Can I Get a Settlement for a Car Accident Without a Lawyer?
May 3, 2022 | Car Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 5.5 million car accidents happen annually. From these car accidents, nearly 3 million injuries occur.
If you are the victim of a car accident, many factors require your attention. Your main priority is recovering from your injuries as comfortably as possible, but you may dread the upcoming battle with insurance companies. Your vehicle can also suffer severe damage beyond repair. Potentially replacing your vehicle may be another issue you need to resolve.
Fortunately, several legal options can help cover all of the finances associated with your car accident. Getting a settlement from insurance companies is challenging, however, and people who need to file a car accident claim should always have help from an experienced car accident attorney.
What Is a Car Accident Settlement?
A car accident settlement is a legal option for car accident victims who want to avoid trial by agreeing with the other driver’s insurance company.
With a car accident settlement, the other driver’s insurance company offers a fixed monetary amount to the victim in exchange for the victim forgoing a lawsuit. Once the victim accepts the settlement, the victim no longer has the right to pursue additional legal action against the negligent driver.
How Car Accident Settlements Happen?
You will have to file a personal injury claim before being offered a car accident settlement by the other driver’s insurance company. Whether you decide to seek a car accident settlement with the help of a lawyer or by yourself, you must have a claim filed with the other driver’s insurance company.
In the car accident claim, you can list the following amounts of compensation that you believe you deserve. These amounts can range from medical bills to pain and suffering expenses to funeral expenses (depending on whether you lost a loved one from the accident). If you suffered the loss of a loved one in a car accident, you will need to file a wrongful death claim to receive compensation for additional damages.
Benefits of a Car Accident Settlement
A car accident settlement is an excellent opportunity for car accident victims who want to receive their compensation as quickly as possible. Before receiving your compensation, all you have to do is sign a settlement agreement that waives your right to pursue future legal action against the driver or insurance company. After completing this action, you can receive the necessary compensation to pay for your medical bills, vehicle repairs, a new vehicle (if necessary), and other expenses.
Disadvantages of a Car Accident Settlement
One of the disadvantages of a car accident settlement is that you waive your rights for future legal action away. That is fine if your injuries are not severe, but you have no other way of pursuing future compensation from the driver or their insurance company if your injuries become worse. Car accident injuries like whiplash and back pain become worse as time goes on. Once you accept the settlement offer, you are entitled to only that amount of compensation, regardless of how your injuries progress in the future.
What is the Car Accident Settlement Process?
Before reaching a car accident settlement, several steps must take place.
These steps are:
- Filing a claim.
- Writing a demand letter. A demand letter is a formal notification to the driver’s insurance company of the intended compensation that you expect to receive. In a demand letter, you must include the details of the incident, a thorough description of your injuries, your requested compensation, and anything else that might influence you to resolve the claim.
- Negotiations. Once the insurance company has had the opportunity to review your demand letter, you and the insurance company will have the opportunity to resolve the claim through different forms of mediation. If you and the insurance company agree, you can accept the settlement offer and collect your compensation. If not, you will have the option of taking the insurance company to court.
What Determines The Amount of a Car Accident Settlement?
You can factor many damages into your settlement offer:
- Current medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Loss of income
- Property damage
- Emotional distress
Two factors that play a pivotal role in whether the insurance company even offers you a car accident settlement are the severity of your injuries and the level of fault. The stakes of a car accident claim rise based on the severity of the victim’s injuries. The same logic applies to the fault of the accident. The easier it is to prove that the other driver was at fault, the more likely the insurance company will offer a settlement.
Can You Pursue a Car Accident Settlement Without a Lawyer?
Another essential factor you may be concerned with is whether you want to pursue legal expertise. You have the right to represent yourself when seeking a car accident settlement. However, you risk missing out on receiving a significant payment.
You must calculate your compensation, write your demand letter, and negotiate with the other driver’s insurance company on your settlement. Even if you think you can handle the claim on your own, it is recommended you do not take this action.
#1. Issues With Calculating Your Compensation
One of the issues that you can struggle with when it comes to a car accident settlement is calculating the correct amount of compensation. Even though you can list compensation like medical expenses and lost income, you may not even think to include in your demand letter other compensation.
Depending on your circumstances, you may not know how to calculate the different types of compensation. For example, if you are unemployed when you write your demand letter, you may not know that you can list the earnings from your previous position as compensation.
