What to Expect During the Auto Accident Claims Process
Settling with the auto insurance adjuster
Obtaining a full and fair settlement with the insurance adjuster prior to filing a lawsuit is always our goal at West Law Offices. Although this is not always possible, this is a good goal to strive for to reduce litigation costs and resolve your injury claim as quickly as possible.
To settle your claim with an insurance adjuster for a full and fair amount, it is important to remember that the insurance adjuster will value your auto accident claim (or any other insurance claim) based on the evidence we submit to them. So, it’s important to save receipts, reports, and photographs of your injuries and property damages. West Law Offices will obtain all of your medical records and bills and carefully review them for inaccuracies before submitting them to the adjuster. However, it’s helpful to make periodic notes on how your injuries feel and are impacting your life.
For example, are your injuries preventing you from enjoying activities you enjoyed before the accident? Are your injuries interfering with your sleep? Are you missing work because of doctor’s visits? Try to think of anything you have lost, including enjoyable activities, because of the accident and make a note of this as it occurs. All of this evidence will make it easier for the insurance adjuster to approve a fair settlement of your West Virginia personal injury claim.
When will you receive money for your injury claim?
Although in some cases you will be entitled to payments for your medical care before your case is concluded, an insurance company will not typically give you any money until a final settlement and release of your personal injury claim is made. However, West Law Offices can often help you work out an arrangement with doctors in the meantime. This is especially important if you don’t have health insurance.
How much money will You Receive?
There are a number of factors that will determine how much money you will receive from your auto accident claim. Ideally, you should be fully compensated for all of your harms, losses and injuries. This includes compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and disruption of life activities that you enjoyed before your injuries. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that could impact the amount you will recover including those below.
- Comparative liability. West Virginia follows the comparative fault approach. This means that your recovery will be reduced by whatever percentage you were at fault. If a jury believes that you are more than 50% at fault, you will recover nothing under West Virginia law. If the other driver is disputing who is at fault, obtaining an attorney is usually required to obtain a fair settlement.
- Auto Insurance Policy Limits. A low policy limit is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in obtaining a fair settlement of an accident claim. For example, if a driver only has $20,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, which is the minimum required by West Virginia law, then that is the maximum amount the insurance company will pay regardless of how badly you are hurt. A person injured in a car accident also has the right to seek reimbursement from the policyholder, but the policy holder may not have any means to pay your claim. A personal injury attorney can help you determine how best to proceed if policy limits are an issue. The best way to protect yourself from the risk of being injured by an underinsured driver is to carry underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage will kick in once the other driver’s insurance limits have been exhausted.
- The insurance company may deny your claim on the basis that their policyholder was not at fault. The other driver’s insurance carrier will give deference to his version of events over yours. Additionally, the insurer is not bound by a police report or your own insurance company’s analysis. That is one of the reasons why it is so important to gather the names and telephone numbers of witnesses. However, if there are not any witnesses to corroborate what happened and the insurance company denies your claim, it is within your rights to file suit against the policyholder directly. The insurance company will then be forced to defend the lawsuit and will be responsible for any favorable verdict up to the point of its applicable policy limits. In other words, in almost all cases, it’s the insurance company that pays the car accident claim, including medical bills, lost wages, and fair compensation for pain, suffering and other harms and losses.
- You may owe some of your settlement to others. If, for example, your health insurance has paid your medical bills, they have a right to be reimbursed for that amount if you collect a settlement or jury verdict. Medicare and Medicaid will need to be paid out of any settlement, too, if they paid for some or all of your medical bills. Medicare and Medicaid can slow down the settlement process. Some personal injury attorneys refuse to help potential clients just because they have Medicare. At West Law Offices, we have developed an effective system to deal with Medicare liens, so we never turn away a client simply because they have Medicare.
Questions? Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer.
If you have questions about any of the above or any other aspect of the accident claims process, feel free to contact a West Virginia personal injury attorney at West Law Offices for a free consultation toll free at 1-877-943-WEST(9378).
Brooks West is a West Virginia personal injury lawyer who helps people who have been injured by negligence or wrongful conduct. He is the President and founder of West Law Firm and has been an attorney since 2005. Brooks is a Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum member and has been awarded the AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell.