Car accidents carry serious physical and financial consequences. Injuries can leave you unable to work and prevent you from enjoying a normal life. To make matters worse, your insurance company may be more committed to its bottom line than your recovery. At Wilson Williams Law, in Raleigh, North Carolina, our priority, is representing people who have been injured in car accidents and make them whole again. Our experienced North Carolina car accident lawyers represent accident victims in obtaining compensation that will help them recover from their injuries and move on with their lives.
If you have been involved in an auto accident in the state of North Carolina, the road to recovery can be a long and complicated one. The information below is designed to walk claimants through each step of the process and help them understand what to expect from those who represent them.
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Auto Insurance Company PracticesOur extensive knowledge of insurance companies and their practices allows us to maximize the available recovery for each client using all of the available insurance coverage available. Other insurance coverage, including automobile policies on other vehicles, under-insured uninsured motor vehicle protection, and medical payment coverage, may also be available to an injured party. We will happily convey this and more information to you at our first meeting.
You need aggressive and knowledgeable representation following your motor vehicle accident. Because car accidents can be much more complicated than first thought, the injured party (or the party not at fault) has certain rights that they are often not aware of, including, the right to be fully reimbursed for damages, including:
- Stacked insurance policy claims
- Tax, title, and licensing fees
- Rental car expense or reimbursement of the same
- Medical expenses for the past and future
- Lost wages in the past and future
- Pain and suffering for the past and future.
Key StatisticsEvery 10 seconds, someone in the United States is involved in a car accident, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These cases are typically governed by the law of negligence, in which our attorneys possess a thorough knowledge. Generally, people who operate automobiles must exercise “reasonable care under the circumstances.” The failure to use reasonable care is considered negligence. A person who negligently operates a vehicle may be required to pay for any damages, either to a person or property, caused by his or her negligence.
Talk to Us FirstIt is of vital importance that you not discuss the facts of your case or sign any documents until you contact us. The injured party, known as the plaintiff, is required to prove that the defendant was negligent, that the negligence caused the accident, that the accident caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and that the plaintiff did not contribute at all (not even 1 percent) to the accident. If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, it is common for an insurance company to put their financial interests in front of yours and try to get a quick, cheap settlement. Do not let this happen to you.For more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney, please contact us.
Treatment for Injuries Immediately After the AccidentIf you’re in an accident you need to seek immediate medical attention. Victims are often in some state of shock after an accident. The shock period can often mask serious or mild injuries, and the injured will not feel any pain. Most people even deny being hurt because they don’t want to make a “big deal” out of the collision. This is a trick the insurance companies use against them when settlement time comes. They claim “If your client was hurt in the accident, why didn’t he or she go to the doctor right away.” Don’t let them win this argument; get medical treatment directly after the collision or as soon as symptoms develop.
Treatment for InjuriesYou should return to each of your doctors as often as necessary and you should always tell them about all your symptoms. You should never minimize your ailments when talking with your doctors. Many people minimize their pain because they don’t want to complain too much. Do not exaggerate, but make sure you tell your doctor about each and every problem. This is important to your treatment. If you see any other doctors, make sure that you tell both your other doctor and your attorney immediately.Make sure that you carefully follow your doctor’s advice. Money cannot ever replace good health, so you want to follow your doctor’s advice and treatment plan. You want to recover from your injuries as quickly as possible. Your doctor will keep track of any missed appointments and deviation from his or her treatment plan. When we provide the medical records to the insurance adjuster, they will be able to see these inconsistencies. Their philosophy: hurt people get the help they need and follow through with it. So you can see how they may think you are not injured as seriously as you are if you do not follow through with your doctor’s orders.Many victims feel that if it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t injured. Yet injuries caused by accidents may not develop for days – even weeks. Don’t be too quick to rule out injuries just because they haven’t yet appeared.Stay under your doctor’s care until your doctor releases you. Many people stop going to their doctor when they feel better, before the doctor releases them from treatment. Make sure you continue going to the doctor until your doctor releases you! Your doctor knows the complications that could result from your injury. And the other party’s insurance company will in the end, pay the cost of going to the doctor if your case is settles.
Collection of Evidence
Make sure you collect witness statements, police reports, medical reports and anything else related to the car accident. You or your attorney may need to hire private investigators and accident reconstruction experts. They can gather added physical evidence, such as pieces of the automobile. The other party’s insurance company will collect all sorts of information, which may be used against you. You’ll be at a serious disadvantage if you don’t conduct a thorough investigation to help support your claim.
Get photographs of all the important elements in your case. These include your car and the car that hit you, the accident scene, your injuries, and so forth. Photos are vivid evidence of what you experienced. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Juries find photos to be powerful proof of your injuries. So make sure either you or your attorney gets plenty of photographs. Send your attorney the digital file, negatives and prints of any photos taken by you or anyone else that pertain to your case.
Keep all bills and receipts related to your accident. If you don’t save your bills and receipts, you may not be able to prove the amount of your damages. Be sure to save everything: doctor bills, hospital bills, pharmacy bills and all other bills you incurred because of your accident. Immediately give all bills to your attorney, so that he or she may deal directly with the medical providers on your behalf. Make sure you pay all of your bills by check.
Documentation is the key to keeping an insurance company honest. If you want to get paid for an expense and other items you are legally supposed to recover, you have to show proof. Many people let legitimate expenses fall through the cracks. But remember, not only does this get these items reimbursed, it also shows just how seriously you were injured. This may give the adjuster a better idea of what happened to you.
