Car accidents happen every day and more than three million people get injured in those crashes every year. An astounding two million of those car accident victims suffer permanent injuries that will pain them for the rest of their lives.
The sooner you can settle your car accident claim, the sooner you can start focusing on your recovery.
However, if you’re like most people, you’re likely wondering if hiring a car accident attorney is really necessary.
Here’s how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer so you can make the best decision for your needs and your finances.
Evaluate the extent of your damages
Before you can start working toward a settlement, you need to make sure you have a clear idea of the damages you suffered. This goes beyond the physical damages done to your vehicle and any injuries you suffered. Total up the expenses you’ve incurred since your accident happened. Include everything from car repairs and medical expenses to income lost from missing work.
You may also be able to add future expenses to your total list of damages. For example, if your injuries prevent you from working in your regular job for several years, make a note of it. You may be able to add those future lost wages to your total damages.
Keep in mind that calculating the exact total of your damages can be difficult. You need to think about every possible expense you could have so you can get the largest settlement possible. There’s no harm in overdemanding at first as long as you’re prepared to negotiate the settlement amount.
Speak to the insurance adjuster
Before you can start working toward a settlement, you need to speak with the insurance adjuster to find out what they’re willing to cover after you file your claim. They’ll look at the damage done to your car and any medical expenses you have relating to the accident.
They’ll use this information to calculate a payment amount that’s fair in their eyes. It’s rare for those payments to be enough right from the beginning.
You’ll need to negotiate with the insurance provider to get the most out of your settlement. Anytime you’re speaking with the insurance company, put your emotions on the back-burner.
You need to be calm, cool and collected when you speak with them so you can better pay attention to what they say and identify any problems with their stance as they come up.
Craft your demand letter
Once you have an idea of what the insurance company is willing to pay, it’s time to craft your demand letter. This is your chance to explain why the insurance company’s settlement is too low and why you need more money.
Take care to explain the extent of your injuries and losses in as much detail as you can, using actual numbers if possible.
Point out why the other driver is responsible for those additional expenses and why their insurance company needs to pay you what you’re owed.
Though it’s rare that the demand letter will be enough to increase your settlement amount to the level that you want, it’s the starting point. It signals to the other insurance company that you’re willing and ready to fight for what you deserve.
Once they receive your letter, they’ll submit a counter-offer. At this point, you’re free to either accept the counter-offer or continue to negotiate. If you accept the settlement, you’re done and you can focus on getting your life back to normal.
However, if you continue to negotiate, you’ll likely end up needing to take the case to court if you want to get the most money possible.
Do your due diligence before going to court
Before you make an appearance in court, do your research. Understand the costs you’ll face just for bringing a case before a judge.
There are administrative charges, court fees, and the potential for further lost income as you’ll have to spend time in the courtroom rather than at work.
You’ll meet with the other driver’s car accident attorney and come to an agreement on an appropriate settlement. This will save you time, money, and spare you the expense of having to hire an auto accident attorney to represent your case.
If you decide to go to court, make sure you research the types of settlements other drivers in your position received in previous lawsuits. This will help you better understand your options and your chances of winning.
Remember, if you lose, you could end up having to pay the other drivers’ attorney fees. The more prepared you are for your court appearance, the better off you’ll be.
Await the judge’s verdict and accept the settlement
After hearing your case, the judge will make a decision on how much of a settlement you deserve. If you represented yourself well, that amount will be higher than what the insurance company initially offered.
However, if you weren’t able to make a solid case, the judge may declare that the insurance company’s original settlement was enough. Once you accept the settlement, you’ll be able to close out your car accident claim and move on with your life.
Understand that representing yourself isn’t always best
While it is possible to represent yourself in court and settle a car accident claim without hiring a car accident lawyer, it’s not the best idea. Attorneys have extensive experience helping clients get the money they deserve. Even better, they can streamline the settlement process so you get your money more quickly.
If you do end up going to court, they’ll be able to mount your case and argue on your behalf against the insurance company’s experienced legal team.