After suffering injuries in a car accident someone else caused in Virginia, the last thing you need to worry about is how you will obtain compensation for your injuries and losses.
Insurance covers virtually all car accident injury claims, but insurance companies notoriously try to minimize the amount they pay. Additionally, Virginia allows drivers to pay a $500 no-insurance fee to operate their vehicles legally without obtaining insurance, and this can add to the complexity of obtaining the compensation you need.
As you deal with your rehabilitation and recovery following a car accident, you don’t want to fight with the insurance companies to obtain compensation—and you don’t have to. You can get an experienced personal injury attorney to deal with the insurance company for you so you can focus on getting better and moving on with your life. Nevertheless, you need a car accident lawyer who understands how the insurance claims process works and the challenges your claim may face so you know what to expect.
How the Insurance Claims Process Works
Following a car accident, your attorney will submit a claim to the at-fault driver’s insurance company for you. The insurance company will then schedule an adjuster to investigate the claim and discuss the details of the accident and your injury. Insurance companies are businesses, and they rely on making a profit to survive.
Therefore, they are not quick to accept a claim outright and pay the full amount of compensation you ask for, and the adjuster will likely look for every opportunity to devalue your claim or deny it altogether. They will also try to minimize their policyholder’s culpability for the accident and your injuries to reduce their financial losses.
The insurance adjuster may make statements that are not exactly true, or they may ask questions to lead you into accepting some (if not all) of the blame for the accident.
Some common tactics insurance adjusters use to minimize their losses include:
- Telling you must obtain a recorded statement. This isn’t exactly true. In most cases, they do not need a recorded statement from you to pay on an accident claim. However, they may use anything you say against you, so you should never give a recorded statement without first speaking with your attorney.
- Telling you that you do not need a lawyer. The adjuster may try to minimize the seriousness of the matter by telling you they are only obtaining basic information and that you do not need an attorney. You have every right to have an attorney represent you during any dealings with the insurance company, and you should never speak to them without first letting your attorney know.
- Pressuring you into accepting a first settlement offer. Determining the total amount of compensation you need is complicated. You may obtain damages for the economic and out-of-pocket expenses related to your injury, but you may also obtain non-economic damages for things like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and other intangible losses. Once you accept an offer, you will not be able to pursue additional compensation in the future, and you should never accept a settlement without fully understanding the extent of your injuries and how they may affect your life going forward.
Never speak with the adjuster. Instead, refer them to your lawyer to field their questions. If you do talk to the adjuster on your own for whatever reason, never apologize for the accident or make any statements that may show you bear some responsibility for the crash and your injuries.
Always have your attorney deal with the adjuster since they will understand these tactics and can respond accordingly to hold the other driver accountable and help you get the compensation you deserve.
The Accident Injury Claim Settlement Process
When your attorney submits your injury claim to the at-fault driver’s insurance company, they will include a demand letter that specifies your injuries and their associated costs. The letter will also include a settlement amount the insurance company can pay to avoid going to court. In most cases, the insurance company will respond with a much lower settlement offer, and your attorney will negotiate to get a higher amount.
Settlement negotiations take time and can be very frustrating and challenging. Although insurance companies must acknowledge they received a claim within 15 days, they are under no legal obligation to settle a claim during a specified period as long as they provide you written notice every 45 days of their ongoing investigation.
During this time, your lawyer will work diligently to negotiate a higher settlement, and they will likely fight with the insurance company to make sure they cover your injuries and associated expenses in full. By law, your lawyer cannot accept a settlement without your approval, and they should keep you in the loop as far as how negotiations are going. Once you agree on a settlement with the insurance company, the agreement will become legally binding, and you will have to sign a release promising not to pursue additional compensation for your injuries.
Fighting the Insurance Company in Court
If settlement negotiations break down and you can’t resolve the issue, you will have to take the insurance company to court and sue for what you need. Virginia allows you only two years from the accident to file a lawsuit in civil court, so your attorney will need to file within that time.
While having an attorney is important to file your claim with the insurance company and negotiate a settlement, it is imperative you have an attorney if you must go to court. Trials are formal legal proceedings that have many requirements and processes to follow, and an attorney will have knowledge of the laws and procedures as well as experience presenting compelling cases before a jury to increase your chances of success.
Cases With No Insurance
Since Virginia allows drivers to operate motor vehicles without insurance if they pay the $500 no-insurance fee, you stand a good chance of getting in an accident with a driver who does not have auto insurance.
In these cases, you typically have two options: 1) file a claim with your own insurance, or 2) take the at-fault driver to court and sue for compensation. In either case, you need an attorney to file a claim with your insurance company and deal with them for you, and you will certainly need a lawyer if you have to go to trial.
Regardless, you need an attorney to fight the insurance companies for you so you can focus on your physical recovery without having to worry about doing or saying the wrong thing and preventing you from getting the money you need.