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How Do Car Accident Settlements Work?

Being hurt in an auto accident brings a lot of stress. Even once your injuries are healing, you still have to deal with insurance claims and pursue compensation. Understanding how car accident settlements work can help alleviate your stress.

Working with a car accident lawyer ensures you know what to expect and have someone experienced with these cases fighting for your best interests. When you trust our injury lawyers with your case, our knowledge and skills are the best resources to help you get the settlement you deserve.

What Factors Affect the Car Accident Settlement Process?

How your car accident settlement will work depends on several factors. Florida’s car accident laws are complex. Some factors that could affect this process include:

  • The severity of your crash injuries
  • The cost of your medical treatment and care
  • Whether you pursue a no-fault or fault-based settlement
  • If there are questions of fact related to the accident case
  • Whether you are working with a car accident lawyer
  • How the insurance adjuster handles your claim

Most crash victims lack the knowledge and experience to instantly understand and navigate the claims process without guidance. While it is possible, and many people manage it, it is generally very time-consuming and stressful. This is especially true if you are still undergoing care and recovering from serious injuries.

How No-Fault Car Accident Settlements Work

Florida car insurance laws require all drivers to carry no-fault insurance. This includes at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. In general, most car accident victims begin the claims process by filing a claim with their PIP insurance carrier.

PIP policies cover a portion of medical care and a portion of lost income up to the policy maximum. The goal of the no-fault law is to help those in a collision get quick coverage for their injuries and lost pay. These policies do not consider who caused the crash or other related factors. Each party files based on their own coverage for injuries.

This process generally works well for those with minor injuries who just need to ensure they have the money necessary to pay their medical bills. The process includes:

  • Notifying your insurance carrier about your case
  • Submitting your medical bills and other documentation
  • Providing additional documents if the insurance carrier contests any charges
  • Receiving a payment or settlement from your insurance carrier

While a PIP claim is typically a quicker and easier way to secure compensation after a crash, it is not always the best option. Having an attorney review your case to learn if you have other choices for pursuing a payout is always a good idea. Our car accident lawyers provide free consultations for injured crash victims.

The Car Accident Settlement Process Outside the No-Fault System

Some crash victims have the option of pursuing a fault-based claim or lawsuit following a crash. This most commonly occurs when they suffer serious and catastrophic injuries.

Our lawyers understand when Florida law allows victims to hold negligent drivers accountable and file injury cases based on fault. We can handle every step of this process for you, ensuring you pursue the maximum compensation available based on your case facts.

The car accident settlement process in a fault-based claim includes several steps:

Investigating and Determining Fault

Pursuing a car accident case based on another driver’s negligence requires showing what happened and documenting that the other driver caused the crash. Evidence is necessary to show:

  • That driver owed you a duty of care.
  • They breached that duty.
  • This caused the crash.
  • You suffered harm.

In general, these accidents occur because a driver violated a traffic law, and this action or inaction led directly to a collision. For example, drivers must stop when a traffic light turns red. When they fail to do so, they have breached their duty to others. This could cause an intersection crash and injuries. If the victim has significant injuries, they could qualify to hold the careless driver legally liable.

Building a strong case against a negligent driver takes an investigation into the cause of the accident and how the circumstances unfolded. The evidence in these cases varies widely but often includes:

  • Accident reports filed by law enforcement officers responding to the scene
  • Surveillance, traffic camera, or dash cam video of the collision
  • Photos taken at the accident scene
  • Statements taken from witnesses who saw the crash
  • Relevant medical records
  • Accident reconstruction
  • Support from experts

Having the right evidence to compel the insurance carrier or judge and jury to agree to award compensation is essential. This means you must have a strong case to show what happened and the role the at-fault driver played in causing it. This is crucial to the car accident settlement process.

Calculating Damages

Calculating your recoverable damages is another key step in the Florida car accident settlement process because it determines whether you understand the value of your case or settle for less money than you deserve. You can recover additional types of damages in a fault-based claim. The recoverable damages in these claims and lawsuits include:

  • All your medical expenses related to accident injuries, current and future
  • All your lost income, current and future
  • Diminished earning ability for injuries that prevent you from returning to work
  • Related expenses
  • Pain and suffering and other non-economic damages

Determining a fair settlement range for your Florida car accident case is not as easy as it may seem. While gathering medical bills, wage statements, receipts, and other documentation is a good start, it only tells part of the story. Those with serious injuries often require ongoing or future care, too.

Understanding how much your injuries might cost you in the future usually requires assistance from medical experts, economists, and others. A personal injury law firm will have a network of specialists they can call on for this type of assistance, which could be difficult for an individual to manage on their own.

You also must consider the intangible losses suffered. This can be the largest component of recoverable damages in a crash case. Because pain and suffering are non-economic, estimating their potential value requires experience with similar cases and skills learned through working in the civil system. If you work with an attorney, they will manage this process for you.

Negotiating With the Insurance Company

Once you have strong evidence of negligence and liability and a good idea of how much your case should be worth, you can demand the insurance company pay you the money you deserve. Generally, even when you present compelling evidence, the insurance adjuster will respond with a counteroffer. This is the beginning of settlement negotiations.

Negotiations could continue for a month or longer. You will go back and forth with the insurance carrier, with it wanting to pay you less than you deserve and you fighting for an appropriate payout. This could occur in writing, verbally, or through a mediator.

When you work with a car accident lawyer, they will have proven negotiation skills they can use to aggressively pursue the money you need and deserve to pay for your current and future medical care and other expenses.

Negotiations usually lead to a settlement. However, your lawyer may discuss whether litigation might be necessary based on the circumstances of your accident and how negotiations go.

The Settlement Process

Once the insurance company makes a fair settlement offer, you will need to review it carefully. Signing a settlement agreement requires you to agree you will pursue no further compensation in the case. You cannot change your mind or seek additional money if you need more care or identify other damages later.

Once you sign the agreement, the insurance company will prepare your check.

Your payment will first go to your attorney, who will pay any liens against it and take out their own agreed-on fees and costs. Then, they will forward the remainder to you.

When Should I Call a Lawyer About a Florida Car Accident?

Knowing when to call an injury lawyer about your case is important. In general, we recommend all victims meet with a car accident attorney if they were hurt in a crash. You may have more rights than you realize or be at risk of accepting a lowball settlement offer because you do not understand the potential value of your case.

Hiring a personal injury lawyer to manage your fault-based car accident case ensures you have the experience, skill, and resources necessary on your side. Handling these claims is often particularly difficult for victims with injuries serious enough to hold an at-fault driver legally responsible under Florida law.

What Should I Do Next If I Was Hurt in a Florida Car Accident?

Call a lawyer. Meldon Law provides consultations for car accident victims in and around Gainesville, Fort Lauderdale, Ocala, and Lake City. Our free case reviews give our car accident lawyers an opportunity to assess your legal options and answer your questions.

Fill out our contact form or dial our number to get started today.

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