Trying to claim bodily injury after an accident is not as simple as saying you are hurt. You need to take steps before you are in a position to file a claim. You have a lot at stake because financial compensation for your damages is on the line. What you do between the time of the accident and when you file your claim can determine whether you receive financial compensation and how much you can get.
Before you file a claim, you must be intentional, meticulous, and thorough, leaving nothing to chance. The best step that you can take is to contact an experienced attorney who knows how to file personal injury claims. The more responsibility and details you can give to an attorney, the less likely you will make a critical mistake that can cost you serious money. Here are some tips for claiming bodily injury after an accident.
See a Doctor
Before you can file a demand with the insurance company or even a lawsuit, you must know the full scope of your damages. After all, your claim is for the injuries that you have suffered. In practice, you must prove you deserve damages by showing that someone else caused the accident and then proving your injuries.
Getting your injuries diagnosed furthers your physical health and is the first step of the claims process. Your doctor will perform the medical tests necessary to learn about your condition. Even if you received treatment right after the accident, you need a comprehensive diagnosis. You must make your condition and the improvement you might make apparent when you file a claim or lawsuit.
Never delay seeing a doctor. It will harm your health and allow the insurance company to contest your injuries and damages. For instance, if you suffered a back injury in a car accident but waited months to get it diagnosed and treated, the insurance company may claim that your injuries were not from your accident. They may also argue that your inactivity made your injuries worse.
Either way, you should see a doctor for an evaluation if you even think that there was a remote possibility that you suffered an injury in the accident. It is always better safe than sorry.
Get a Lawyer
One of the most important steps that you will take for a bodily injury is to hire an experienced lawyer who knows how to handle personal injury claims. Filing a claim is not easy or accessible for accident victims. On the contrary, insurance companies want to make it as hard as possible for you to get the money that you legally deserve.
There are numerous things that the average person does not know when filing a claim that place them at a large disadvantage when dealing with an insurance company. That lack of knowledge can place their entire claim in jeopardy. Certainly, it will result in less money.
Hiring an attorney will level the playing field when dealing with an insurance company with an established infrastructure aimed at paying you less. One experienced and dedicated lawyer can take on a big company and its entire apparatus.
In addition, your lawyer will act as your guide to the legal process and your advocate. They will explain the most effective way to obtain financial compensation and fight for your right to be paid for your injuries. Before discussing damages, you must prove that someone else caused your injuries.
Without an attorney, that becomes even more challenging. An attorney will help prove your help by marshaling the evidence necessary to show what happened in your accident.
In any personal injury case, the following can be helpful to prove that someone else caused the accident:
- Witness statements from people who saw what happened
- Video or traffic camera footage
- Police report (helpful in an insurance claim but not in a court case)
- Pictures from the scene of the accident
- The damage to your vehicle
Gathering this evidence before it disappears is not always easy. An attorney will get to work right after you hire them to compile everything available to you to prove liability. Otherwise, there is a chance that this evidence can be lost to you forever, costing you the ability to prove your case.
Document Your Damages
Not only do you have the burden of proof to show what happened in your accident, but you must also prove your damages.
In any accident case, you may recover damages for:
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
To receive your damages, they must be apparent and backed up by evidence, including:
- Pay data that shows what you earn (or can make in the future)
- Medical bills
- Receipts for expenses
- Documentation of your ordeal after the accident
Before you file your claim, you should gather all the documentation that can show how you have suffered an injury. Some elements of your damages are more subjective. For example, pain and suffering damages are based on your own experience, no matter how much the insurance company tries to take you out of the picture.
The evidence and description of your damages are as important as the proof of liability. These will form the basis of the insurance company’s offer to you. An attorney can tell your story and push back when an insurance company tries to downplay and minimize your injuries.
Prepare and File Your Claim
Preparing your claim requires attention and effort. If there is anything wrong with it, or if you are missing documentation, the insurance company can deny it outright or come back asking for more information. Mistakes in your claim can make it harder to get your money.
