car accident wasn't my fault. With my job, I don't have time to see a lawyer. How do I proceed to settle on my own?
You are playing with fire. Meeting with an attorney takes about 30 minutes is all. I think I am not the only attorney who will do after hour appointments or simply mail you the forms, to get things started.
If the accident happened in Kentucky, you need to see if a no-fault claim has been open. If it has, they are responsible for your medical bills up to $10,000. Makes sure all your medical bills have been paid by that insurance carrier, the no-fault carrier, before settling the claim. If the bills are over $10,000, they will be part and have to be paid of your personal injury settlement. Second, make sure if you do decide to settle this claim that the release you sign indicates that it is exclusive of the no-fault lien. You want to be clear that your personal injury settlement does not encompass any of the bills paid by that insurance carrier. Also, understand that if some other entity, for example health insurance, has paid some of your medical bills, they have a lien against your settlement. Lastly, understand that you don't have to settle the claim yet. Legally, the statute of limitations for an automobile accident is two years from the date of accident, for accidents happening in Kentucky. I would suggest you give it some time and make sure you are completely healed. I tell all of my clients a silly example when we settle their personal injury claim. I tell them that they go back to the doctor tomorrow and their doctor tells them that they are going to go blind in their right eye because of the automobile accident. It does not matter how severe of an injury it was or when it was discovered, if they have signed a release with the insurance carrier they can not recovery one cent more.
With all that being said and if you are persistent on settling the claim, Mr. Harville is right that lawyers tend to recover greater amounts than non-represented individuals. If you are going to do this without an attorney, you will need to get all your medical bills, medical records and lost wages to the at-fault insurance company. If you want, you can sign an authorization wherein they can get this material but I do not recommend it. Once they have all the documents and have reviewed the material, usually 30 to 60 days, they will make a first offer. Keep in mind that anything you say to the insurance company can be used against you later on. There is no kind of privilege for information obtained during settlement negotiations.
The insurance company settles claims all of the time. If you have recovered from your injuries and only have a few medical bills you could listen to their offer. Some insurance companies will be fair, most not. So listen to their offer and meet with a lawyer to discuss. A lesser settlement now as opposed to a higher settlement down the road may be to your advantage.
It is hard to believe that you have no time to meet with a lawyer. Most lawyers who handle personal injury matters will be flexible with their time so that if you only meet early in the morning or later at night or even on the weekends, they can usually accommodate you. You have too much to lose, to consider doing this without consulting an experienced personal injury attorney.
Find the time. You need professional representation. The insurance company has professionals and will try to settle for as little as possible. You need to consult with a personal injury attorney to assist you in getting a fair settlement. Personal injury attorneys typically handle cases on a contingency fee basis and give free consultations. Use the Find a Lawyer tab on Avvo to find one in your area. Best of luck to you...
THESE COMMENTS MUST NOT BE CONSIDERED LEGAL ADVICE. Comments made on websites such as Avvo.com are provided for information purposes only, and you should not base a decision to act or refrain from acting based upon this answer. The only way to determine how the law may apply to your particular situation is to consult with an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. Answering this question does not create an attorney-client relationship or otherwise require further consultation. . That relationship is established by the execution of a written agreement for legal services. Also, see Avvo's terms and conditions of use, specifically item 9, incorporated by this reference.
If you are asking how to settle the claim here on Avvo.com, you are obviously in over your head and most likely will be taken advantage of as an unrepresented claimant. If you needed surgery, would you do it at home yourself, in your kitchen, with a butter knife and mirror or would you hire a surgeon? The same reasoning applies to a legal claim. The sole goal of any insurance carrier is to pay you nothing or as little as possible on any claim. They are neither your friend nor your good neighbor and they will take advantage of you when you are unrepresented.
You should obtain needed medical care and treatment immediately and follow the doctor's advice. Do not give any statement to the adverse party or insurance company nor grant them access to any medical records. Photograph the injuries and the damage done to any property. Contact a personal injury attorney in your area as soon as possible so that you can protect your rights. You may also find it helpful to review the Legal Guides I have published on Avvo.com dealing with many of the issues you are now facing. The Guides can be accessed through my profile page on Avvo.com.
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Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
The first answer is yes. The second answer has been fairly well vetted by my fellow posters. There's an old saying that goes along the lines of " Only a fool has himself for a client ". What it is saying holds true in the majority of personal injury claims against insurance companies by someone who seeks no legal counsel. You would be at an extreme disadvantage.
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