Steps to Take if You are Injured in a Car Accident (Part 2)

The following is a continuation of our series on steps in a car accident case.

At a certain point we would recommend you hire a lawyer. There are some cases that you probably don’t need one. If the crash was minor and you only need your car fixed then you don’t need a lawyer. Even if you are injured you also could possibly negotiate with the insurance company yourself. But that is more risky. Better to at least consult with a lawyer and see what they think.

If you decide to retain a lawyer, then the first step is letting all insurance companies involved know that you are represented. This is to ensure that they communicate with you through your lawyer, so that you are not taken advantage of, and no statements you make to them can be used against you later.

Then, we recommend that you treat with your doctor or chiropractor for some time— usually around six months. This is important because we do not want to settle before we know the full extent of your injuries. Also, it usually takes that long for the doctor to treat you to the point where they can deliver what’s called a permanency rating.

A permanency rating is when your treating doctor makes a formal estimate as to what percentage you are permanently injured. Florida law requires that in order to recover for future damages and pain and suffering in a motor vehicle accident case, you have to prove that more likely than not you have suffered a permanent injury. Therefore, after treating you for some time, your doctor will be able to determine whether you have a permanent injury and what percentage you are permanently impaired.

Once these steps have been taken, we now submit a formal demand letter to the insurance companies of those at fault. This demand letter will describe in detail the initial accident and the nature of your injuries. It will be accompanied by copies of your medical records and the crash report. Finally, it will have the amount of money that we demand to compensate your injuries along with the amount of time they have to pay (usually thirty days).

Generally, the insurance company will respond with a counter-offer along with reasons why your demand is too high (“liability is still in question” “your client was at least partially at fault” “the injuries were not that bad/ not permanent”). Then you have to decide whether to accept their counter-offer or make another counter-offer yourself. If you cannot come to terms that are agreeable to both parties, then the next step is litigation.

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