Every year thousands of people make an insurance claim after being in an automobile accident. A surprising number of your neighbors and people in your community have gone through the insurance claims process after an accident. Unfortunately, people who are involved in automobile accidents may end up speaking with as many as 5-10 different claims adjusters, body shop repairmen, and medical professionals in order to complete all their property damage repairs and settle their bodily injury claims with the insurance company. The entire process can be stressful and overwhelming.
But we have good news for you …
We have helped many clients with different types of automobile accidents including distracted drivers, intoxicated drivers, drunk drivers, impaired drivers, 18 wheeler tractor-trailer trucks, company trucks, highway road defects, and construction zone cases. In many cases, although the insurance company did not want to do the right thing by paying the full amount for all damages, we have been able to help accident victims against insurance companies like yours.
The Ongoing Struggle with the Insurance Industry
The insurance industry is part of the fabric of our lives: home, auto, RV, motorcycles, health, life, disability, and on and on and on. Once a consumer such as yourself becomes a customer who buys insurance, he/she has entered into a legal binding contract with the insurance company – the insurance company has received payment in exchange for accepting duties and obligations with respect to its insurer/policyholder. The same is true for the other driver and his/her insurance company.
Whether it is a personal vehicle or commercial vehicle, the insurance company for the other driver is at the helm of determining whether or not they will pay you for your claim, including medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering.
Car Accident Checklist
A countless number of friends and family have contacted our office after a car wreck in a panic asking what to do. So here’s our advice for you after a car accident:
- Stop immediately, but do not block traffic.
- Call the police, tell them about all aches, pains, and injuries.
- Get the names, phone numbers, and addresses of all drivers and witnesses.
- Get the make, model, license plate numbers, and insurance of all vehicles involved.
- Take pictures of the accident scene, injuries, and all the information above.
- Remain calm and courteous.
- Following the accident, make an appointment with your doctor.
- Do not post on social media about your accident.
- Do not accept any settlements at the scene of the accident.
- Notify your attorney as soon as possible. Bring all questions and concerns, so you may be guided through the next steps.
Car Accident FAQs
- Do you call your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company? Regardless of who was at fault, always report an accident to your insurance company.
- What coverages are available for your claim? There are several possible coverages under your insurance policy and each one will have unique benefits and compensations: Property damage liability, bodily injury liability, medical payments coverage, uninsured motorist coverage/underinsured motorist coverage.
- Do you have to sign the forms from the insurance adjuster? Before signing any paperwork with the insurance company, it is important to speak with an attorney so you do not forfeit any rights.
- How will your medical bills get paid? It depends on the type of claim you have. Injuries at work might be paid by workers comp, while a car accident claim might have your medicals covered by your insurance.
- How can you calculate how much your case is worth? It depends on a variety of factors.
- When should you speak to an attorney? Immediately after your accident.
Secrets to Handling Car Crash Claims Successfully
What Insurance Companies Don’t Want YOU to Know about Auto Accidents!
- What to do when you’ve been hurt in an accident.
- What coverages are available for your claim.
- What mistakes to avoid after your car accident.
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If the other driver was at fault, do you call your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company?
Regardless of who was at fault, you should always report an accident to your insurance company. Most, if not all, insurance policies require that you report a claim in order for the insurance company to defend and indemnify you should the other driver make a claim against you. Although you are notifying your insurance company of an accident, it does not necessarily mean you are making a claim with your insurance company.
After you report the claim to your insurance company, you should contact the other driver’s insurance company and make a claim with them. It is very important that you are consistent with your recollection of the facts, and that your explanation and details of the accident remain the same each time you explain the details of the accident. If your explanation of how the accident happened changes from one conversation to another, it may raise questions about liability and the determination of which driver is, “At fault.” This is why we highly recommend that drivers involved in an auto accident call our office first, as that may be the number one most important phone call they make after a wreck.
What coverages are available for your claim?
There are many elements to an accident claim, and each element can be attributed to a particular coverage under the terms of an insurance policy:
1. Property Damage Liability
Property damage coverage applies to the actual damage to your vehicle. If the other driver was solely at fault, then the other driver’s insurance company should pay you the fair market value of the damage to your vehicle, and you should not be responsible for paying your own deductible.
2. Bodily Injury Liability
Bodily injury coverage is for any physical injury you suffer from the wreck. If the other driver was solely at fault, the other driver’s insurance company should pay you for all necessary medical expenses. Unfortunately, much litigation ensues under this coverage – usually as a result of the injured person and the other driver’s insurance company disagreeing on what are necessary medical expenses. Importantly, if the insurance company agrees to pay for some but not all of your medical treatments, and you agree to settle the claim by signing a release agreement, or accepting funds from the insurance company in exchange for releasing the insurance company, then any outstanding medical costs or treatments you need in the future will not be covered by the other driver’s insurance company.
It is extremely important that you are completely healed and healthy (in the same condition after the accident as you were before the accident) before signing any paperwork with any insurance company, including your own. Signing paperwork too soon can result in losing your rights for full payment of medical expenses and treatments that are necessary for you to get better and return to the life you had before the wreck.
If you were forced to miss work as a result of getting hurt in a wreck, then the other driver’s insurance company may be responsible for paying you for lost wages, past, present, and future. Payments for medical expenses and lost wages are referred to as “Special Damages.”
There are additional elements of damages that may be available to you, such as loss of earning capacity, loss of consortium, loss of household services, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of use of an automobile, and gratuitous services performed by family members. Also, in Louisiana, the insurance company is responsible for paying “General Damages”, which include mental and physical pain and suffering. This claim is hotly contested by the insurance companies. It is very important that you speak with a trial attorney who is experienced evaluating claims and dealing with insurance companies in order to make sure you are receiving top dollar for your injuries. Otherwise, you will be short-changing yourself in the negotiations.
