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Car Accident Information Center

Car Accident Lawyers

Settlement Process For a Car Accident

A car accident can be a traumatizing experience, especially if you were injured during the crash. Sadly, these events are fairly common. In 2015, there were 6.3 million car accidents across the United States. If you have been in a car accident, there is a clear process that you will need to go through. This will ensure that you get a good car accident claim settlement from your insurance company. Let’s take a closer look at how the car accident claim settlement process works.

What Are The Steps Of A Car Accident Settlement?

The process of making a car accident insurance claim gets quite complex. For this reason, it’s recommended that you have a car accident lawyer to guide you through it. However, we can simplify it into a few simple steps.

  • Preparing an insurance claim. During this step, your car accident lawyer will assess the situation and determine the amount of compensation you should receive. They will also gather evidence to make sure that you have a strong claim.
  • A letter of demand is filed. This is a letter your lawyer will send to the insurance company, explaining your situation and setting out which damages you should receive.
  • Negotiation and settlement. In most cases, the insurance company will make a counteroffer. After a negotiation process, you will be able to reach an acceptable car accident claim settlement.
  • A lawsuit is filed. If you are unable to come to an agreement, you might want to take the case to court. This will often mean that your lawyer will need to gather more evidence to build an even stronger case.
  • In order to avoid a court case, most insurance companies will try to engage in the mediation process. This will allow you to try and reach an acceptable settlement.
  • If the mediation process fails, you will need to take the matter to court.

As we’ve seen, there are multiple steps that you might need to take before you will be able to receive a settlement. Let’s take a closer look at this process, and some tips that you can use to make sure that you get a good result.

After The Car Accident

One of the most important phases of the settlement process begins immediately after the accident. There is a range of things that you should do during this period. This will help you build a strong case.

Report The Accident

The first thing you will need to do is report the accident to the authorities. Depending on where you live, this could be a legal requirement. You might need to report it to the state troopers, or local police department. This will allow them to officially record the incident and make sure that it gets investigated properly. Your lawyer will be able to use these police records when preparing your case. If you have suffered serious injuries, you should also call an ambulance. This will ensure that you get the treatment that you need.

Take Pictures

After the accident, you should make sure to gather plenty of evidence. One of the best ways to do this is by taking pictures. This should include the positioning of the cars and show any damage that occurred. You might also want to take some pictures of the local surroundings and weather conditions if they contributed to the accident. You should also make sure to note whether there are any security cameras in the area. By doing this, you will be able to make sure that you have plenty of evidence to support your claims.

Talk To Witnesses

You might also want to see whether anyone saw the accident. These people can be very valuable, helping you present a very strong legal argument, verifying your version of events. When talking to people, you want to make sure that you get their names and contact information. This will allow your lawyer to call and talk to them again, if necessary.

Seek Medical Attention

It’s also essential that you seek medical attention as soon after a car crash as possible. There are a few reasons for this. First, the Adrenaline released during the crash can mask some pain temporarily. This can make it harder to spot and treat these conditions. Serious injuries can occur, even in a slowly moving vehicle, where the impact of the accident can jolt your neck and back.

It will also provide a benefit for your car accident lawyer. This will make it easier for you to include any medical costs as part of the claim because it will be easier for you to link any injuries to the car accident. Depending on the severity of the injuries, you might want to question whether you will be able to return to work. After you’ve been diagnosed and treatment has begun, it’s important that you continue to return for your regular appointments. If you don’t, the insurance company might use this as evidence that the injury has healed, even if it hasn’t. This can limit the amount of medical expenses that you are able to claim. 

Contact Your Car Accident Lawyer

The next thing that you will need to do is contact a car accident lawyer. They will be able to help prepare your claim with you, giving you the best chance of a good settlement. Your lawyer will also be able to make sure that you’ve met all the reporting requirements of your state.

Finding Which Lawyer To Use

When deciding which car accident lawyer to use, there are a few factors that you might want to consider. First, you might want to find someone that you trust. This will ensure that you feel comfortable discussing the case with them. You might also need to consider the ways that they will charge fees. In most cases, your car accident lawyer will take a percentage of your settlement. This makes it easier for you to afford them and gives them an added incentive to get you a great deal. You should also consider the amount of experience that they have. In some cases, car accident law can get very complex. An experienced lawyer will be able to guide you through it, making sure that you get the best possible outcome. Finally, you want to make sure that you find someone who understands the local laws. As we’ll discuss later, the way that you gain compensation can depend on state law.

