How do you maximize your car accident settlement?
If you have been injured in a car accident in SC, you may already know that the other driver’s insurance company is not going to offer you full and fair compensation for your injuries caused by their insured’s negligence and that they are going to try to get out of paying if they can find a way.
So, how do you get from accident to settlement?
Below, we will discuss some strategies for maximizing your car accident settlement, including:
- What is a settlement,
- How you settle a car accident claim,
- When you settle a car accident claim, and
- How to maximize your damages in a car accident settlement.
Car Accident Settlements
If you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence in a car accident, you want them to compensate you for the damage they caused – your medical bills, your pain and suffering, and possibly even punitive damages.
How do you get from automobile collision to settlement of your claims?
What is a Settlement?
First, we need to answer a basic question – what is a car or motor vehicle accident settlement?
Although you will usually have the option to go to trial and ask a jury to decide the issues in your case – including how much money the defendant must pay for your injuries, most cases settle out of court.
A settlement is an agreement between the parties where the defendant (or the defendant’s insurance company) agrees to pay a certain amount of compensation in exchange for the plaintiff’s release of all claims against the defendant, ending the case.
Settlement can happen at any time – before you file a lawsuit, during litigation, on the eve of trial, during trial, or even while a case is on appeal.
How Do You Settle a Car Accident Case?
The insurance defense lawyer and your car accident lawyer will evaluate your case, attempting to predict what a jury will do if they hear your claim.
Both sides will look at the evidence supporting 1) liability and 2) the amount of damages before entering negotiations. If liability is clear, your case should settle for full and fair compensation of all categories of damages you are entitled to under SC law and the facts of your case.
If liability is not clear, the insurance company might 1) offer less than the full value of your case or 2) offer nothing and “roll the dice at trial.”
The bottom line is insurance companies are in business to make money and they make money by paying out the least amount possible to settle or resolve claims.
Therefore, to settle your case for full compensation, you must:
- Show the insurance adjuster (or insurance defense lawyer) why a jury would find that the defendant is liable for the accident – for example, the officer’s statement as to the cause of the accident, tickets that were written to the defendant, witness testimony as to the cause of the crash, photos of the damage to the vehicles, photos of the roadway including skid marks, and any expert testimony as to the cause of the wreck;
- Show the insurance adjuster (or insurance defense lawyer) the evidence that supports your damages and your demand for payment – for example, your medical bills, your medical records, expert testimony as to your future medical expenses, and your testimony as to how your injuries have affected you; and
- Be prepared to try your case to a jury to prove liability and damages and get full compensation for your injuries – the insurance company usually will not settle a case for full value if they do not believe you have the ability to force them to pay in court (for example, if you are trying to settle your case without a trial lawyer on your side or if liability is questionable).
Do You Want to Settle Your Claim?
Of course, you do.
But do you want to settle your case for less than its worth? No.
It is usually better for all parties to settle a car accident claim before trial. Trials are unpredictable; there is no guarantee of the outcome even in the best cases, and either side can appeal the verdict, resulting in a lengthy appeals process before the claims are settled.
But, although you might make some concessions to achieve a settlement before trial, there are times when the insurance company is not being reasonable, and you must go to court and let a jury decide.
Maximizing Your Car Accident Settlement
How do you maximize your car accident settlement short of getting a verdict from a jury? There are some things that you can do to help your attorney recover full and fair compensation from the insurance company:
- First, get an experienced car accident lawyer on your side – you need someone who knows how to gather evidence of liability and damages, present your evidence to the insurance company in a comprehensive demand letter, file your lawsuit and engage in litigation while avoiding pitfalls that could result in dismissal of your claims, and try your case to a jury if the insurance company does not pay.
- Document everything – beginning at the accident site, document everything. Get photos of the damage to the vehicles, the roadway, and any injuries. Get names and contact information for witnesses. Start a journal to memorialize the facts of the accident and how your injuries affect your daily activities. Keep a record of all doctors’ visits and treatments that you receive.
- Get medical attention – follow any recommendations made by EMS at the accident scene, the ER doctors, or your physician. Show up at all doctor appointments and talk to your doctors about the extent of your injuries and how they are affecting you. If you need medical treatment or surgeries, follow your doctors’ advice and don’t worry about the cost of necessary medical treatment – the defendant should compensate you and pay the medical bills.
- Don’t accept blame for the crash – don’t apologize to the other driver at the scene, and don’t accept responsibility when talking to the responding officer at the crash scene. If you are shaken up and feeling confused, do not make any statements to anyone until you have recovered.
- Don’t leave the accident scene – it may be a crime to leave the scene of an accident before contacting law enforcement, and, if you leave the scene of the accident, law enforcement may assume that you caused the crash or that you had alcohol or drugs in your vehicle.
- Don’t attempt to negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company until you have contacted an experienced car accident lawyer – they are trained to get you to make statements that will hurt your case, and you may not realize what they are doing until it is too late. In most cases, you will recover more compensation if you have an attorney helping you than you would if you attempted to settle your case on your own.
Questions About How to Maximize Your Car Accident Settlement?
The first step to maximize your SC car accident settlement is to contact an experienced car accident attorney in South Carolina.
If you have been injured in a car accident in SC, call the Law Office of Nicholas G. Callas, P.A. at 803-369-3968 or contact us through our website for a free consultation.
Ready To Speak With An Attorney?
Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.