If you have been in a car accident, you are probably wondering what happens now and what you should do next.  First, we know firsthand how devastating even a small crash can be.  It can cause not only physical pain and suffering but can affect your daily activities like work and taking care of your children. The following will hopefully help you figure out what happens after your accident and what you can do to help the settlement process.

  1. First, are you at fault?

Fault, or who is “liable” for the accident and injuries can sometimes be a complicated process. If law enforcement arrived at the accident scene, they will write a report and determine fault.  Then your insurance company and the insurance company of the other driver(s) will also determine fault. If your accident case goes as far as a court trial, the Court or a jury depending on what Court the case is in, will make the determination of who is at fault.

If you are NOT at fault for the accident and have injuries like your back or neck hurting, we recommend hiring an attorney.  The attorneys at Gezelin & Associates have a combined experience of representing clients in car accident cases for over thirty (30) years.  We can negotiate and resolve your case to get you the maximum settlement amount.

  1. Benefits of Hiring an Attorney

Through our thirty (30) years of representing clients against insurance companies, we have found that hands down if you hire an attorney you WILL get a larger settlement.  Simply, you will get more money if you hire an attorney.

If you hire Gezelin & Associates to represent you, will not have to talk to or deal with an insurance company and most importantly, you will receive peace of mind.  You will not have to worry about whether you’re telling the insurance company the right thing or whether you’re getting “ripped off” by the insurance company.   For example, a common strategy insurance companies have is to tell people that they’re going to “close” they case unless they settle within a limited time frame. In a personal injury matters, the injured person has two years to file a law so the insurance company telling someone their case is “closed” is just one of many techniques the insurance industry uses to save more money for themselves.

If you retain our firm, we do not get paid unless you receive a settlement.  Once a settlement is received, our fee is 33% of the amount for pre-litigation settlements. We have found that although 33% of the settlement goes to us, clients get more money when they hire an attorney even though a percentage goes to the attorney.  We believe this is because an insurance company knows that you have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side who knows the law, is very experienced in this field, and is ready and willing to file a lawsuit against them if needed.

  1. How Much Money Will I Get?

Unfortunately, this answer DEPENDS on a variety of different facts.  The largest factors include how bad your injuries are, the amount of your medical bills, and the policy limits of the driver who is at fault.  The more severe your injuries and the larger your medical bills the larger the possible settlement.

But, your settlement amount can be maxed out by how big of an insurance policy the other driver has.  The most common insurance settlement is what is known as a 15/30 policy.  This means that for one person the maximum amount of money you can receive no matter how bad you were injured is $15,000.  The 30 means that the maximum amount the insurance company will pay out no how many people were injured or how bad they were injured they will only pay $30,000.

Insurance companies do not like to tell you what their policy amounts are. You can send letter or request the policy limits over the phone but until a formal law suit is filed, the insurance company has not duty to tell you their policy limits.

  1. Advice to Follow if You Have Been in an Accident.

First, one of the most important things is to NEVER admit fault.  This means that although you might feel like you should offer an apology or sympathy – DON’T.  If the other drive contests who’s fault the accident was, the insurance company can use your statement against you.

Do however call 911 if you or the other driver is hurt.  Answer the questions of law enforcement and medical personnel honestly. If you are hurt go to the hospital immediately.  If you wake up the next morning and are in pain go into the emergency room and/or urgent care.

Make sure to request an accident report from law enforcement officer who arrives on scene. And of course, ask the other driver for their insurance information.  Make sure to look that it is not an expired policy.  We would recommend taking a picture with your phone to make sure you have this information.

Also, take pictures of the accident scene while you are still on scene – as long as it’s safe to do so! If it is not safe to stay there, wait until you have reached a safe location and take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and is possible the damage to any other vehicles.  Also, if you have any injuries like bruises, scratches, burns etc as soon as you are medically stabilized take pictures of these injuries.

  1. If the Drive at Fault for the Accident is a Friend or Family Member and I am the Passenger does that mean I am suing my Friend or Family Member?

To answer this question, the process of how car accident claims are handled needs to be explained.  We can’t speak for all attorneys but the most common procedure is the one Gezelin & Associates uses.  First, once we are retained by a client, we wait until the client is done treating with their medical providers and are at a point where they are either symptom free or at a point where their symptoms will no longer improve.  While the client is treating, we request their medical records.  After the client is done treating, we write what is called a “demand letter” that explains the injuries including the pain and suffering the client has suffered because of the accident and lists all the medical providers and medical bill amounts.

Then, we send in the demand letter with all the medical records to the insurance company making a “demand” for payment of a sum that we decide on by a case by case basis.  This period is what is known as the “pre-litigation” negotiation process.

If the insurance company does not offer or accept a reasonable settlement amount, it is only then that we will file a law suit.

So, to answer this question if you are the family or friend of the driver and you are the injured passenger you will only “sue” them if the claim is not resolved in the pre-ligation stage discussed above.

  1. If you have additional questions.

Please feel free to call or email Gezelin & Associates and we will be more than happy to speak to you regarding your accident.