Thousands of people get in their cars every day, and everyone on the road is at risk of an accident. Even a low-speed collision can do serious harm, sometimes leading to serious or even life-threatening injuries such as traumatic brain injuries. If you suffered injuries due to another driver’s negligence, you can seek compensation.
To go after compensation, you must establish a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, and sometimes also in court. The legal process can be complex. This blog post describes some of the steps you need to take to get paid after a car accident.
What Do You Need to Do to Get Paid After a Vehicle Collision?
Some states have at-fault rules in place, where the person who caused the accident is responsible for paying all the costs related to the accident, usually through their auto insurance coverage. In no-fault states, on the other hand, each driver’s insurance company pays for their own medical claims up to a certain amount, regardless of who was responsible for causing the accident. In no-fault insurance systems, accident victims are only allowed to sue for additional damages in certain circumstances.
If you have been in a vehicle collision, reach out to a car accident attorney to understand the rules in your state. Particularly if you have suffered severe injuries, a lawyer can advocate for you as you navigate the claims process. Insurance companies often try to find ways to pay you less than you deserve or deflect the blame from their insured.
Most Cases End in a Settlement
In most cases, vehicle accident claims end in a settlement before a trial takes place. Insurance companies generally want to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. Often, the plaintiff and the defendant are interested in settling, as well.
Trials can be unpredictable, while settlements provide certainty. Victims don’t risk losing all reimbursement, and defendants avoid the risk of a massive verdict. If you settle a claim, you can often receive compensation sooner and avoid paying for litigation costs.
As mentioned previously, insurance companies want to pay the injured party as little as possible. You should not agree to any settlement until you understand the extent of your losses. Wait until the other person’s insurance company provides an offer for a fair amount of compensation for those losses. An attorney can help make sure you receive reasonable compensation for your injuries.
The Process of Filing a Lawsuit
Some claims go to court instead of settling. Lawsuits are most often necessary if there is a dispute about who is responsible for the accident or the extent of the victim’s injuries or losses.
A basic timeline of a car accident case is as follows:
- Seek medical treatment. The first step a person should take after an accident is to seek medical treatment. This both protects your health and creates a record of your injuries. Once you see a doctor, keep track of any medical records and bills related to the accident.
- Consult an attorney. Those who suffer a significant injury should always seek help from a lawyer. The lawyer will interview you about the accident and your injuries and gather evidence for your claim. Then, they will work to negotiate a settlement with the other party or take the case to court, if necessary.
- File a lawsuit. If you decide to file a lawsuit, you will need to do so before the statute of limitations expires. Your lawyer will file a complaint against the other party and the lawsuit officially begins.
- Serve a copy of the complaint. The injured party serves a copy of the complaint on the defendant. The at-fault party has about a month to file an answer. However, they may file a motion to dismiss before answering.
- Discovery. Each side will request and exchange information about potential evidence in the case. The attorneys will take depositions from all relevant parties and witnesses.
- The trial. After the discovery phase, the trial will occur. A trial is often the shortest step in the process, and will conclude with a ruling on the case from the judge or jury.
How Long Does It Take to Receive Payment?
Each case is different, so the time it takes to settle varies from case to case. While some injured people settle with the other party’s insurance company quickly, others may end up waiting months or years to receive compensation if settlement negotiations draw out or the case goes to trial. Litigation can take time, and some court calendars book out for many months.
What You Can Do With Your Settlement Check
After a favorable trial outcome or settlement, compensation takes the form of either structured settlement payments or a lump sum payment. Defendants pay structured settlements in regular intervals, and lump sums all at once.
If you hire a law firm, the firm collects the settlement or court award and issues your portion (minus any medical debt and attorney’s fees) to you in the form of a check. They provide an itemized list of deductions and then send you the remaining amount.
The IRS may tax some portions of your award or settlement, such as if you receive punitive damages. Ask your attorney for help understanding what you will need to pay in taxes before finalizing a settlement.
If you have any questions regarding how to get paid after a car accident, reach out to a car accident attorney today.