Car accidents happen every day. It’s estimated that around three million people are injured in car accidents on an annual basis. Where there are injuries in car accidents, there are car accident injury claims.
Earning fair compensation for an injury is a long, complicated process – even with a skilled attorney. If you’re wondering how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer, we won’t say it’s impossible. But, it will be very, very difficult – especially on top of your recovery process.
Car accident claims not involving an injury are relatively straightforward. Most of the time, everything can be sorted out with insurance companies. When the accident does involve an injury, there are many more hoops to jump through – most of which necessitate legal assistance.
In this post, we want to discuss the nature of car accident injuries, your path to earning fair compensation, and what it might look like with (and without) an attorney.
What Damages Can You Recoup in a Car Accident Injury Claim
If you’ve been injured in a car accident (that wasn’t your fault), you may be entitled to compensation for a range of damages. Claim compensation for a car accident will be grouped into two different categories.
1. Economic Damages
Economic damages are easy to add up. These damages refer to the expenses incurred with a clear dollar amount attached. These damages usually account for:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Future medical treatment estimates
- Lost wages
- Compromised earning potential
- Permanent disability/disfigurement
2. Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are a bit more subjective – as there are no receipts or tangible estimates. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering damages
- Decreased quality of life
- Loss of love/companionship
Now, adding up non-economic damages is no easy task and can be done a number of ways. For instance, this can be done using a “multiplier method” where you’ll need to measure the severity of your pain and suffering on a scale of 1.5 to 5, with 5 being the worst. From here, you’ll need to add up all the economic damages, then multiply it by that number.
Say your economic damages add up to $100,000 – and you rate pain and suffering as a 4. This means your car accident injury claim for non-economic damages will be $400,000.
Now, adding up non-economic damages is easy to do on your own. Negotiating a settlement with insurance companies is virtually impossible without a skilled car accident attorney.
How Car Accident Damages Are Paid Out
When you negotiate a car accident injury claim, your goal is to earn a specified amount of money to cover your injury, property damage, and everything else that factors in. Most claims are settled out of court.
But who pays for damages in a car accident?
The at-fault party’s insurance company will be paying out the damages. Usually, you and the insurance company will agree to a car accident settlement to avoid taking the case to trial. These are typically paid out in two ways:
1. Lump-Sum Car Accident Settlement
A lump sum settlement is a single payment shortly after an agreement is reached.
2. Structured Car Accident Settlement
A structured settlement means payments are made in increments over several months or years. These payments can vary in size based on the terms of the settlement.
How Car Accident Injury Claims Work
A car accident injury claim has many layers. Trying to navigate them on your own will be an extremely difficult process, especially if you’ve never done it before. The good news is you don’t technically need an attorney to manage the first couple of steps – but it would definitely help. The main components of this process involve:
Evidence is the meat and potatoes of your car accident injury claim. This is what attributes liability to the at-fault party. As a baseline, evidence should include:
- The police report
- The at-fault driver’s information (name, address, license plate number, insurance information)
- Documentation of the accident
- Pictures of the scene
- Pictures of your injury
- Contact information for witnesses
- Witness statements
- Receipts and records of all damages
Adding up damages
To echo a previous point, you’ll need to tally up the damages from the car accident, both economic and non-economic. This will form the basis of your car accident injury claim. You don’t technically need a lawyer to do this, but a car accident attorney will make sure you’re not leaving anything on the table.
Once all damages are calculated, the next step is to send a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance company. Now the process gets kicked into high gear.
Negotiating with insurance companies
The most difficult part of the car accident injury claim process is negotiating your demand with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Even if the other party was clearly liable for the accident, their insurance company will do everything possible to avoid paying out your claim.
You can certainly negotiate with insurance companies without an attorney on your side. However, earning a fair settlement will be extremely difficult.
What Happens When You Negotiate Without An Attorney?