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Hiring A Lawyer As Soon After The Accident As Possible

Once you’ve found the right lawyer, it’s important that you hire them shortly after the accident. This will present a few benefits. First, your memory of the incident will still be clear. This will ensure that you provide an accurate account of the crash. In addition, it will give them plenty of time to start preparing your case. In most cases, you will only have a limited number of days after the crash where you can file a claim. Your claim might not be valid if you don’t file it in time. This is known as the statute of limitations.  How long this period is will depend on the state in which you live.

How Your State Laws Affect The Settlement Process

As we mentioned earlier, it’s essential that you choose a lawyer with a lot of local experience. This is because the state laws will often affect the type of compensation that you can claim after a car accident. There are two types of insurance systems. You can either be a no-fault state or an at-fault state. Your lawyer will be able to help clarify which approach applies to you, based on the rules in your state. Let’s look at these two approaches and how they can influence the way that your lawyer proceeds with your claim.

No-Fault System

First, you might be part of the no-fault system. Under this approach, it doesn’t matter who caused the accident. This ensures that if you are the at-fault driver, you can’t be sued for damages.  In most cases, this will limit you to receiving a payout from your insurance company, getting the maximum amount listed in your policy. However, in rare cases of extreme injury or damage, you might be able to sue the other driver. Your lawyer will advise you further on this matter.

At-Fault System

In other states, you will need to use the at-fault system. In this case, you will be able to sue the at-fault driver. There are a few ways that you will be able to do this. For example, you might want to file a third-party claim with their insurance claim. Alternatively, you can sue the driver directly. This will allow you to make a claim for things like medical expenses, or pain and suffering. However, this can also present some risks. For example, the other driver will be able to launch a countersuit. This can be a problem if your actions made you partly liable for the accident. Because of this, your lawyer will often consider the situation before deciding whether to launch a suit against the other driver or their insurance company.

Basics Of Preparing An Insurance Claim

Once you’ve chosen your lawyer, you can start preparing to file a car accident insurance claim. Even if the other driver was at fault, your insurer should still be able to provide some compensation. For example, you might be covered by collision insurance, helping you pay for any damages to the vehicle. This will help you cope with the immediate expenses after the accident. Once your insurance company has provided compensation, they will turn to the at-fault driver, if applicable. They will be entitled to pay a portion of your fees. For example, they might need to pay for your medical expenses. There are various things that your lawyer might request to make sure that the process goes smoothly and you receive all the funds that you are entitled to.

Provide As Much Evidence As Possible

As mentioned, you should try to collect as much evidence as possible from the accident scene. Your lawyers will be able to use these documents to make sure that you have a strong claim. For example, they will be able to include photographs and other evidence to verify the crash. They will also need to use medical receipts and doctors' notes to certify that your injuries were caused by the accident.

Don’t Talk To The Insurance Company

It’s common for insurance companies to try to find ways to reduce the amount of money they need to pay in a car accident claim settlement. One of the ways they might do this is by having someone reach out to you after the accident. They will ask you a range of questions about your condition. They will often frame these questions in an attempt to get you to minimize the amount of damage that you received. They can then use this as evidence that your injuries weren’t as severe as you claimed. Because of this, they can argue that you are entitled to less money on your claim. To prevent this situation, your legal team will often recommend that you avoid talking to your insurance company unless your car accident lawyer is present.  

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Don’t Sign Any Documents Unless Your Lawyer Approves

Another potential technique that your insurance company might use is convincing you to sign a release. Often, this will be accompanied by a small payment of funds. This helps them limit the amount of compensation they need to provide. This can be very tempting, especially if you are in a bad financial position after the accident. However, once you sign the release, you won’t be entitled to further compensation. You also won’t be able to re-open the case. Because you’ve signed a legally binding document, your lawyer might not be able to undo the release. To make sure that you are protected, it’s recommended that you don’t sign any documents unless your lawyer has had the chance to inspect them first.

