If you have never been a motor vehicle accident that resulted in having to file a suit against the at-fault driver, then you still have time to learn: Dont screw up your auto accident settlement. That may seem harsh, but sometimes you can innocently mess up your chances of receiving what you should in the settlement.
I asked a group of folks for what they had learned when they went through the auto accident settlement process. The advice covered what to do at the accident scene, what and how to document everything, how to deal with the other guys insurance company, and when it may be time to hire an attorney.
Here are the top 10 bits of hard-earned wisdom:
1. While at the accident scene: call for medical assistance immediately if anyone is injured. Remain at the scene of the accident. 2. Get information concerning the time, place, date, location, as well as the other drivers auto license number and driver’s license name and number. Write everything down!!! Get names and phone numbers of witnesses and passengers. 3. Take pictures at the scene of the accidentof everything; your vehicle, the other vehicle involved, the area the accident happened in, and any personal property that may have been damaged in your vehicle. If the police are there, point out what is damaged to them or to the witnesses. 4. Contact your insurance company and be sure to get the claim number assigned to the case. If the police are called, get a copy of the report and DO NOT sign or admit any guilt. 5. DO NOT ADMIT CAUSE. Don’t admit to doing anything. Even if you think it was your fault, don’t say it to anyone at the scene of the accident. 6. Document everything. If you miss work or school, document the days you missed, the reasons why you missed, and what that day was worth to you financially. Have it signed by someone in authority at work or school. 7. Be sure, if you are injured, to seek medical attention. Keep a journal and record the names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, hospitals and clinics. Record the date and reason for each office visit. Make an entry every day in the journal describing any sort of physical, mental or emotional problem you experience which may have been caused by the accident. 8. If the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, do not respond. Send their correspondence to your insurance company or attorney, and let them respond on your behalf. 9. Don’t settle for just whatever the insurance company tells you they will pay for the damages to your vehicle or property. 10. If there is a significant amount of money involved, consider hiring a lawyer.
Heres what a couple of folks learned, in their own words:
“I was in an auto accident 3 years ago and I got a settlement. It was not as much as I should have received, but I got all I could. The one thing I learned is that since my major medical insurance paid my medical bills, they had a lien on my settlement. If I had not taken the person to court that was at fault, my major medical insurance company would have gotten the settlement instead of me. Consult with a car accident attorney as soon after an accident as possible so that you know your rights.”
“One thing I have learned from being in an auto accident is that one must remain firm with the other driver’s insurance company. They will try to play games and push time limits etc. Stay on them. Keep track of the times you called and who you spoke to. Then if you have to file a complaint with the Department of Insurance (which we did) or seek the assistance of an attorney, then you have proof of your attempts to communicate and their unwillingness to help.”
If you will follow the advice of those who have “been there done that” then theres a good chance you wont screw up your auto accident settlement.