Despite what you may see on TV, most people injured in accidents aren’t awarded vast sums of money from lawsuits. In fact, most personal injury cases never even reach the courtroom. In either case, your odds of reaching a fair settlement will depend on the steps you take following an injury.
#1 Track your medical expenses. Submit your medical bills to your own auto or health insurance company for payment. Track what you submitted and what was paid. Your own insurance company typically will pay those expenses and negotiate with the at-fault insurance company for reimbursement. Occasionally, the at-fault insurance company will pay you so you can reimburse your insurance company directly.
#2 Track wage loss. You will need verification of what you missed because of the accident. Your insurance company will not cover lost wages resulting from an accident, so you’ll need to track them independently to seek compensation from the injuring party’s insurance company.
#3 Note overall effect. When you approach the insurance company, be prepared to tell them the nature of the injuries and how they affected daily life. Did they affect your ability to handle household chores, care for your family, exercise or manage other daily activities? Again, this is something that your insurance company won’t cover.
#4 Talk to the insurance company. Armed with the information above, talk with the injury source’s insurance company to try to resolve your claim. If you’re not permanently or long-term disabled, you can resolve a lot directly on your own.
#5 Run the settlement by a personal injury lawyer. Even if you have your records organized, it can be difficult to put a value on the personal cost of the injury to you. A half-hour consultation with a personal injury lawyer can help you assess how claims like yours are usually valued and give you a sense for whether the settlement offered is a fair one. If your injury is severe or carries long-term implications, definitely consult with an attorney before going to the insurance company on your own.
When you do hire a personal injury lawyer, it doesn’t necessarily mean your case will go to court. Many times the cases can be settled through mediation.