This guide will walk you through the five main steps of an auto accident case from start to finish.
Step 1: COVERAGE.
First, send a letter of representation to the at-fault party's insurance company to confirm that they had active or valid insurance coverage to compensate damages to you and your vehicle. If problems at this stage arise - for instance, if there was no valid coverage or if the coverage is insufficient - you should contact a personal injury attorney at once to discuss your options.
Step 2: LIABILITY.
Once coverage has been confirmed, the insurance company will investigate liability. Another word for liability is fault. You should immediately request the police report and use it to prove that the other driver was the person at fault for the accident. In most cases, this is very clear in the police report. In some cases, if liability is not clear, you should consult with an attorney who can do an independent investigation and present additional evidence to the insurance company to prove the other driver caused the accident.
Step 3: DEMAND.
It is extremely important that you continue your medical treatment plan as decided by you and your doctor. Once you have completed your medical treatment, you will need to gather all of your medical records and bills, wage loss documentation, out-of-pocket expenses, and other documented damages to send in a Demand Package to the insurance company. The Demand Package should include a clearly-worded Demand Letter with a proposed settlement amount.
Step 4: SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS.
Once a demand package is sent and the insurance company reviews it, the insurance company will likely respond with a counter offer to settle your claim. You can respond to the insurance company by accepting the offer, or rejecting it and proposing a new counter offer. In a typical case, this process will happen several times before you reach a number that fairly and reasonably compensates you (i.e., covers your medical bills and leaves you with monetary compensation for your pain and suffering).
Step 5: SETTLE OR SUE
If you accept a settlement offer, you will need to sign some documents (typically a release of claims) and the insurance company will send you a settlement check. If you cannot reach an agreeable settlement amount with the insurance company, then you should consult with an attorney to discuss whether filing a formal lawsuit is right for you.
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