How to Handle Your Auto Accident Claim
The most frustrating aspect of being involved in a car accident is your lack of control over the situation. You can do everything right as a motorist yet still end up in an accident because you shared the road with a negligent driver. Thankfully, not all semblance of control is taken away from you.
The way you handle the immediate aftermath of your auto accident can significantly affect the strength of your claim. Securing legal assistance is probably unnecessary for minor accidents. However, you will likely need it if you sustain injuries from the crash.
Learn how to handle your auto accident claim by continuing with the rest of this article.
Understanding the Claims Process
Securing compensation for your auto accident claim will likely be a lengthy process. Even if the evidence points to the other driver being responsible for the crash, the insurance company will probably deny their liability and delay your compensation as long as possible.
Understanding the steps involved in the claims process can make it more manageable. The steps we are referring to are highlighted below.
Hire Your Car Accident Lawyer
If you do not have a car accident lawyer, hiring one should be your priority after your accident. Their assistance will be vital in every step from here on out.
Lawyers can help with more than securing fair compensation. You should also seek their counsel to avoid potentially costly mistakes while navigating the claims process.
Report the Accident to Your Insurer
Whether you are at fault for the accident or not, you must report what happened to your insurer. Many car insurance providers require their clients to report any accidents they are involved in. The specific clause outlining that requirement in their policy may also mention a reporting deadline.
Beyond fulfilling your legal obligation, you should also report the accident because it can help move the claims process along faster.
Allow the Authorities and Your Lawyer to Investigate
Expect an investigation to commence soon after your accident. You will likely hear from police officers asking for your version of the events. They will also investigate the accident site and speak to witnesses to uncover the cause of the crash.
Your lawyer can also join the investigation. They can approach other parties who may provide evidence related to your case. Hopefully, the investigation will clearly indicate that the accident was not your fault.
Receive Treatment for Your Injuries
Following the accident, it’s crucial to seek medical attention for your injuries. Don’t make assumptions about your health based purely on the absence of visible wounds or fractures. Car accidents may result in head injuries that can only be accurately diagnosed by a medical professional.
Engaging with a doctor is not just essential for your health but also for your personal injury claim. The comprehensive medical records they provide will significantly strengthen your case.
Send the Demand Letter
Once your lawyer has a clear understanding of your losses and the results of the investigation, they can issue a demand letter to the opposing party. This letter serves to instigate settlement negotiations. It should detail the circumstances of your case and clarify why a settlement would be beneficial for both parties.
Allow the other party time to digest the particulars of your case and your suggested resolution. In return, they may propose a counteroffer. Your lawyer can maintain this dialogue until a mutually agreeable settlement is reached. If the party at fault for your accident is unwilling to negotiate, it’s time to proceed to the next step.
File Your Lawsuit
If negotiations reach a stalemate, your next course of action would logically be to file a lawsuit. However, it’s vital to be aware of the statute of limitations that applies to your case.
In Maryland, a plaintiff has a window of three years from the date of the auto accident to lodge a personal injury claim. Rest assured, your lawyer will take care of filing the lawsuit within this timeframe.
Head to Trial
Lastly, you should prepare for the possibility that your lawsuit could eventually lead to a trial. Going to trial should not be an issue if you have an experienced lawyer by your side.
Can I Handle My Car Accident Case Myself?
Being involved in a car accident is already a major inconvenience. Many folks assume that hiring a lawyer will only make a simple matter more complicated than it needs to be.
In a situation where the other driver immediately admits fault, and there are no injuries, you might be able to resolve the matter without hiring a lawyer.
Partnering with a lawyer is a must if you sustain injuries from the accident. Your medical expenses are variables that can significantly alter your compensation. Do not accept any payout from the other driver until a lawyer has reviewed your case.
You should also avoid managing your case solo if you and the other driver do not agree on who should accept the blame for the crash. Disputed liability cases can become complex. Never move forward with those cases until you have hired a lawyer.
We also want to remind car accident victims that enlisting the help of a lawyer is not something you can only do at the start of the claims process.
Initially, you might have assumed that your case would be settled quickly because the other driver was willing to pay for your repairs out of pocket. Now that the full extent of your necessary repairs is apparent, they may hesitate to pay for them.
It is never too late to get a lawyer involved in your car accident case. Request their assistance and ensure you receive adequate compensation.
How to File a Claim with Your Insurance Company
The process of filing a claim begins with contacting your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. You can usually do this by calling your insurance company’s claims number, which should be on your insurance card or available online.
It’s also crucial to provide them with all the necessary information about the incident. You can use a mobile app if your insurance provider offers one, which can expedite the claim process.