What Can You Claim For?

As your lawyer prepares your insurance claim, they will be trying to make sure that you get the maximum amount that you are entitled to. Let’s look at some of the things that you might be able to claim.

Property Damage

You might be able to get compensation for any property damage. In this case, you would be able to get any damage to your car repaired. If the damage is too severe, your car might be written off. If this is the case, you might be able to get the money required to purchase a replacement vehicle.

Medical Injuries

Another big aspect of your claim will be any medical injuries that you’ve incurred as a result of the accident. You will often be able to get reimbursed for any treatment that you’ve received from a doctor or a chiropractor. For this reason, you should make sure to keep any receipts that you’ve collected. If applicable, your lawyers might delay sending your claim, to make sure that all your medical expenses have been included. In some cases, it can take a long time before you are able to fully recover. In this case, your lawyers will need to consult with your doctors, getting a medical report. They might then need to estimate future costs. This can be very difficult if your condition will require life-long care.

Lost Wages

You are also entitled to any lost wages if you couldn’t return to work as a result of your injuries. The amount of lost wages that you will be able to receive varies. Often, it’s calculated based on the amount you could have expected to earn if you were working. For example, your lawyers might consider the number of days you couldn’t work and your typical hourly wage.

How Much Do Insurance Companies Pay For Pain And Suffering?

Another key part of your claim will be based on any pain and suffering that you incurred because of the accident. There are multiple aspects that can qualify for pain and suffering. For example, you might have suffered physical pain, caused by injuries. However, you might have also had mental health problems. For example, it’s common for people to feel more anxious about the prospect of getting behind the wheel again. You might also develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the experience.

One of the biggest challenges will be to prove that you’ve received pain and suffering. There are a few documents that can help with this. For example, your lawyer might use doctors’ records to show that the injury would have caused significant pain. For mental health issues, they might be able to use journals or the testimony of your friends and family. These sources can help prove that your mood or attitudes had changed.

The amount of pain and suffering that you can claim will vary. Often, this can be one of the most difficult parts of the claim for your car accident lawyer to assess, because it is so subjective. Generally, there are two methods that they might employ. First, they can take your medical expenses and multiply them, depending on the severity of the injury. For example, you can have a $5,000 injury, which caused mild pain. In this case, they might decide to multiply it by a factor of two, giving you $10,000 in pain and suffering. In other cases, your lawyers might determine a reasonable figure for each day of pain. For example, they might determine that you are entitled to $50 of pain and suffering per day. If it took you 20 days to fully recover, you could be able to claim for $1,000. The exact method used will depend on your unique situation and your car accident lawyer.

Filing A Letter Of Demand

Once your lawyer has finished this process, they will be able to file a letter of demand. There are several things that this should contain. First, it will have to describe your claim. This will include an account of any property damage that you received. It will also have to tell them about any injuries that you received. The car accident lawyer will also need to supply verifying evidence. The letter of demand will also need to state any damages that you are asking to receive. This letter and any supporting evidence will be sent to the insurance company.

The Negotiation Process Will Occur

Once the insurance company receives the letter of demand, it’s common for them to want to make a counteroffer to your lawyer. Acting on your behalf, the lawyer will respond, beginning the negotiation process.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Settlement For A Car Accident?

The length of the negotiation process will depend on several factors. For example, the complexity of the accident and the severity of the injury. It might also depend on how cooperative the insurance company will be. Generally, though, the insurance company should respond to the claim within 40 days. At the end of this time, they should tell you whether or not they’ve approved or denied the claim. If denied, you will be able to challenge the decision, launching a lawsuit. This will extend the settlement period even further. In some cases, it can take one or two years to resolve the matter. Thankfully, your lawyer will be able to keep you informed.

The Claim Is Accepted

In most cases, at the end of the negotiation process, the insurance company might choose to accept your car accident insurance claim. They will then pay the funds. Before you accept the settlement, your lawyer will advise you whether or not it’s a fair deal. If they think you should get more, they might want to appeal the matter to the claim’s adjuster. If you are in an at-fault state, your lawyer might start preparing a case against the at-fault driver at this time. We’ll look at how this process could work a little later.

