In this guide I will tell you some things you should do if you've just been involved in a car accident to make your claim run smoother.
Filing the claim.
If you were recently in a car accident, you will want to file a claim as soon as you can (after you've gone to the ER to get checked out, of course). If you have a copy of the accident report or if you exchanged insurance information with the other driver, you may set up a claim with their insurance company by phone or via the insurance company*s website. When this initial contact/report has been made, the insurance company will assign you a claim number and an insurance adjuster. An insurance adjuster is a person who investigates the claim on behalf of the insurance company. This person may offer you a low ball settlement offer right away in hopes of resolving the claim. I would caution against accepting a settlement offer made immediately after the accident as you may not know the full extent of your injuries yet. The adjuster may also want to take your statement regarding how the accident occurred. Occasionally, an insurance company will deny liability even when the police determine that the other driver is at fault. Do not let this discourage you from giving a statement; more often than not, the insurance company does accept liability when the fault is obvious. If the insurance adjuster starts asking about your injuries or physical symptoms, remember that this person is not your friend. Do not let the adjuster trick you into saying that you*re not hurt. If you intend to consult with or hire an attorney to represent you in your claim for injuries arising out of the accident, you should tell this to the adjuster. Any laws the other driver broke, whether they are criminal offenses or moving violations, will be prosecuted by the State.
How do I get my car fixed/replaced?
Most clients have little issue having their cars repaired or replaced following the accident. If the car is not totaled, and the at-fault driver*s insurance company accepted liability, the body shop you take your car to will probably seek payment directly from the insurance company. Other times, clients have gotten estimates and received checks in the amount of the estimate. If the car is a total loss, the insurance company will have to compensate you for what the car was worth. This figure is somewhat negotiable. You are free to make a counter offer to their estimate of what your car was worth. In fact, I encourage it. If you are able, do get pictures of your vehicle before it is repaired or towed away. If the insurance company denies liability, your attorney will have to file a lawsuit to get compensation for the property damage portion of your claim.
Seeking medical attention
Some people report to the emergency room immediately following the accident. Others do not feel hurt immediately after the accident, but wake up on pain the next day and report to a clinic or emergency room. This delay is believed to be caused by the adrenaline rush following the accident. I encourage clients to follow up with their primary care physician following the accident visit or the trip to the emergency room. It is important to seek medical care sooner, rather than later because insurance adjusters love to exploit *gaps in medical treatment*. Report any symptom you have to your physician early on, even if it appears minor because some injuries are discovered to be more severe later on. The primary care physician may refer you to physical therapy or an orthopedic physician. Personal Injury claims are medically driven. If you do not receive medical care, the insurance company will not accept that you are injured. You should continue treatment until your medical providers determine you are at maximum medical improvement. I discourage clients from settling cases before they are done treating.
If you have health insurance, use it.
It is a common misconception that the other driver*s insurance company will pay for your medical bills as you going along. This is false, the insurance company pays nothing until the case is settled. Many medical providers feed into this misconception by instructing patients that they will bill the auto insurance company due to a *third party liability* claim. They do this so they can bill the treatment at the higher, self-pay rate. Nebraska Revised Statute 52-401 states: **.For persons covered under private medical insurance or another private health benefit plan, the amount of the lien shall be reduced by the contracted discount or other limitation which would have been applied had the claim been submitted for reimbursement to the medical insurer or administrator of such other health benefit plan*.* If you have private health insurance, providers have to accept it as they would if there was no pending personal injury claim. Taking advantage of any discounts that private medical insurance companies will increase the amount of money that goes into your pocket when the personal injury case is settled. Some clients are reluctant to use their health insurance for medical treatment arising out of an accident because they feel that the other driver's insurance should be morally responsible.
Please note, the health insurance company may seek to be reimbursed for the amount they spent. If you decline to use your health insurance, the healthcare provider may bill you at a much larger "self pay" rate and file a lien against your settlement for this amount.
Managing out of pocket medical costs
Injured parties do not receive compensation until the claim is settled or litigated. Unfortunately, this can put injured parties in a tough spot while waiting for their claim to resolve. There are some ways to help cover the costs of medical treatment while the claim is pending. Many people have some sort *medical payments coverage* through their own insurance that can help cover uninsured medical expenses. This amount typically ranges from $500 to $5000. Some providers may accept a lien against your settlement in lieu of cash up front. Your attorney can discuss these options with you and your healthcare provider to prevent your medical bills from going into collections while your personal injury claim is pending. I absolutely advise against any type of *lawsuit loan* because these loans have astronomical fees and interest rates. In some cases, the interest accrued can exceed the principal of the loan in less than a year.
Your attorney's role in handling your personal injury claim.
Your attorney*s role in this process is to determine the amount of your damages, negotiate with the insurance adjuster, and maximize the amount of compensation that goes into your pocket at the end of the day. A lawyer experienced in handling personal injury cases like yours will have the insight to determine what your case is realistically worth. The attorney will gather the evidence to build your case, handle correspondence with the insurance adjuster, negotiate with lienholders to reduce and pay off medical bills, and represent you in court should your case require a lawsuit. It is important to communicate with your attorney regarding your medical treatment and any bills you receive so that they can accurately account for your damages. Because insurance companies begin evaluating your claim immediately, it is better to hire a lawyer sooner rather than later so they can make sure that the insurance company has the information necessary to fairly evaluate your claim early on.
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