As practicing California personal injury attorneys for more than two decades, we understand just how difficult filing a personal injury claim can be. Good people just like you stumble along the way and become overwhelmed by the process.
That’s why we’d like to share a checklist of essential things to know about making a personal injury traffic accident claim. Keep these points in mind to avoid surprises as you start the claims process.
1. You Must Build Your Case Carefully
If you’re making a personal injury claim without the help of a professional personal injury attorney, you will be responsible for building your entire case. Things will likely proceed at a snail’s pace simply because you’re inexperienced with the legal system.
You’ll need to:
- Preserve evidence and Collect the necessary evidence
- Fill out the essential documentation (police reports, medical documentation)
- Contact all the parties involved, including doctors, lawyers, insurance adjusters, police officers, and eyewitnesses
- Create your demand letter using your evidence
- Submit your documentation to the insurance company
- Negotiate for a fair settlement
- If necessary, take your case to court
You must do the difficult work to prove that:
- You were seriously injured in an accident
- Those injuries have dramatically affected your life
- The accident was caused – at least in part – by the party from which you’re trying to get compensation
2. Don’t Forget Future Damages
When you’re crafting a demand letter (and gathering evidence to support a personal injury lawsuit) never forget you can be compensated for future damages too. The financial impact of an injurious accident can be devastating right now. But calculating how much those injuries will impact future income is an essential part of the recovery process. In fact, those future damages are often much larger than the immediate damages you suffered during the crash.
These future damages can include:
- Decreased income due to decreased ability to work
- Ongoing medical expenses
- The cost of physical or emotional therapy, and more
3. New Technology Brings New Legal Challenges
The law is always evolving and so is technology. You’ll need to educate yourself on new forms of evidence like dashcam footage, surveillance video, drone footage, traffic cameras, and more. Plus, you’ll need to know California’s injury laws and rules for evidence in personal injury cases.
If you were in a car accident that involves a rideshare driver or self-driving Uber, you’ll need to understand the technology involved, like the Uber or Lyft app. There are also rules about video recording people without their consent and sharing this footage with a third party.
You should also know that California’s lawmakers are scrambling to update the law. Learn the latest here.
4. Don’t Be Too Eager
Most people just want the financial recovery process to be over and done with, and insurance companies know that. They’ll throw lowball settlement offers out in order to get injured, stressed-out individuals to accept much less than they deserve.
That’s why it’s essential you understand how much your injuries may really be worth. That information should be the basis of your demand letter and impact the fair but adequate settlement figure you calculate.
It’s your right and your obligation to negotiate with the insurance company in order to get a settlement that will cover all the expenses you’ve suffered, plus your future damages. When the insurance company pushes, you have to push back. It’s an adjuster’s job to save the company as much money as possible and it’s your role to get the compensation you deserve. It will take boldness and patience to negotiate carefully and come out with a good result.
5. Know (and Be Prepared to Explain) Why the First Offer Is Inadequate
This is where homework comes into play. If you’ve researched making a personal injury claim by yourself, you should understand what your injuries are actually worth. You should be able to judge whether or not the insurance company is trying to shortchange you.
Of course, knowing that and getting what you’re entitled to are two different things. You’ll need to describe to the insurance company why their offer isn’t enough, using evidence and detailed explanations.
If they see that you’ve truly prepared an iron-clad demand letter and have the evidence you need to back up your claims, the negotiation process will go much more smoothly. They’ll see that it’s wise to give you a high-value offer.
With Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers — You Get The Most COMPREHENSIVEDemand Letter
Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers’ demand letter is THEE most comprehensive out there! Most law firms, if they even present a demand, send a basic 2-3 page letter. This usually fails and your case ends up in litigation. At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we dedicate ourselves to creating a detailed and persuasive demand presentation to settle your case for a SOLID result so you can move on.