The Claim Is Denied

In some cases, the insurance company might choose to deny your claim. At this point, your lawyer will need to take further action. They might choose to appeal the decision with the claim adjuster. If this doesn’t work, they might have to take the matter to court. Though this can extend the process, a good car accident lawyer will fight for your rights, making sure that you get the funds that you are entitled to.

The Mediation Process

After your claim has been denied, your lawyer will have to start preparing for a legal trial. Often, this will involve gathering more evidence and interviewing witnesses. The insurance lawyers may also get the chance to interview you about any injuries that you received. Often, the court will see if the issue can be sorted out through mediation before going to a trial.

How Does The Mediation Process Work?

During the mediation, you and your lawyer will be in one room. The insurance company’s lawyers will be in another. A mediator will move between the two parties, trying to sort out any disagreements. Though the mediator can’t order a settlement, they can make it easier to resolve any issues. It’s very rare for an insurance dispute to go to court. In most cases, you will get your car accident claim settlement during either the negotiation or the mediation phase.

How Does A Car Accident Lawsuit Work?

In some cases, your lawyer might want to take action against the at-fault driver. In order to do this, they will need to file a car accident lawsuit. This is typically a longer process than making an insurance claim. In some cases, it might be up to a year before your case goes to trial. Let’s look at some of the steps that this process might take.

Filing A Lawsuit

When filing a lawsuit, your car accident lawyer will need to include the damages you want. They will also have to set out the legal theory that you intend to use in order to prove your case. In some cases, you might need to consider the statute of limitations, which limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. Because of how complex this can be, you will need a high-quality car accident lawyer to make sure that everything is prepared correctly.

Response To The Lawsuit

Once you submit your lawsuit, the other team of lawyers will be able to respond. This will include an answer. In this section, they either admit or deny the accusations. They might also include a counter-claim, where they might claim that you were at fault, or share the responsibility, for the accident. Finally, they might introduce a cross-claim, where they claim that they shared the blame with other drivers.

Motion To Dismiss

There is a range of motions that can be filed before a case. However, one of the most significant might be the motion to dismiss. The other lawyer might try to argue that they shouldn’t have to provide any money to you. Your car accident lawyer will be able to put forward a strong defense. This can help defeat the motion, allowing the legal proceedings to move ahead.


It’s common for the courts to order the parties to try mediation. We discussed how this process works previously. In most cases, both lawyers will try hard during mediation, in order to avoid sending the matter to court. However, it’s not always possible to reach an agreement. In this case, the legal proceedings will need to continue.


As you prepare for the court proceedings, you’ll have to go through the discovery process. This allows both sides to find relevant information about the case. This can include sharing things like photographs, witness statements, and security footage. You might also have to testify at a deposition. This allows lawyers from both sides to question you, while a stenographer records your responses. If you are later unable to attend court, these responses can be used as evidence in the case. Your lawyer will be able to guide you through this process, making sure that you are prepared for the deposition.

Motion For Summary Judgement

After the deposition process, your lawyers might feel that they have provided overwhelming evidence to support your case. Because of this, they can apply for a motion for summary judgment. When this happens, the judge will be asked whether they can decide the case, without the need to go to a full trial. In some cases, the judges might be able to settle the matter and award you the funds. However, in other cases, there might still be some dispute around the key facts. In this case, the judge will deny the motion.


The final step of the process is to go to a trial. Though rare, your car accident lawyer should be prepared to state your case in a courtroom. Depending on the circumstances, you could be facing a bench trial, which is decided by a judge only. Or you could have a jury trial, where a jury will determine the outcome. In some cases, the at-fault driver’s lawyers might offer to settle the case before a jury returns its verdict. If you agree to the settlement, the case will be dismissed and no verdict will be returned.

A car accident can be a deeply unsettling event, often causing property damage and leaving you with injuries. The recovery process can often take a long time and cost a lot of money. In order to help you move on, it’s important that you get in contact with a skilled car accident lawyer. They will be able to make sure that you get the compensation that you deserve. As we’ve seen filing a car accident insurance claim can be a complex process, with many aspects to consider. However, when you choose an experienced lawyer, they will be able to guide you through it. So, make sure that you get the car accident settlement claim that you deserve.  Call for a Free Consultation today: 954-951-0000.

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