#2. Writing Your Demand Letter
Another issue that you may encounter during the car accident settlement process is knowing when to send your demand letter. Although your demand letter initiates the negotiations process between you and the insurance company, an attorney will usually send the letter after investigating your accident.
Another mistake that you can make is writing a demand letter without understanding the true scope of your injuries. Car accident injuries can impact the rest of your life, from chronic back pain to serious neck injuries. Having a realistic understanding of the nature of your injuries can help you articulate the true value of your car accident settlement.
#3. Negotiating With Insurance Companies And Coming To a Decision
Negotiating with the insurance company can be one of the most overwhelming aspects of reaching a car accident settlement, especially if you are trying to negotiate without a lawyer. Do not let the mediation process fool you. The insurance company wants to avoid paying you anything.
Even after issuing your demand letter, the insurance company will try to offer you the lowest amount of compensation possible. Insurance adjusters may even accuse you of being the negligent driver or downplay the serious nature of your injuries.
#4. Insurance Companies and Counteroffers
One way that insurance companies will attempt to lowball you is to suggest that you accept a counteroffer. Although a counteroffer appears as a compromise, it is still a method for insurance companies to shortchange you and offer you the smallest amount of money possible. You have the right to deny the counteroffer or ask the insurance company to justify it. Whatever decision that you decide to make, you do not want to accept the first settlement offer that the insurance company provides.
What a Lawyer Brings to the Table?
While you do have the option to pursue a car accident settlement by yourself, there are multiple occasions during the process where you can make a mistake that can cost you. Whether it is calculating the exact amount of your compensation, writing a demand letter, or negotiating on your behalf with insurance companies, you take a considerable risk during your settlement process. If you find yourself in this predicament, it may be helpful to seek legal guidance. Several lawyers can assist with the car accident settlement process on a contingency fee basis. When lawyers perform their services on a contingency fee basis, they only receive compensation once the lawyer has successfully represented their client.
#1. Calculating the Exact Amount of Your Compensation
A lawyer can assist you by calculating the correct amount of your compensation. This valuation is the process step where a lawyer’s guidance counts the most. A lawyer is familiar with the compensation you can request in your demand letter.
A lawyer can even suggest other forms of compensation that you might not think to pursue independently. A lawyer may even suggest that you request a higher level of compensation, so you still have an opportunity to negotiate with the insurance company for the payment you want.
#2. Gathering Evidence for Your Injury Claim
Another benefit of seeking guidance from a lawyer is having someone who can collect the correct type of evidence if you have to provide additional documentation to the insurance company. Some insurance companies go to great lengths to avoid a car accident settlement and may try to delay the process by asking for additional paperwork.
A lawyer can counteract this tactic by organizing and collecting the different forms of paperwork that insurance companies ask for. Gathering this evidence can also be helpful in case you cannot reach an agreement with the insurance company and must proceed to trial.
#3. Writing a Convincing Demand Letter
Lawyers can also assist with writing a convincing demand letter for you. Whether you are seriously injured from your accident or do not feel confident in your writing abilities, allowing a lawyer to write a demand letter can strengthen your chances of reaching a car accident settlement.
Insurance companies can recognize whether a car accident attorney or the victim wrote the demand letter. A lawyer also can communicate the facts of your accident and compensation in the most concise way possible.
#4. Negotiating With the Insurance Companies on Your Behalf
Another way that legal assistance can help you reach a fair car accident settlement is by negotiating with insurance companies on your behalf. Insurance companies sometimes try tricking car accident victims and coercing them into accepting lowball offers. A lawyer knows the insurance companies’ tricks and can use their expertise to counter those actions against you.
When insurance companies realize that a car accident victim has an experienced lawyer, their demeanor and tone toward the victim change. Although insurance companies may still engage in a back-and-forth negotiation with the victim and their representation, they will carefully consider whether it is desirable to allow the settlement to proceed to a trial.
#5. Offering You Several Legal Options
Before starting the car accident settlement process, a lawyer can help discuss several legal alternatives for you. A lawyer can advise you on whether a car accident settlement is beneficial for you or whether seeking a personal injury lawsuit is in your best interest. When an insurance company attempts to lowball you, a lawyer can warn you not to accept the offer and decide on the best action to request the compensation you deserve.
Reach out to a Car Accident Lawyer Today
When you are injured in a car accident, reaching a car accident settlement may be in your best interest. However, contacting an experienced car accident lawyer will help you receive the car accident settlement you and your family deserve.
Reach out to an experienced car accident lawyer today for a free consultation about your case. You deserve fair compensation for your car accident injuries.