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When Should I Sue After an Accident?

by John Gomez | Last Updated: February 26, 2022

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You are a victim of a car accident. You realize that your injuries and your losses are significant and cost you more than you expected. As you consider your options, you know that you will have to seek compensation from an insurance company or the at-fault party.

A lawsuit can seem like a frustrating option, but it can offer you the opportunity to seek the compensation you deserve when you are a victim of negligence in an accident. However, in some cases, you may solve your claim without resorting to a lawsuit.

Speaking with a personal injury attorney will offer you the best opportunity to understand your case and what your likelihood of success at recovering compensation may be.

Suing is Not Your Only Option and May Not Even Be Your Best Option

Lawsuits help victims of car accidents pursue compensation when they cannot do so by other means. A lawsuit is not the first step in the process as a victim seeks compensation but rather an alternative option when they cannot get the money, they are eligible for under the law through negotiation of an insurance claim.

Car accidents often involve insurance coverage. Most states have some form of car insurance requirement for drivers of motor vehicles to protect any individuals that may become victims of a driver’s negligence. When you are in an accident and the other driver’s actions lead to your injuries and damages, the law allows you to seek compensation through their insurance company for any losses you accrue because of the collision.

Most automobile accidents resolve through a vehicle insurance claim. However, it’s difficult to get an insurer to pay out your damages fairly and promptly. Hiring a lawyer after a car accident can help you with your case and make certain you take the right steps to file an insurance claim that accounts for your damages as accurately as possible and provides the evidence you need to support your claim.

How Does an Insurance Claim Work?

The filing of an insurance claim may appear simple on its face; you explain the circumstances of the accident and your injuries and then expect payment for your losses. However, insurers do not always work this way.

Insurance companies will first try to talk to you after an accident. They can appear nice and helpful, but behind that friendly customer service appearance, they want to uncover anything they can that provides them with evidence to show that you caused the accident in some way or that they are not responsible for the compensation you believe you deserve.

Insurance companies often take one of two strategies. They will attempt to first deny a claim wherever possible and if that is not successful or the fault in the accident is indisputable, they will move on to reducing their liability to you in whatever manner they can.

Often, this means they will make settlement offers far below what the law allows you to seek recovery for. They will pressure you to take these offers but often you may recover much more money.

Working with a lawyer ensures you do not miss out on the compensation you can recover. If you take an early settlement offer from an insurer, your claim will resolve but you can’t seek additional compensation if you discover that your claim was worth more than what the insurer offered you.

Once you hire an attorney for a car accident insurance claim, they will negotiate with the insurer to get you the just compensation allowable under the law. Before attempting to negotiate with the insurer, your attorney will sit with you to understand the damages you have suffered to ensure that you calculate and account for all losses when filing the claim.

When Is a Lawsuit Necessary or Appropriate After a Motor Vehicle Crash?

While the negotiation of a successful settlement is the best-case scenario when attempting to resolve a claim, there are situations where it is not possible. There are many reasons settlement negotiations can fall through and when a victim cannot recover their losses through a claim, the next option is a lawsuit against the insurance company or personally against the party that is responsible for the accident.

Common reasons why a lawsuit can be necessary in an accident case include:

  • The insurance company does not accept that their insured is at fault
  • The insurer’s offer of settlement will not pay for your damages
  • There are multiple parties at fault for the accident
  • The damages you sustain exceed a policy’s coverage limitations
  • The party at fault did not have valid coverage at the time of the crash

Seeking Compensation After an Accident with the Help of an Attorney

Whether it is for a lawsuit or an insurance claim, one of the most crucial steps you will take in your case is the calculation of your losses. You might already think you know what damages you sustained because of the accident, but a lawyer has an in-depth understanding of personal injury accident damages and how each category of loss may apply in your case.

Often, victims learn the losses they can recover compensation for are far more than what they initially estimated themselves.

