If you are hurt in a car accident caused by another driver, you can obtain compensation from the motorist who harmed you. You can do this by settling out of court or by pursuing a claim in court.
Most often, it’s best to get legal help with this process. But if you’re wondering how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer, this guide can help you understand what’s involved.
Read on to learn the steps of settling your claim as well as some reasons why you might want to reconsider hiring legal help.
How to Settle a Car Accident Claim Without a Lawyer?
If you want to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer, here are the steps you would need to take.
1. Determine the Extent of Your Damages
When you are involved in a car accident, the driver at-fault for the crash should “make you whole,” or compensate you for all losses including:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Property damage
You’ll want to have a good idea of what your case is worth before you begin the process of negotiating a settlement so you don’t ask for (or accept) too little money.
You may need to get some expert advice on how much your future medical bills and lost wages are likely to add up to. And you should look into ways that insurers calculate pain and suffering. For example, some provide compensation equal to a multiple of your economic damages (such as two times or four times the amount of your medical bills and lost wages) while others pay a per-diem (per day) rate for each day your pain is likely to persist.
2. Identify the Parties Responsible for Harming You
You’ll want to be sure you’re making a claim against the right people or entities after a car accident.
In most cases, you will be pursuing a claim against the other driver who caused your crash and thus dealing with that driver’s insurer.
But there may be others to blame as well. For example, you could potentially have a claim against the driver’s employer if the accident occurred while the motorist was on-duty at work. Or if you were involved in a collision with a drunk driver, you might be able to recover compensation from the bar who served him alcohol.
3. Gather Your Evidence
You will need to be able to make a strong case to show that you are entitled to compensation if you want to maximize the chances of receiving a fair settlement offer.
You should have solid evidence that the other driver was to blame, such as witness statements or a police report. You’ll also want proof of the extent of your losses, such as medical records and a diary showing how your pain has impacted your life.
The more evidence you have, the more likely it is that an insurer will accept fault and accept your estimate of the extent of the damages you have endured.
4. Write a Demand Letter
Once you know how strong your case is as well as how substantial your losses, you can write a demand letter to the insurer representing the driver who harmed you. Your demand letter should detail:
- The facts of the case
- The expenses you’ve incurred
- Your path to recovery
- A request for a reasonable amount of compensation
Sending a demand letter allows you to open negotiations on your terms, rather than starting from the amount the insurer offers.
5. Carefully Review a Settlement Offer
If the insurer of the other driver has accepted fault for the collision, the insurer will make a settlement offer. This will usually involve agreeing to pay you a set amount of money in order to give up any future claims. You should review this offer carefully to determine if you feel the compensation is sufficient to cover all of your losses.
Giving up future claims by accepting a settlement is a big step and one you should not take until you are certain about the extent of your damages and your current and future losses. You don’t want to end up with regrets.
You can counter the offer that you receive, or you can decline it if you don’t feel like you’re being treated fairly. If you cannot settle, you will have to go to court to obtain compensation. The process of filing a lawsuit and proving your case is very complex and you will almost definitely need an attorney to guide you through.
6. Take Action Within a Reasonable Time Period After the Accident
Finally, if you are trying to negotiate your own settlement, you must be sure you know the statute of limitations. This is the time limit applied to injury claims. Depending where you live, it is usually between two years and four years.
If you do not file a claim against the at-fault parties by the time the statute of limitations runs out, your claim will be time-barred. You will not be allowed to make your case at all going forward if this happens. So don’t delay too long in reaching a settlement agreement or filing a lawsuit with the help of an attorney.
Risks of Settling a Car Accident Claim Without a Lawyer
When you are injured in a car accident, the key question you should ask is not how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer. Instead, you should ask whether it’s actually a good idea to do so.
There are some big downsides of trying to resolve your claim without an attorney. Here are some of the potential risks:’
- You could end up receiving less compensation than you deserve. Studies have shown people with attorneys receive larger payouts from insurance companies than individuals who represent themselves.
- You could make a mistake that makes it impossible to recover compensation. For example, you have a limited period of time to make a car accident claim due to the statute of limitations. Waiting too long could result in your claim being time-barred.
- You could end up giving up your rights. If you sign a settlement agreement too soon before you know the extent of your damages, you can’t just change your mind later.
- You could miss out on important evidence. An attorney can help you to find expert witnesses, obtain police reports and gather medical records to make the strongest case possible. It’s difficult to do these things on your own.
Remember, insurance companies want to pay out as little as possible — and they have experience with car accident claims as well as professional legal advice available to them. You are putting yourself at a serious disadvantage if you try to handle your case yourself — and you could very well end up getting far less money than you should because of it.
Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer to Settle Your Car Accident Claim
Hiring a lawyer to help you settle a car accident claim is often the best course of action for many reasons.
- Hiring an attorney can maximize the chances you’ll be able to settle instead of going to court. Your attorney can negotiate on your behalf with the insurer.
- Your attorney can help you to determine what your case is worth. That way, you won’t settle for an unreasonably low amount of money.
- The insurer is more likely to take you seriously if you have a lawyer. The insurer will know that they must respect your rights because you have a professional advocate.
- You are more likely to recover a larger amount of compensation. Studies have shown people with a lawyer receive larger insurance payouts after car accidents.
- Your attorney’s interests are aligned with yours. You typically don’t pay legal fees unless your lawyer helps you recover compensation. And your lawyer’s compensation equals a percentage of the amount you recover. This means your lawyer has an incentive to help you get the largest possible settlement.
Car accident losses can be very substantial, especially when your injuries are serious. You may not want to take the chance of trying to resolve your claim yourself when so much money is at stake. Instead, consider scheduling a free consultation with an experienced attorney to find out about the type of legal help available to you.