3. Medical Payments Coverage
Medical payments coverage helps cover medical expenses associated with a wreck. If you, your passengers, or any family members driving at the time of the wreck are injured, medical payments coverage can help protect you. It may also protect you or your family members if they’re injured in another car or as a pedestrian, depending on the terms in your policy.
4. Uninsured Motorist Coverage/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (“UM Coverage”)
Uninsured motorist coverage (“UM Coverage”) protects you if you’re in a wreck with an at-fault driver who does not carry liability insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage steps in when you’re in an accident with an at-fault driver whose liability limits are too low to cover the damage or medical expenses. Your insurance policy will list what coverages were in place at the time of the accident. You can contact your insurance agent or insurance company to request a copy of your policy to determine what coverages you have. As your attorneys, our office communicates with insurance companies regularly and will obtain a copy of any policies in effect at the for you in order to determine what coverages were in place at the time of the wreck to make sure we get the amounts needed to make you whole again.
Do you have to sign the forms you receive from the insurance adjuster?
There are many different types of forms the adjuster may give to you. Before signing any paperwork with the insurance company, it is important to speak with a trial attorney who has experience handling your type of claim and dealing with insurance companies, so you do not sign any forms prematurely and forfeit any rights that would limit your recovery for payment for any losses you have, such as medical expenses, wages, and pain and suffering.
How will your medical bills get paid?
This depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding your claim. If you were working in the course and scope of your employment at the time of the accident, worker’s compensation may pay for your medical treatment until you reach maximum medical improvement (“MMI”). Additionally, your insurance policy may include medical payments coverage. If you suffered an injury from the accident, your insurance may pay for your medical treatment under the medical payments coverage, but these payments will be capped to the amount of the coverage. You may also use your health insurance to pay for medical treatment. There are certain guidelines for each health insurance policy, such as in network/out of network providers, deductibles, medically necessary treatment. You can refer to your health insurance policy and/or your human resources department at your work to determine the details of your health insurance policy. You can also speak with someone in our office to discuss the options available to you to get your medical bills paid.
The laws in Louisiana are strict on lawyers loaning money to clients; however, in certain circumstances, a lawyer may advance medical expenses for a client. It is important you speak with an attorney to evaluate all the available options to pay for your medical bills because it is very important that you seek medical treatment immediately following an accident. It is also very important to follow your medical providers’ instructions if you suffered an injury from an accident.
How can you calculate how much your case is worth?
The value of your case depends on many different factors.
The first factor includes medical bills from your accident. You will not know how much those bills are in total until you are finished with your treatment, and your body has healed.
Next, you may be entitled to recover your “lost wages,” which are the amounts of money you lost because you were unable to work as a result of the accident. This calculation could include long term lost wages if the injury prevents you from doing your job any more in the future. For example, if you work in construction lifting heavy objects, but you are no longer able to lift more than 10 pounds, then you may be restricted from doing your regular job. In that circumstance, if you were restricted as a result of the accident, you will be limited in what capacity that you may return to work. We have helped many clients in similar circumstances, and have been able to obtain financial awards to compensate our clients for their inability to earn future wages from their jobs before the accident.
There are additional elements of damages that may be available to you, such as loss of earning capacity, loss of consortium, loss of household services, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of use of an automobile, and gratuitous services performed by family members. Each of these items is entirely dependent upon the facts and circumstances specific to your claim. Additionally, you may receive money for property damage, such as the damage to your vehicle.
Even after all those numbers are added up, there’s no mathematical formula that can be used to determine the exact value of your case. Each and every case is different. The people dealing with your case, such as the other driver’s insurance company or the jury may have different judgments on its value. You should speak to an experienced trial attorney about your case to learn more. Be wary if an attorney “guarantees” how much you will receive for your case. No attorney can guarantee results for a case at its inception. Each case is unique and different. A proper evaluation of the claim cannot be made without investigating all the facts.
Our attorneys take great pride in becoming experts on our clients’ facts and medical condition, as well as the law that applies to our clients’ cases. Our attorneys have been able to obtain maximum results for our clients because of our ability to become intimately familiar with the facts, law, and medicine for each of our clients’ cases.
When should you speak to an attorney?
IMMEDIATELY after an accident. It can be the single most important phone call you make after a wreck. Selecting an attorney is a very important decision. It is a personal decision that should be made by you and your family. It is important that you feel comfortable with whomever you hire to represent you. When speaking with an attorney, you should ask what kind of experience he/she has dealing with accident insurance claims, and the types of claims he/she primarily handles. It is important not only to speak with a lawyer, but to speak with a lawyer who has experience handling cases similar to yours.
Make sure to ask the attorney about his/her experience litigating and trying cases similar to yours, as well as the types of results he/she has obtained for past clients. Do your homework to see if the attorney has been reviewed by other clients, and what other attorneys in the community say about that attorney.
There are many steps for handling an insurance claim from start to finish. The process can be overwhelming and stressful. Our role as your attorneys is to walk you through each step to take the burdens and pressures off your shoulders. There are many steps from opening a claim, to negotiating a claim, from filing a lawsuit, to going to trial. The majority of cases nowadays do not actually go to trial. However, for the insurance company to perform a proper evaluation of your claim, it is important that your attorneys are prepared to go to trial in case the insurance company does not do the right thing. We go to trial on a regular basis, so we have no fear of filing your claim and proceeding to litigation. Make sure that whomever you hire to handle your case feels the same way.
It is important to speak with a seasoned and experienced trial attorney who has handled claims similar to yours so that you will have a strategy and plan for each step of the claims process and eventual litigation if the insurance company does not do the right thing.