attorney at Petro Law Firm can help you negotiate a settlement or take your case to litigation if necessary.
What Is the Difference Between an Insurance Claim and a Lawsuit?
Car Accident Claim
For many people, an insurance claim is the first step in getting the financial recovery they need. When you file a claim, you’re notifying the insurance company of your injuries and damages. Next, the insurance company will assign your claim to an adjuster, who will review and investigate the facts surrounding the crash.
During this investigation, the insurance company will review your medical records and the police report. Sometimes, you will be scheduled for “independent” medical examinations — and you may even be under surveillance.
The adjuster or claims representative will also contact you with questions, and may even ask to record your statement. While you should always be polite and professional, you should not give written or recorded statements to the insurance company unless your lawyer is present. During these interactions, the adjuster may try to get you to say harmful or incriminating statement that they can use against you later on.
Once they complete an investigation, the insurance company will either approve or deny your claim. If you disagree with the company’s assessment, you can file a lawsuit. They may also offer you a settlement, but this initial offer is rarely fair.
Car Accident Lawsuit
Car accident lawsuits are a formal process. Your lawyer will file a written complaint and other documents, initiating the lawsuit, with the court. Then, your case will be assigned to a judge. However, your case will not immediately go to trial. Instead, you’ll have to complete a series of steps, including:
- Notifying the insurance company of your lawsuit
- Exchanging evidence with the defendants
- Taking depositions, or sworn testimony
- Attending hearings and responding to legal arguments
- Participating in mediation and other dispute resolution processes
- Negotiating a car accident settlement
You will have a trial only if you are unable to resolve your car accident case out of court.
During a trial, your attorney and the insurance company’s attorneys will present evidence and arguments to a judge and jury. At the end, they will issue a verdict, hopefully awarding you compensation for your car accident injuries.
Do I Really Need a Car Accident Lawyer?
While you aren’t required to hire a car accident lawyer, it is usually in your best interests. The insurance company will have a team of lawyers advising them, and you need someone who can go toe-to-toe with them.
Car accident claims are rarely cut and dry. Every injury claim is unique and poses different challenges. You will also have to follow Alabama’s strict court and procedural rules at every step of your case, including:
- Statute of limitations: You only have two years to file most car accident lawsuits. After this deadline expires, you may lose your right to compensation.
- Serving the defendants: After you file a lawsuit, you must provide formal notice to the at-fault driver. If you skip this process, your lawsuit will face serious problems.
- Rules of evidence: You cannot present all evidence to the judge and jury during a trial, because some things are inadmissible. If you do not follow the rules, you may be unable to substantiate your claims.
An experienced injury lawyer can help you navigate Alabama’s court system as seamlessly as possible. Just as importantly, your lawyer will be able to properly value your accident claim’s value and negotiate with the insurance companies. Many accident victims undervalue their claims, and fail to take into account the long-term effects of their injuries.
Don’t Deal With Your Claim Alone
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your car accident claim, you don’t have to struggle alone. When you work at the Petro Law Firm, we can help you avoid costly mistakes and prevent you from falling prey to the insurance company’s tactics. Contact us today to learn more about your rights and options.