If you’ve been in a car accident, there are several things you can do to help settle your claim. Some of the tips for settling your car accident claim will apply to your immediate situation, while others will be coming in the short and mid-term future. Making the right decisions after a crash, especially if the accident was the other driver’s fault, helps ensure that you receive a fair settlement that covers your damages and leaves you financially whole.
If the other driver was at fault, you’ll likely be getting a call from his or her insurance company soon. When this happens, you shouldn’t make any statements or commitments without speaking to an attorney. You also need to avoid accepting the initial settlement offered by the insurance company. Insurance companies are in the business of collecting premiums, not paying settlements. That means any initial settlement offer is likely to be much less than you could get if you play your cards right and negotiate from a position of strength.
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3 Tips for Settling a Car Accident Claim in Illinois
There are a few things that you should immediately do if you’ve been in an accident. Doing these 3 things will greatly improve your chances of a favorable claim settlement. They are:
- Seeking Medical Attention
- Documenting the Accident Scene
- Reporting the Accident
Seek Medical Attention
The first thing you should do in the event of an accident is to seek medical attention. There are multiple reasons for this, but first and foremost, you want to make sure that your injuries are being taken care of. Even if you don’t feel injured at the time of the accident, it’s still prudent to be looked at by a physician. There are several types of injuries that don’t initially show symptoms, and if there is a chance you’re going to sue an insurance company after a car accident, you’ll need your injuries documented immediately. That way, you won’t have to deal with the insurance company claiming that the injuries you suffered actually happened after the accident.
Document the Accident Scene
You’ll need to document the scene of the accident as thoroughly as possible. Photos of the vehicles involved, and the surrounding area, will likely be helpful to you later in the process. These photos may end up being introduced as evidence later, or used by an accident reconstructionist to prove fault, should the insurance company argue responsibility for the accident later. So will name and contact information for any witnesses to the accident. It’s best to get witness statements early, while the accident is fresh in their memories.
Report the Accident
Reporting the accident immediately has multiple benefits to you, especially as the victim. An insurance company that isn’t notified of the accident within a predetermined amount of time, usually outlined in the policy, may believe they have legal grounds to refuse payment for damages sustained. Less likely, but still possible, is the chance that they may claim damages to the vehicle could have happened between the reported date of the accident and when they were informed.
Reporting the accident to the jurisdictional authorities immediately will remove both of those arguments. A police officer will make a report, collect witness statements, and document the accident site. Those observations, photos, and witness statements, when combined with your own gathered information, will form the basis of your claim against the other driver and his or her insurance company. Having a police report and plenty of accident site photographs will go a long way toward helping you prove you are not at fault in a car accident.
How to Prepare for a Car Accident Claim
Preparing for a car accident claim can be as simple as providing police reports and medical records from the post-accident care you’ve received. It can also become quite complicated, depending on the circumstances of the accident and how difficult the insurance company has decided to be in defending its profits. Chicago car accident attorneys will be able to give you the best possible chance of receiving a settlement that comes close to making you whole financially.
The selection and hiring of a car accident attorney can be one of the most important decisions you make after your accident. Your attorney will act as an advocate on your behalf, ensuring that you aren’t taken advantage of by the insurance company or their attorneys. He or she will also guide you through the claims process, avoiding common pitfalls and giving you a sound strategy for your lawsuit, should it become necessary to file.
How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help
When you talk to lawyers for help in learning how to settle a personal injury claim, they are going to ask a lot of questions. If you’ve already reported the accident, sought medical attention, documented the accident scene, and gotten names and contact info for witnesses, let your attorney know. Those initial steps at the time of the accident will give your attorney a head start on your claim.
Even though you’ve taken care of the big 3 immediate steps, your attorney is going to have more tips for you to ensure that you do help yourself where possible and don’t hurt your case accidentally. Some of those tips will be:
- Follow your doctor’s orders
- Be helpful to your insurance company
- Don’t speak with the other party’s insurance company alone
- Don’t talk about the accident
- Stay off social media
Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
Similar to the way you hired your attorney to have an expert in knowing how to settle with an insurance company, your treating physician is the expert on your injuries and the best way to protect you from future harm while healing what has already happened. You need to follow your doctor’s orders after the accident completely. Whether it’s a prescription, physical therapy, or further tests to determine the extent of your injuries, follow them all.
Your doctor’s priority is going to be your well-being. He or she isn’t interested in the goals of the insurance company, or the desires of an attorney, only in your health. Secondly, if your doctor recommends a certain medication, test, or course of treatment, and you choose not to follow through with it, that information can be used against you in your claim.
The insurance company’s attorneys will take that information and attempt to paint a picture of a person who isn’t really hurt, or isn’t as hurt as he or she is letting on, which can affect settlement negotiations now and a jury later if your case ends up going to trial.
Be Helpful to Your Insurance Company
If your insurance company has any questions, or requests for information from you, your attorney will likely tell you to be as helpful as you possibly can. He or she may ask you to run any requests for information by him or her, just in case, but will likely have you comply with your insurance company.
Don’t Speak With the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
The other driver’s insurance company will likely attempt to make contact with you, whether it’s for follow-up questions about the accident or your injuries, or to discuss a settlement offer. You should inform them at that time that you’ve retained representation, and that all communication will need to go through your attorney. Be polite when you inform them of this and provide the contact information before ending the call.
Your car accident attorney should be the point of contact for this entire process for any insurance company or attorney questions. There may come a point in time when you will need to answer their questions on the record, but let your attorney schedule that and coach you on the process ahead of time.
Don’t Talk About the Accident
You shouldn’t be talking about the accident with anyone but family, or your attorney unless otherwise directed to do so. Once they know a lawsuit may be coming, the insurance company’s investigators and attorneys will be looking for any errant statement or activity they can find coming from you. They’ll be looking for ammunition to use against you.
Stay Off Social Media
Similar to the advice regarding talking to others about your accident, stay off social media. Imagine a social media post showing you with a smile on your face at your neighbor’s backyard barbecue. It doesn’t matter if you were in excruciating pain, heavily medicated, and smiling for the camera out of obligation, a skilled attorney could use photos or posts from social media accounts to paint a picture of someone who’s not hurt, and only trying to take advantage of the insurance company settlement process.
Don’t give the other party anything that could be used against you later. He or she will have investigators out trying to gather information, just like your attorney will be doing on your behalf.