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Getting injured in a car accident has the potential to disrupt a crash victim’s life. Injuries can inflict severe physical, emotional, and financial pain.
Here at Gomez Trial Attorneys, accident victims often come to us wanting to know about their rights to a settlement of any claim they have for damages. In this blog post, we delve into car accident settlements in detail, to explain how they work and what crash victims need to know to protect their legal rights. If a car accident has left you or a loved one badly injured, contact an experienced crash injury attorney today.
Let’s start with some basic information. Lawyers for auto accident victims use the word settlement to refer to a specific type of agreement between an injured crash victim and a person, entity, or organization legally responsible for causing the victim’s injuries and for compensating the victim for that harm.
In a typical car accident settlement agreement, the injured victim agrees to release the legally liable party from future financial liability in exchange for a payment of money (sometimes combined with other forms of compensation). A settlement ends a legal claim. If the injured person has already filed a lawsuit against the liable party, then the settlement almost always includes an agreement to terminate the suit. If the injured person has not yet filed suit, then the agreement typically bars the filing of a suit in the future.
In most car accident cases, an insurance company that sold a liability insurance policy to the person or entity with legal liability pays the settlement amount to the injured crash victim. Sometimes, however, at least some of the money for a settlement comes directly out of the legally liable party’s own pocket. Experienced car accident injury attorneys investigate all potential sources of settlement dollars potentially available to pay a car accident settlement, to ensure that insurance policy limits do not artificially cap the amount of money an injured client can receive.
As a binding contract, a settlement is final. Once they have signed and filed it, the parties to the settlement typically cannot open it back up. For that reason, injured crash victims must approach settlements with care and should always seek the advice and counsel of an experienced auto accident injury lawyer before agreeing to anything. Those precautions help to ensure victims receive the maximum amount of money reasonably available in exchange for giving up their important legal rights.
Most, but not all, car accident claims seeking money damages for crash injuries end in a settlement. This reflects the reality that most parties prefer the certainty of controlling the outcome of a car accident claim to taking their chances in front of a judge and jury in a trial. Most, but not all. Sometimes the parties cannot reach a settlement agreement, and the case ends up in a courtroom, and the outcome comes in the form of a decision by a judge or jury. In other words, not all cases settle.
That said, when a settlement does resolve an auto accident case, it typically comes together through a series of steps.
This typically includes the following steps (although not necessarily all of them, nor always in this order):
The steps above represent the basic flow of a typical settlement process. Not all claims follow that straightforward of a path, however. As we hinted above, various factors can complicate the probability of reaching a settlement, the timeline for getting there, and the amount of money a car accident victim can hope to receive.
If you’ve read this far, then you probably get the sense that many of the factors that affect the prospects for and amount of a settlement lie beyond the injured car crash victim’s control. That is true. Negotiations sometimes take winding, frustrating paths, whether anyone likes it or not.
Still, injured car accident victims can take steps to give themselves the best chance of a favorable outcome.
Achieving a favorable outcome from a car accident settlement depends, to a significant degree, on what the victim does to stay in the best possible physical and emotional health.
First, as to physical health, injured car accident victims must seek appropriate medical care for their injuries, and must follow the doctor’s advice until they have reached the furthest possible point of recovery. Follow medical advice to heal your injuries.
In the context of getting the best possible settlement, however, it is also important because:
Second, as to emotional health, injured car accident victims should always treat their mental health as seriously as their physical health. They should seek counseling if they need it. Oftentimes, crash victims suffer from post-traumatic stress after a violent collision, for example, a condition that can feature debilitating symptoms like depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Staying mentally healthy also serves to put the victim in the best possible frame of mind to hear and understand a lawyer’s advice, and to participate in making important decisions about the course of a legal claim and whether to settle it.
Car accident victims often need to report the crash to their own auto and health insurance carriers. They should comply with those requirements, and seek the help of a lawyer to address any uncertainty about them.
Car accident victims do NOT, however, have any immediate obligation after a car accident to interact with someone else’s insurance carrier. Eventually, as part of a settlement, they may need to submit to an interview or examination conducted by that insurer. In the early days after a crash, however, they should treat any contact from someone else’s insurance company with extreme caution. The only reason some other individual’s or entity’s insurance company has to contact a victim is to minimize its own financial exposure to the accident. Victims should avoid having any interaction with someone else’s insurance company altogether, at least until they have consulted with an attorney.
Also, and this is critically important, car accident victims should never, ever, agree to any settlement offer from an insurance company (or anyone else) without first speaking with an experienced auto accident injury lawyer. As you now know from having read the explanation above, agreeing to a settlement involves giving up important, and potentially valuable, legal rights. Only enter into that kind of agreement on the advice of a skilled, knowledgeable attorney.
Attorneys for victims of car accidents spend their days negotiating the most favorable settlements possible for their clients. Trust only an experienced, knowledgeable California car accident injury attorney to negotiate a settlement on your behalf. Contact one today to get started.
John Gomez founded the firm alone in 2005. Today, John acts as President and Lead Trial Attorney. He has been voted by his peers as a top ten San Diego litigator in three separate fields: Personal Injury, Insurance and Corporate Litigation. Since 2000, he has recovered over $800 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients with more than 160 separate recoveries of one million dollars or more. A prolific trial lawyer, John has tried to jury verdict more than 60 separate cases.
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