Generally, collision claims are final. A car accident claim cannot be reopened after the agreement is signed, even if additional injuries or expenses occur. You only have one chance to negotiate a fair settlement, so it’s vital to understand the potential settlement range of your case before you begin.
The best way to know how much your case might be worth is to hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you. Car accident attorneys understand how to calculate the fair settlement value of a case and pursue fair compensation for their clients.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-451-7900
Collision Insurance Claim Settlement Agreements Are Final
When a crash victim signs a settlement agreement with an insurance company after a collision, this agreement is final. There are no options to reopen the claim or negotiate another settlement. Before the insurance company pays compensation for a claim, they will require the claimant to sign a waiver that releases them from any further liability in the crash. They will not issue payment until you sign this document.
Insurance companies use this arrangement to their advantage regularly. Some even send early settlement offers to crash victims, hoping they will agree and sign the paperwork before they realize how much their treatment costs and how much money their claim might be worth. This is just one tactic that insurance adjusters use to get collision victims to agree to a lowball payout.
Hire an Attorney to Protect Your Interests
Because you cannot go back for additional compensation after signing the paperwork and agreeing to a settlement amount, you should never sign anything from the insurance company without first discussing your options with a collision attorney in your area.
Hiring an attorney has many advantages.
A car accident lawyer who regularly handles accident cases can:
- Discuss the strength of your case and your legal options
- Help you understand the applicable state and local laws
- Learn as much as possible about your accident and injuries
- Help decide if a settlement offer is adequate
- Build a case to support your claim
- Calculate a fair settlement range for your case
- Protect your rights and fight against the insurance company
- Negotiate for a better payout
- Represent you to the insurance company or at trial if necessary
An attorney can also review the paperwork you will sign after negotiating an agreement on your behalf. This review helps ensure that the release used is fair and only waives your right to pursue additional compensation in this case. The agreement should not infringe on any other rights or opportunities.
Getting a Fair Settlement in Your Crash Case Is Vital to Your Well-Being
Since you cannot reopen a collision case after signing an agreement with the insurance company, the primary concern is that you will not get the money you need to pay your bills. For this reason, it is imperative that you understand your injuries, expenses, and losses before you agree to a payout. Without a fair settlement, you might have to pay for future care costs or other expenses on your own.
For some, covering these out-of-pocket expenses is impossible. You could be forced to miss important treatment or therapy, go without the equipment you need for accessibility or mobility, or sacrifice in other areas of your life. The cost of future or ongoing care puts the financial stability of many families at risk.
Putting a Financial Value on Your Case
In general, attorneys do not like to put a fair settlement range on an injury case until:
- The victim heals completely from their injuries, and the doctor releases them from care
- The victim reaches maximum medical recovery, which is the point where their injuries and abilities are unlikely to recover any further
- There is a good understanding of the victim’s prognosis, future care needs, and ongoing care costs
Without reaching one of these milestones, there is little basis for any value the attorney might assign to the person’s future expenses. Their physical recovery can also affect other damages in the case, such as time away from work or pain and suffering losses.
The only time this might not matter is when filing a no-fault claim in a state that requires personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. PIP policies often allow claimants to submit medical bills as they go without closing the claim. It is important to understand how your insurance policy works and if state laws will allow you to pursue additional damages in a fault-based case. An attorney can advise you on these topics and more.
How Do I Know How Much Compensation I Can Recover?
Because negotiating a fair value for your compensation is essential to your physical recovery, you need to understand the cost of your injuries, expenses, and losses. While this might sound simple, it involves a complex process that requires a certain amount of knowledge and experience with similar cases. In addition, a collision lawyer will likely have resources that an individual cannot easily access.
When you work with a lawyer after an accident, determining the fair settlement range of your case is a vital part of building support for your claim. An attorney will not demand compensation from the insurer without knowing what a fair offer should look like.
To determine the possible settlement range, an attorney can:
- Gather evidence such as bills, receipts, tax documents, and other paperwork
- Analyze the documents to determine expenses and losses to date
- Speak with experts to learn more about your prognosis, future care needs, and related costs
- Consider a fair value for pain and suffering damages
While you can likely add your to-date expenses and losses on your own, it is easy to overlook other economic and non-economic costs. Future damages are especially difficult to predict without a network of medical experts to help—and intangible losses like pain and suffering are almost impossible to accurately predict unless you have experience handling similar cases.
What Are My Options for Compensation After a Traffic Collision?
Your options for seeking compensation after a crash depend greatly on your location. Each state has unique car insurance laws that can significantly affect how your case proceeds.