Next, review your policy’s coverages and ask any questions you may have about your insurance coverage. Your insurance professional will guide you through this process.
One of the essential steps is documenting the damage. If possible, take photographs at the scene of the accident. These images will serve as valuable evidence when processing your claim.
Also, gather all relevant information at the scene of the accident. This includes exchanging details with the other driver, taking note of the police officers’ information, and keeping track of any paperwork related to the incident.
Each insurance company may have slight variations in its claims process, so it’s important to follow the specific guidelines provided by your insurer.
Most important, when filing a claim after a car accident, it’s crucial not to admit fault. Even if you believe you were responsible, admitting fault could potentially jeopardize your right to compensation and may lead to your insurance claim being devalued or denied. It’s recommended to provide only factual information about the incident without making any personal judgments or admissions.
Common Myths about Filing a Car Insurance Claim
Myths surrounding the insurance industry may prevent motorists from receiving the compensation they deserve. Because of how prevalent those myths are, they may influence how you approach the claims process.
The first myth we need to dispel is related to an insurance adjuster’s motivation. Insurance adjusters are not working with the best interests of motorists in mind. Their real goal is to protect the financial interests of insurance companies. Once you understand their motivations, you can manage your interactions with them more effectively.
It is also a myth that your car insurance is useless if another person was using your car at the time of an accident. Your insurance should still cover your bills. The other person’s insurance will only come into play if your coverage is lacking.
Lastly, the belief that an insurer will immediately offer a payout upon receiving a claim is also mistaken. Insurance companies are thorough and will ensure that everything you are claiming is factual before they start processing your payout. File your claim as soon as possible to expedite this thorough evaluation process and increase your chances of receiving a timely payout.
Mistakes to Avoid after a Car Accident in Maryland
Whether you are filing a claim with your insurer or seeking a payout from the other party, there is a distinct possibility that your request will be denied. Sometimes, these denials are made on shaky grounds. They may accept your claim because it is too strong to dispute.
However, car accident victims may also make crucial mistakes that could deprive them of compensation. These are also easy mistakes to make if you have never been involved in an auto accident.
Let’s highlight the mistakes in question so you can maintain a strong claim.
Failing to Visit the Doctor
As noted earlier in this article, a doctor can treat your accident-related injuries and provide evidence that bolsters your claim. You should prioritize consulting a doctor following an accident to take advantage of their services. Beyond that, you should visit a doctor because it displays urgency on your part.
Upon discovering that you waited weeks to see the doctor, the insurance company may argue that you only sustained minor injuries. That could be reason enough for them and the court to deny your claim.
Accepting Blame for the Accident
Accepting blame for a car accident you did not cause is a terrible move. Such a decision carries even more significant consequences in the state of Maryland. We will discuss why refusing to accept blame is so important in a little bit.
Waiting Too Long to Notify Your Insurer
Eventually, your accident case may play out in such a way that you will need to seek compensation from your insurer. Keep that option open by reporting the accident to your insurance company within their required timeline. Your inability to meet that requirement could be reason enough for your insurer to refuse your claim.
Disregarding Your Responsibility to Report the Accident
According to Maryland law, motorists are responsible for reporting accidents in Maryland when specific conditions are met. Motorists are typically required to report accidents that cause injuries to people and domesticated animals, immobilized vehicles, and public property damage. You also must report if the other driver is intoxicated, attempts to flee the scene, refuses to exchange information, or has no license.
The authorities may suspend your driver’s license and registration if you fail to report the car accident. Your insurer may also point to that mistake as a reason they do not need to honor your claim.
Taking the First Offer from an Insurer
Car accident victims should also avoid accepting the first settlement offer an insurance company puts on the table. More often than not, that first offer is a feeler the insurance company sends to gauge how strongly you feel about your negotiating position. They do not even expect you to accept that initial offer.
Allow them to present better offers before seriously contemplating a deal.
Maryland Car Accident Laws
We noted in the previous section that accepting blame for your car accident would be a terrible decision on your part. That is mainly because Maryland still follows the rule of contributory negligence when deciding personal injury cases.
With contributory negligence in effect, a plaintiff may be disqualified from recovering damages even if they share 1% of the blame for an accident. You obviously want to avoid that disastrous outcome. Never say anything that could be interpreted as accepting blame for the accident and preserve your right to recover compensation.
Experienced Auto Accident Attorney in Baltimore, MD
Attorney John Leppler’s experience with car accident cases will be critical to the success of your personal injury claim. Rely on his expertise to secure the compensation that is rightfully yours. John is always ready to listen to your concerns. Get in touch with us at Leppler Injury Law today so he can get started on your case!