An Accident With No Injuries

You may hear that you don’t need an attorney in an accident case where you sustain no injuries, but this is not always true. First and foremost, injuries can appear days after an accident, so never write off the possibility of an injury. Doing so or making statements that you have no injuries can be problematic if you uncover pain and discomfort after a crash.

If no injuries arise after an accident, if you are the victim of the other party’s negligence, you are still eligible to recover compensation for the damages to your vehicle and any other personal property. Getting estimates for vehicle repairs is a straightforward process, but insurers can still disagree with you about the value of the damages and other losses you deserve.

An attorney after a car accident can help you fight for the quick repair of your vehicle or the value of your loss with insurers. They can negotiate with insurers to provide you with a rental vehicle while you await repairs or while you shop for another vehicle after a total loss.

If a dispute arises about the value of your property’s damage, an attorney can deal with the insurance companies on your behalf. If your damages exceed the limitations on a policy, an attorney may be able to help you pursue compensation against the party responsible directly.

An Accident With Injuries

When it comes to injury accidents, damages are much more involved and complex. Injuries bring about many losses to a victim and you can seek recovery for many, including both financial and personal losses that occur because of a car accident.

Unlike objective property damages based on the estimates of repair shops and the value of your vehicle, injury damages involve much more evidence that can include medical records, bills, witnesses, and your own personal experience.

Damages in a car accident case with injuries can include:

  • Medical—All costs that you accrue for medical care and treatment of your injuries currently and in the future can be a part of your claim for damages after a car accident.
  • Income—You can seek compensation for the loss of your wages due to the accident and your injuries. In addition to current wages, you can also seek recovery of any future wages you may lose from any long-term conditions or disabilities that you develop because of the accident.
  • Pain and suffering—Injuries can cause you pain and discomfort from the moment the accident happens and as you recover. Accidents can also cause victims to develop anxiety and other emotional and psychological effects. A claim for damages can account for these impacts on you and recover monetary compensation for pain and suffering after an accident.
  • Wrongful death compensation—There are some instances in which a car accident victim may not survive the accident or will pass away from the injuries following a crash. If you are the family of a loved one who died in a car accident due to another’s negligence, you can pursue wrongful death compensation for expenses related to their burial or funeral, loss of their contribution to the family, and loss of their companionship.

Determining Who Is at Fault for The Collision

To sue after an accident and to file an insurance claim against the at-fault party’s insurer, you must first discover who is the party responsible for the accident and your injuries. In some cases, it does not take much effort to reveal fault, but in more complex cases multiple parties are at fault.

In addition, not every party that contributed to the accident is always at the crash scene. With the help of a car accident attorney and their resources, you can take the time to identify all parties that may be at fault or liable to you for your losses.

Parties that can be responsible for the damages to an accident victim after a car crash include:

  •     The driver of another vehicle
  •     The owner of another vehicle
  •     The employer of a driver
  •     An insurance company

Can You Do Anything After an Accident to Help Your Case?

Often, accident victims believe if they get on the phone and discuss their claim with an insurer as soon as possible after an accident they are helping to get their case moving along and will receive payment quicker and with fewer problems. However, this is one of the most damaging steps you can take following a crash. While you can take constructive actions after an accident, calling the insurer is not one of them.

Calling the at-fault party’s insurer after a crash can damage your case in a way that can be difficult to recover from. The insurer has only one motivation to speak with you after a crash. The representatives for the insurer are on a mission to reduce their costs however they can. This can translate to blaming you for the accident or underestimating your injuries and losses.

Rather than call the insurer after a crash, protect yourself at the scene and afterward:

  •     Call the police and EMS
  •     Take photos, gather documents, records, and reports
  •     Follow your doctor’s treatment plan and advice

At What Point After an Accident Should You Contact an Attorney?

As soon as you can—immediately if possible. You want to focus on recovering after an automobile accident. Hassling with insurance companies can add unnecessary stressful burdens to your life. By calling an attorney soon after your crash, you can allow them to take the lead on your case immediately and you can turn your focus and energy on healing.

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