Fault-Based Actions Are the Most Common
Most states require drivers to carry auto liability insurance policies. These policies cover the bodily injuries and property damage suffered by victims of an accident the policyholder caused.
When an accident occurs in one of these states, the victim can:
- File a claim based on the at-fault driver’s liability policy and negotiate for a fair settlement to cover their expenses and losses
- File a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in the local civil court
- File a claim and lawsuit concurrently
The victim’s attorney will develop an approach based on the facts of the case and other circumstances, then seek a settlement or trial award on their client’s behalf. Attorneys use sustainable case results and experience to guide these decisions on a case-by-case basis. Most personal injury cases settle out of court regardless of the attorney’s approach. However, going to trial is sometimes necessary to secure justice for the crash victim.
Some States Mandate No-Fault Insurance
Some states require no-fault auto insurance coverage, which could alter your options after a collision. For example, New York mandates personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for drivers.
This no-fault policy allows the policyholder to recover basic expenses and losses after a crash regardless of fault, such as:
- Medical bills
- A portion of their lost income
- Certain additional expenses, such as mileage for doctor visits
Still, these states generally have exceptions for some crash victims, allowing them to step outside the no-fault system and pursue a fault-based lawsuit under certain circumstances. These exceptions typically revolve around the severity of their injuries or the cost of their care and other damages, although this differs from state to state.
How Do I Prove My Case for Fair Collision Compensation?
Unless you are only seeking basic compensation through a no-fault claim, you will need to prove the other driver caused the crash and your injuries to recover money for your damages. Generally, accidents occur because of a driver’s carelessness or recklessness. The driver makes a mistake or misbehaves behind the wheel, causing the crash and leading to injuries.
In the legal world, this scenario is referred to as negligence. To recover compensation through a fault-based action, you need to show that negligence occurred and the other driver caused the crash.
The four elements to negligence are:
- A duty of care (usually created by a traffic law)
- A breach of that duty (often by violating the law)
- Injuries and financial harm
Gathering Evidence to Show What Happened
Knowing how to document what happened and who caused the crash is not always easy. Attorneys often take multiple steps to investigate what occurred and gather evidence to show the accused party’s liability.
This process could include:
- Requesting the crash report filed by law enforcement officers
- Surveying the accident scene
- Collecting physical evidence
- Interviewing eyewitnesses
- Working with accident reconstruction experts
- Obtaining relevant medical records
- Seeking photos from the scene or video footage of the crash
- Calling on medical experts as necessary
- Gathering documentation of recoverable damages
Once the lawyer gathers all available evidence, they analyze and organize it. They must present the evidence in a way that tells your story clearly and convincingly. By doing so, they show the insurance adjuster that they will not likely win at trial. Having strong support for the claim makes it much more likely the insurer will offer a fair settlement.
If the claim does not settle before a trial date arrives, the jury will hear the evidence and decide the case.
How Can a Car Crash Attorney Help Me Get the Money I Deserve?
Collision lawyers handle all aspects of a client’s case. From start to finish, they answer your questions, protect your rights, and fight for fair compensation on your behalf. You do not have to worry about leaving too much money on the table or settling your case too soon. When you trust your case to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney, you can focus on your physical recovery and other important tasks instead.
Some of the tasks that crash victims count on their attorney to handle include:
- Managing all communication with the insurance company
- Helping with no-fault claims for basic coverage when needed
- Determining the settlement range of the case
- Negotiating with the insurance adjuster or defense counsel
- Preparing and filing all necessary documents
- Investigating the case and gathering evidence
- Fighting for justice, accountability, and fair compensation
- Representing the client’s best interests at trial when necessary
Car accident attorneys use their knowledge of the law and experience with similar cases to help their clients get fair settlements and win verdicts. The primary goal is to recover the money their client needs to pay their bills, cover their losses, and manage their future care needs. Lawyers fight for these financial recoveries daily, both in negotiations with insurers and in court at trials.
Many Collision Attorneys Work on a Contingency Basis
Personal injury law firms in Long Island generally represent clients based on contingency. In other words, they do not charge clients any upfront fees. Instead, they take attorney’s fees as a percentage of the total payout in the case. With this arrangement, crash victims never need to pay their attorney’s fees out of pocket. If the law firm does not secure compensation or a financial award, they do not charge the client for their services.
What Should I Do to Increase My Chances of Getting a Fair Settlement?
Having an attorney by your side to handle your claim is the best way to protect your rights and seek fair compensation. Your lawyer should know how to deal with insurance companies, including investigating crashes and building cases.
Most Long Island personal injury law firms provide free consultations for victims who want to learn more about their legal options and how laws in their state affect them.