Car accidents can be a real pain in the butt when you get in them. They can be even bigger headaches when you have to fight the insurance claim on your own. Sometimes you get a great insurance adjuster and other times you don’t. Frankly it is a flip of the coin. But, what’s not a flip of the coin is that all the adjusters are playing a game that is rigged in their favor when you don’t have an accident lawyer you can depend on to guide your claim.
That being said, you also don’t want to fork over an arm and a leg to your lawyer once she settles your case for you. After all it’s your injury and your money.
So, while having a car accident lawyer has shown to increase recovery amounts and times substantially, it is understandable that you want to go do the fight on your own.
More power to you!
There’s a famous Broadway musical called How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. It tells the story of J. Pierrepont Finch, who goes from washing the windows of a hoity toity company to running it by reading the book How to Succeed In Business.
So, while a playbook from making it from window washer to CEO of a fancy company might be a fabled tale, the playbook for getting the most out of your car accident claim is actually rather simple.
First, you must not be at fault for the accident. If you are 100% at fault you do not have a claim. If you are 50% at fault, you will have a fight. If you are not at fault at all then you are in the best shape of your life and can win this fight on your own. Get the police report showing that you were not at fault.
Second, you must have UM insurance or the person who hit you must have insurance. It is likely that they do have insurance and you don’t have UM insurance, but if you do, it will make maximizing your claim much easier. Call you insurance company to find out if you have UM or make a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Third, go to a doctor. Now, your first visit can be to any doctor but your next visits should be to a doctor that know how to handle car accident cases. The best way to figure this out is to go to your PCP and ask her who she recommends that knows how to handle accident cases. If she doesn’t know then ask her for a chiropractor or physical therapist recommendation.
Those two types of practitioners deal with lots of accidents and will know the right physicians to refer you to after you get diagnosed and start treatment. They will also know good lawyers who handle accident type cases should you need one that is not on a billboard.
Fourth, follow up with all your medical care. Don’t miss a beat on this because insurance companies love saying that your lack in consistent treatment means that you are not injured.
Fifth, gather all your medical bills and medical records. Add up all the bills, all the time you missed from work, all the money you spent on gas going to visits, pharmacy bills and anything else that can be calculated and provide that to the adjuster. Ask her how much insurance their insured has and when she tells you it will give you a good number to shoot for.
Sixth, calculate pain and suffering based on some back of the napkin math. Depending on where your accident happened, you can generally bet insurance companies will compensate you about $1500-$3500 per month for physical therapy or chiropractic treatment up to 4-6 months of treatment (because it doesn’t usually help you medically after that).
If you had steroid injections in your back or other types of treatment the numbers jump up quite a bit to mid to upper five-figures. If you are looking at back surgery, the numbers jump up even more to more than six figures. It is hard to pinpoint exact numbers without talking to a local lawyer who knows your jurisdiction the best as well as the extent of your injury.
If the insurance available is over $50,000 and your injuries are substantial (steroid injections or surgery) it is best to call a lawyer so you don’t short change yourself on how much you can recover.
Remember, the insurance adjuster won’t take you as seriously as a lawyer but maybe the savings of not sharing your fee is worth it to you. After you do the above, you should be in a good position to get your maximum payout without, well, really trying!