At the same time, an insurance company will only look at what is on paper in front of them when they review your claim. They will not give you the benefit of the doubt because it costs them money. Therefore, you should have an experienced attorney working to prepare your claim.
Take the time you need to get it right when filing a claim. You may read some advice telling you to rush and hurry your claim because you may miss the statute of limitations.
While you should know the deadlines for filing your claim, pay the most attention to detail. Getting it right is more important than filing the claim quickly. Before you file, gather all of the evidence that proves what happened and a detailed statement of your damages. Speed is essential for getting started, but you should take time to file your claim right. A lawyer can do this for you.
Defend Your Actions
In some cases, the other driver’s insurance company knows that they can avoid paying part or all of your bodily injury claim if they can find a way to blame you for the accident. They can reduce their payment by the percentage of your fault. Even if liability appears clear, you may still need to defend your actions that led to your injuries.
The insurance company does not always accept liability, no matter what happened in the accident. Even in something as seemingly straightforward as a rear-end accident, the insurance company may claim that you stopped short in front of the car that hit you. This is an easy way for them to save some money around the margins, but it reduces your financial recovery that you need to pay for your damages.
You will need to be clear about your actions and what you did when the accident happened. If the insurance company is wrongly trying to blame you, in part or whole, fight back against them. You can either defend what you did or file a lawsuit, knowing that a jury may not see things the same way as the insurance company.
Negotiate a Settlement or File a Lawsuit
After you have filed your claim and demand:
- The insurance company will deny your claim
- The insurance company will make you an offer to settle your claim
If the former happens, you can go straight to filing a lawsuit because you have nothing to discuss with the insurance company. In most cases, the latter will happen. However, just because you have received a settlement offer does not always mean that it is good news.
The initial settlement offer will likely be nowhere near enough to compensate for your damages. To get to the right number, you will need to negotiate with the insurance company. They expect negotiations, so they make a lower initial offer to start them. An insurance company has room to raise its offer significantly from the one it initially made.
Your attorney will review any settlement offer to determine whether it fairly compensates you for your damages. If the offer falls short, you may reject it and make a counteroffer. You need not accept a bad insurance company settlement offer.
If you cannot reach a settlement agreement with the insurance company, you can file a lawsuit against the defendant, and a jury will decide the matter. Juries will not have the same self-interested view that an insurance company does. They will review the facts and provide you with damages that you can prove, not the smallest check that an insurance company will write you.
There is no requirement in the first place to file an insurance claim. You can always file a lawsuit. However, going down the insurance company claims route can provide you with a quicker way to get your money. However, as we will describe below, quicker does not always mean fast.
Practice the Art of Patience
Getting your money after claiming bodily injury can involve hitting many bumps in the road. Your claim can take time to get your settlement or jury award. There may be stops and starts in the process, and you are not always in control of what happens.
To maximize your check for your damages, you need to be patient. Do not jump at a settlement offer just because the insurance company made it. Also, know that there may be some frustration when the insurance company is dragging things out or making things tougher on you than they should. Your lawyer will help you cut through the red tape, but that also takes time.
We understand that it is difficult to remain patient in the face of tactics meant to delay and make things harder on you. However, that is the exact way to beat the insurance company at their own game. They want you to get anxious and panic. Being patient and fighting for what you deserve is not something that an insurance company wants.
It will not cost you anything upfront to get legal help for your claim. In any personal injury case, you only pay if you are successful. You do not pay anything to speak to a lawyer in an initial consultation, and you do not pay hourly bills during your claim. If you do not win your case, you will not see a bill for your lawyer’s time. However, not hiring a lawyer can certainly contribute to losing your case or severely decreasing what you recover.
Trust Your Lawyer
The one thing to remember is an experienced injury lawyer knows what they are doing. Once you hire someone, trust them to handle your claim. You can then focus on your medical treatment and physical recovery with greater peace of mind.
Abels & Annes
100 N LaSalle St #1710
Chicago, IL 60602