6. Your Medical History and Private Life Are NOT Off Limits
Get ready for a deep dive into your personal life. If the insurance company or at-fault party gets an attorney involved on their side, that attorney will dig deep into your personal life. They will go through your:
- Medical treatment records
- Employment records
- Social media profiles
- Public records
They will find any shred of evidence they can use to paint you in a bad light. And if they can suggest your injuries may not be affecting you as much as you claim, they will take that opportunity.
While your past medical history and employment records really have no bearing at all on making a personal injury claim related to a recent accident, if a defense attorney can prove a pattern of delinquency or link previous ailments and injuries to those you’re suffering at the moment, it could effectively limit the amount of compensation you will be awarded.
Gather an almost overwhelming amount of evidence that’s hard for the insurance company to dispute. This may include:
- Doctors’ expert testimony
- Medical documentation
- Witness statements
7. It May Take Years to Successfully Make a Personal Injury Claim
Because of the amount of work involved in making a personal injury claim and the necessity for negotiation, it could take years for you to receive the compensation you rightly deserve. Having an experienced personal injury attorney on your side can shorten that timeframe, but you should be prepared to wait it out.
It’s difficult, but in this case, waiting could be a very good thing. It puts pressure on the insurance company to resolve your claim to your satisfaction and it may be the only way to get the maximum compensation you deserve.
8. Reach the Point of Maximum Medical Improvement before Settling your Personal Injury Insurance Claim
The point of maximum medical improvement is when you have reached the end of the treatment plan for your injuries. A doctor can pinpoint when this occurs, and you shouldn’t settle your claim until it happens.
It’s important to wait for this point because a major component of any personal injury claim is the medical expenses you incur due to those injuries. It’s not always easy – or even possible – to estimate just how large your hospital and therapy bills will be until the whole process has drawn to a close.
Indeed, you may be hit with large expenses later in your recovery process that you hadn’t anticipated. If you’ve accepted a settlement prior to getting slapped with these unexpected bills, you will have no legal recourse to seek compensation for these expenses.
9. Your Financial Settlement Will Make You a Target
There are predatory lending agencies out there that offer accident victims quick money in exchange for their settlements. That’s a hard thing to turn down when you’ve been out of work for an extended period of time and your household savings are quickly vanishing.
Beware! When you actually reach a settlement, these companies will come out of the woodwork, promising you cash-in-hand in as little as 24 hours. What they don’t tell you is that you get just a small percentage of your total financial award while they walk away with the lion’s share.
Don’t fall prey to these predatory organizations. Always keep your financial security top-of-mind as your priority and steer clear of these get-rich-quick offers.
10. Successfully Making a Personal Injury Claim May Require Going to Court
Even if you do all the preparation you can, gather every bit of evidence, craft a compelling demand letter, and negotiate like a pro, your case may still need to go to court at which point seeking legal representation from an experienced law firm would be the best way to move forward.
Are you facing any of these circumstances? If so, going to court may be necessary.
- The insurance company doesn’t seem to be dealing with you in good faith.
- The other party is denying or disputing liability when they were clearly at fault.
- You have proof of the other party’s fault.
- The insurance money is maxed out AND the person who caused your accident has other assets or money that can pay for your damages.
- The statute of limitations could run out before the insurance is settled.
- Insurance isn’t enough to cover all of your treatments and/or losses.
- You lost your job or missed a huge amount of paid working hours.
- A disability will severely reduce your future income.
- You have large non-economic damages, like immense pain and suffering.
Remember: Information is Your Best Weapon
When you’re making a personal injury claim, learn everything you can about the process and try to stay calm and patient as you pursue your claim. Legal information will serve you well throughout the entire ordeal.
It will be difficult to make your case alone, but with a lot of hard work you can craft a solid case that will impress insurance companies and show them that you’re not a pushover. Of course, this process will be so much easier if you enlist the help of an experienced California personal injury lawyer who understands exactly how these claims work and how to get good results.
If you have a serious traffic accident case and you’d like our 5-star rated team of personal injury lawyers to evaluate it, click here for a FREE online case evaluation. It only takes 3 minutes and it’s FREE.
We Handle Your Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life
After an accident, seek medical attention and contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many types of personal injury claims. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details.
We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.