A car accident can be traumatic and stressful, and even if there are no serious injuries, dealing with the aftermath is still tedious. Part of the process involves working with insurance companies. In the early days after an accident, the insurance adjuster will reach out to discuss a possible settlement.
While it is tempting to accept quick money, an initial settlement offer is not always the best choice. Continue reading to learn more about settlements and advise on how to get the most compensation for car accident injures and vehicular damage.
Important Car Insurance Laws in Virginia
In Virginia, motorists are required to carry car insurance. Car insurance policies must cover a minimum of $20,000 for injury or property destruction in a single accident, $25,000 for injury or death of a single person in a single accident, and $50,000 for injury and death of two or more people per accident.
A driver who gets caught driving without insurance can face a Class 3 misdemeanor, a $500 fine, and a suspended license. In some cases, a motorist’s registration, license plate, and vehicle can be confiscated as well.
How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in Virginia?
When someone is involved in an auto accident, they can choose to agree to accept a financial payout to compensate for the damage to the vehicle and for their injuries. If the accident evidence shows one driver is negligent, the at-fault driver’s insurance company pays for the damages.
The settlement process begins after the victim files a claim with the insurance company. The claim details all of the losses related to the accident, such as property damage and injuries. After investigating the claim, the insurance company generally proposes a settlement offer. The mistake many people make is accepting the first offer. Insurance companies are in business to profit; they want to pay out as little as possible.
If the first settlement offer is not accepted, both parties go back and forth with counteroffers. If an agreement is made, the victim receives the settlement but waives their right to sue.
What Should I Consider When Dealing with the Insurance Company?
There are a few things to remember when dealing with the insurance company:
A victim should not admit any fault. Insurance adjusters are intent on finding a reason to pay out as little as possible. An accident victim should not admit they are responsible for a traffic wreck in any way, but it is never okay to lie to or even mislead an adjuster. Before discussing the details of the crash, always consult with a skilled car accident lawyer first.
Insurance adjusters are not always objective. Insurance companies are in business to make money. They are also trained to negotiate and whittle down a payout to the lowest possible amount before settling. With the help of an experienced lawyer, an injured party should always pursue a fair and reasonable settlement.
The first settlement offer is rarely a fair one. Insurance companies understand that after an accident a person faces mounting bills for medical care, repairs, and other damages. It is natural to want to settle quickly to recoup these costs, but it often takes time to fully assess the total impact of a car accident. For example, delayed injuries that are not immediately obvious may require costly medical treatments. Accepting a settlement too soon might leave the injured person to pay out-of-pocket expenses.
A car accident victim can choose their preferred body shop. If the insurance company recommends a particular repair shop, one should reconsider their proposal. An accident victim has the right to choose their own repair shop.
Insurance companies may stall to exceed the statute of limitations. When a settlement is not accepted, the injured party can sue in civil court. Virginia law limits the time accident victims have to sue to two years. The statute of limitations starts on the date of injury.
Personal Injury Claims for Car Accidents
The right to sue is an important component of every car accident case. A wreck can impact a person’s life in many ways. Beyond the auto repairs and injury damages included in an insurance settlement, there are other losses:
- Mental anguish and emotional trauma.
- Reduced or missing income for an injured person who is unable to work.
- Loss of companionship for family members.
- Future medical costs for accident-related injuries and conditions.
Medical expenses tend to get lost in the shuffle of settlement mediation. The insurance company may suggest a condition existed before the crash or is not as painful or debilitating as the victim claims.
The cost of addressing all of these additional losses adds up quickly, and some lawyers will advise their clients to opt for litigation over settlement. For a serious collision, a personal injury lawsuit may be the only means to recover damages.
What Evidence Should I Collect for My Case?
After an accident, be sure to gather the following to strengthen one’s case:
- Police report
- Photographs of the accident scene
- Written witness statements
- Bills for auto repairs
- Emergency room bills
- Records of doctor visits
- Physical therapy appointments
Without this documentation, it is easy for the insurance adjuster to deny a claim. When in doubt, save everything.
What is a Structured Settlement?
If the car accident case goes to court and the plaintiff proves their case, the jury awards them a sum of money to cover related damages. The money can either be a lump-sum payment or a series of smaller payments over time. The second option is called a structured settlement. With a structured settlement, there is less chance of spending it all at once, and usually, the recipient pays less in taxes. Additionally, the recipient has the ability to structure the payments as they see fit.
It is a personal choice regarding how to take a settlement. Guidance from a lawyer is always beneficial. A lawyer has years of experience working directly with insurance companies, and they have a grasp of when it makes sense to pursue litigation instead of a settlement.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Fight for Fair and Reasonable Compensation for Accident Victims
An auto accident can be devastating in many ways, and a quick insurance settlement rarely covers all of the related costs. A Virginia Beach car accident lawyer can help you with your case. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we work hard to recover full compensation for our injured clients. For more information and a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 757-352-2237. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.