Negotiating with insurance companies is rarely a painless process. Both your insurance company and the at-fault party’s have a primary goal to protect their bottom line. Your welfare, feelings, and physical health aren’t even on their radar.
In most cases, insurance companies won’t even take you seriously if you’re representing yourself. Moreover, they have all sorts of tricky tactics to short-change unsuspecting victims. Some of the common ones include (but are not limited to):
Using your words against you
Claims adjusters have an arsenal of verbal weapons to pin blame on you – and minimize the amount they have to pay out. This may involve asking a series of manipulative questions designed for you to admit fault.
Never say anything that might imply you were to blame. This includes:
- Being overly detailed in responses
- Discussing your injuries
- Voicing your opinion on the accident
There are many things you can say to insurance companies that will compromise your car accident injury claim. Choose your words carefully. Only state the facts, nothing more.
Pressuring you into recorded statements
This is a very common tactic used by insurance companies. If you give a recorded statement, the insurance company will study this backward and forwards to pinpoint anything they can use against you. They may even try to edit the tape to put you at fault. This is rare, but you’d be surprised what insurance companies will do to get out of paying a fair settlement.
You are not legally obligated to provide a recorded statement. The insurance company might try to convince you otherwise – don’t fall for it.
Delaying the process intentionally
You’ll almost certainly run into this issue when you try to negotiate your car accident injury claim alone. To reiterate, insurance companies probably won’t take you seriously without an attorney. They know you’re struggling with injuries and financial hardships. Insurance companies have no problem avoiding your calls and dragging their feet in hopes you’ll accept a low-ball settlement – or simply give up.
Saying you don’t need a lawyer
A skilled personal injury lawyer is the arch-enemy of insurance companies. They know they will likely need to provide a higher settlement when they are dealing with an attorney. That said, they have no problem discouraging you from seeking proper legal defense.
Hiring an attorney is your choice – and it’s the smartest choice you’ll make in the car accident injury claim process.
The Benefits of Hiring a Skilled Car Accident Attorney
Settling a car accident claim without an attorney will be an uphill fight – there’s no sugarcoating it. When you hire a specialized car accident lawyer, you immediately increase your chances of earning fair compensation.
Here are a handful of reasons to seek one out:
Car accident attorneys work on a contingency fee agreement
First and foremost, let’s talk about fees.
Many people choose to represent themselves because they don’t think they can afford legal help. The truth is ANYONE can afford to hire a car accident lawyer – even if they don’t have two pennies to rub together.
This is because these attorneys operate on a contingency fee agreement. In other words, they make a percentage of the total settlement paid out – and they won’t ask for anything upfront.
They will negotiate for every single penny you deserve
If you’re trying to negotiate a car accident injury claim for the first time, there’s a good chance you’ll miss some details. These details may impact the total settlement you earn. Experienced injury lawyers know everything that goes into building a strong claim. They will make sure you don’t leave any stone unturned.
You will not end up with an unfair settlement
The tricky tactics insurance companies use on victims will not work on skilled lawyers – and they know it. Your attorney will fight tooth and nail to earn fair compensation and will make sure you don’t get taken advantage of in the process.
You can focus on your recovery
Your recovery after a car accident is the most important thing. Trying to pair this with the legal process won’t likely end well. Once you provide your attorney with the proper information, you can focus solely on your recovery. They will handle everything else.
The Next Move
To sum it all up, negotiating a car accident injury claim without an attorney is possible. However, the end result probably won’t be favorable. You deserve compensation for all damages incurred from the accident.
The worst thing that could happen is you end up responsible for all medical expenses, lost wages, and everything else – not to mention lingering injuries. Hiring an experienced attorney to manage your car accident injury claim is the smartest move you can make.
Now, we understand this process can be intimidating. That’s why we always encourage people to chat with us in a no-obligation consultation. We’re happy to talk about your concerns and determine what the next steps are. Call Midwest Injury Lawyers at (312) 786-5881 or send us a message online.