Settling a Personal Injury Claim with an Insurance Company
Even if you’ve decided to hire a car accident lawyer or file a personal injury lawsuit, you may still end up settling your claim out-of-court. In fact, many personal injury lawsuits are settled before going to trial.
You’ll need to be careful to follow the insurance company’s procedures for filing a claim and proving your damages. Let’s look at the important steps and the process and how to seek the best possible settlement.
Gather Your Evidence
Ideally, you would have documented evidence at the scene of the accident.
All of the following pieces of evidence could help your case:
- Photos of damaged property or injuries
- Names and contact information of all parties
- Statements and contact information from witnesses
- The car accident report from the police
If you weren’t able to collect all of this evidence, gather whatever you have and make your own notes about any details of the accident you can remember. You’ll likely need to repeat your story several times, so writing it down can make sure you don’t leave out any critical details.
Contact Your Insurance Company
You should contact your insurer promptly to inform them of an accident. Each insurance company has its own policies about how long you have to report an accident, and they may deny your claim if you take too long to notify the insurance company.
They may ask for a copy of the police report (if you have one) or other proof of the accident or your injuries. Make sure you submit all of the required information to officially file your claim.
Talk to an Oklahoma City Personal Injury Lawyer
Before you talk to the opposing party’s insurance company, you should discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer. Request a free consultation to make sure you’ve covered your bases and aren’t making any mistakes that could hurt your potential settlement offer. An experienced car accident lawyer will know the ins and outs of the insurance claims process.
They can explain concepts you may not be familiar with, such as:
- The different types of damages you may seek compensation for
- How the insurance company will evaluate your settlement claim
- How the litigation process works if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit
Your lawyer can also prepare you for the next step in the insurance claims process: sending a demand letter to the insurance company.
Write Your Demand Letter
Your demand letter is a formal request for compensation from the insurance company. It should clearly spell out each type of damage and the financial compensation you are requesting.
You may seek compensation for several types of damages, such as:
- Medical expenses for your injuries
- Property damage to your vehicle
- Lost wages or loss of earning capacity because you can no longer perform your job duties
- Non-economic damages for pain and suffering
If you have long-term injuries from your accident, you’ll need to account for the cost of continuing medical treatment in your demand letter as well.
Receive the Response to the Demand Letter
The insurance company will respond with its initial settlement offer. Two major issues can determine your settlement offer: (1) who was at fault for the accident; and (2) the compensation award for each type of damage.
Comparative Fault Laws in Oklahoma
If you are filing a claim with another party’s insurance company, the insurer will investigate who was at fault for the accident. Oklahoma follows a modified comparative fault rule. This could impact your settlement offer if you were partly at fault for the accident.
Under Oklahoma statute §23-13, If you were 50% or more at fault for the accident, you won’t be entitled to recover compensation for your damages. However, if you were less than 50% at fault, you can recover the cost of your damages minus your percentage of fault.
For example, if you suffered $100,000 in damages and were 20% at fault for the accident, your damages would be reduced by $20,000, leaving you with $80,000 for your injuries.
Insurance companies have software programs that calculate the value of each type of damages. Some types of damages are straightforward, but others have a subjective component.
Pain and suffering damages are some of the hardest to calculate and can vary widely if your case ends up going to trial. Oklahoma statute §23-61.2 also limits the total amount of pain and suffering damages a jury can award to $350,000 unless a statutory exception applies.
Make a Counter-Offer
Insurance companies will often make a low initial offer to settle your claim. Their business model requires them to try to settle claims as inexpensively as they can, so don’t be surprised if the first offer comes up short of what you’ve asked for.
Review the offer for the following details:
- Check each category of damages and how the insurance company calculated the compensation for each type of injury
- Look for which types of damages are being undervalued
- See if the insurance company is disallowing any type of damage due to inadequate evidence of the injury
If you have additional evidence that wasn’t sent with your original demand letter, you can send this with your counter-offer. You can resubmit an offer for the same amount you initially requested, or you can offer to accept a lower offer.
Decide Whether to Settle or Litigate
You may negotiate back-and-forth with the insurance company several times as you attempt to reach a fair settlement. At some point, you’ll receive a final offer and have to decide whether to accept it or deny it and move forward with a personal injury lawsuit.
There are many factors you’ll need to weigh when deciding whether to litigate your case, such as:
- Whether you’d prefer the certainty of a settlement offer or the unpredictability of a potential award from a jury
- The time and energy required to move forward with a lawsuit
- How the close the settlement offer is to your desired settlement amount
If you do decide to take your case to court, it’s still possible to reach a settlement later on, before your case is sent to a jury.
Get Help With a Personal Injury Settlement
If you’re intimidated or confused by the insurance settlement process, a personal injury lawyer can help. A lawyer can explain the settlement process and help you seek the best possible settlement for your injuries. Contact McGuire Law Firm to request your personal injury case evaluation.