Retain a Qualified Attorney
The truth of the matter is that experience and training differs greatly from attorney to attorney. Some attorneys may have years and years of experience drafting wills or handling real estate transactions. Why would you want that lawyer representing you in your personal injury case? If you have been injured, you want an experienced attorney on your side.
Only an experienced personal injury attorney can give you the peace of mind knowing you have given yourself the best chance of winning a fair settlement or verdict.
Insurance companies are very skeptical of any claimed injury and will try to dispute that it even actually exists unless unequivocal proof can be provided. Complete documentation in the form of doctors’ bills, reports, receipts, and photographs are provided to the insurance adjuster.
As your case progresses, it’s important that you work with your doctors, employers and lawyer to properly document the case. When it comes time to provide proof to the insurance company, it should be relatively easy to gather these documents and organize them.
Get Vehicle Repaired
Most often, you have two options to have your vehicle repaired. You may have the insurance company covering the person who hit you pay for repairs. If you have collision coverage on your own insurance, you may have your own insurance company make the necessary repairs. Sometimes your own insurance may be more reasonable and provide a better repair than the adverse insurance since you are their customer and they should want to make you happy. Either way, the insurance company is obligated to repair your vehicle to substantially the same condition as it was before the collision. If the cost of repair is greater than the vehicle’s current market value, they may declare it to be a total loss. They are then obligated to pay the fair market value to you.
Often, a dispute arises about the fair market value of a vehicle. The insurance company has access to huge databases that seem to indicate a very low value whereas you may be looking at a NADA or Kelly Blue Book value as a more appropriate number. This dispute is often aggravated when a person owes a bank or finance company more money than the car is worth. Sometimes this difference is several thousand dollars. Many people assume if someone destroys your car, they are obligated to pay off what you owe the bank. Unfortunately, the only obligation is to pay the actual market value.
Attorney Requests DocumentationWhen your injuries are repaired as well as your doctor thinks possible, its time to provide a complete picture of your injuries, treatment, and permanent condition to the insurance company. Your attorney will request medical records, bills, narrative reports, radiographic reports, documentation of lost wages, and documentation of all other expenses related to your injury from each provider. There is usually a significant expense to obtaining these documents, which the attorney will advance on your behalf. Also, in some instances it is important to obtain certified copies of the evidence in your case so that is admissible in court. An attorney will be able to collect the proper format of the relevant evidence for you.
Attorney Prepares Settlement BrochureOnce all documentation is received, they are organized, summarized and packaged for a settlement proposal to the insurance company. This proposal is called a settlement demand or settlement brochure.
Meet with Attorney for Pre-Demand Conference
Your attorney will want to work closely with you to ensure that the settlement package is accurate, complete and proposes a settlement that you approve. This conference is where your attorney should go over each aspect of your personal injury case, translate what it means and will mean to the insurance company and will give you his or her estimate of the value of the case. The value should be based on both settlement value and the amount a jury is likely to award. A jury amount is larger and naturally most people want to proceed to court. However, going to court has many additional expenses that are deducted from the final award. The attorney’s fee usually increases to a greater percentage of the final amount. Both values should be boiled down to the amount you are likely to receive in the end.
A note about juries. Even the most talented attorney with the most airtight case can be shocked by a jury. Countless experts have attempted to explain what happens when twelve people get together to decide a case and why they decide as they do. There seems to be no real explanation. Perhaps the jurors didn’t like the shoes you wore on day three of the trial. Maybe they were daydreaming during the most important piece of evidence. They might just be angry that they couldn’t think of a reason to get out of jury duty. Whatever the explanation, great cases sometimes get a verdict of $0.
Attorney Demands Claim to Insurance AdjusterOnce you and your attorney agree that the settlement package is perfect, the claim is sent to the insurance company.
Adjuster and Attorney Negotiate Value of Claim
Once the adjuster has reviewed the demand package, he or she may propose a certain dollar amount to settle your claim. Do not be alarmed by the insultingly small initial offer. The adjuster always initiates negotiations this way and your attorney MUST communicate all offers to you as they are made. Your attorney consults with you and makes a counter offer which is usually ridiculously high. Don’t expect that your case will settle for that amount.
Your attorney’s negotiation skills are important here. After several more offers and counter offers, a number will be reached that is the most the insurance company will offer. You are the sole decision maker on whether to accept or reject that offer. Your attorney will advise you one way or the other based all the factors of your case, but you make the final decision. If you reject the claim, the case proceeds through the courts over the next year or so.
Attorney Settles Claim or Files a LawsuitIf you decide to accept the settlement offer, the insurance company will mail the settlement check and release to your attorney. If the settlement negotiations have gotten to a point where the parties are not able to come to an amicable agreement, you and your attorney may need to proceed to file your lawsuit and proceed to the litigation process.
Client Comes in for Settlement Conference
Your attorney will try to negotiate for each of your medical providers to accept a smaller amount than the full medical charge. The balance goes in your pocket. Some medical providers will routinely reduce their bills and others will not.
Once all the final numbers are determined, you and your attorney meet to go over all the final paperwork releasing the other party from any further liability and disburse the funds. All funds are detailed down to the penny. A check for your portion should be available within a few weeks after this conference.
Attorney Disperses MoniesAfter the settlement check is deposited into the attorney’s trust account and clears. All monies are then disbursed to the medical providers, attorney and you.