How To File A Car Accident Claim
In Alabama, when you are in a wreck, you have a right to file a claim for your injuries and property damages. If another person was at fault, you will usually file your claim with the other driver’s insurance company. But what does this entail and how do you do it?
What are the Steps for Filing a Claim for Compensation After a Car Crash?
Each auto accident has its own unique set of facts, so there are times when things may not go exactly as planned. Likewise, there may be situations where things get complicated, such as crashes that involve multiple vehicles, commercial vehicles, or uninsured motorists. Yet, in the majority of cases, here are the basic steps to filing a car wreck claim:
- Get Medical Treatment
Be sure to get medical care right away. Your health comes first, and after an accident is no time to act tough. The sooner you get to a hospital or doctor for an evaluation, the easier it will be to document your injuries and prove that they were caused by the crash, as opposed to some other cause.
- Get Paperwork and Photos
If possible, try to take a number of good pictures of the scene using your phone or a camera if one is available. If you are unable to do so yourself, ask someone on the scene to take pictures for you. Be sure to hold on to any paperwork police give you. For those who are taken directly to a hospital by ambulance, many times the police will come to the hospital to interview you. This presents a good time to request any reports or other paperwork that you are entitled to. After the crash, the police will generally create an official crash report within about 5-7 days. If there are catastrophic injuries or fatalities, this can take significantly longer. In Dothan, Alabama, you can get a copy of your crash report by contacting the police department.
- Notify Your Insurance Company
Even if the other driver was entirely to blame for the accident, your own insurance company requires you to let them know about the crash. If you carefully read your insurance policy, you’ll find specific contract language saying you have to let them know. This does not mean you need to immediately give a statement or do anything without an auto accident attorney. However, you do need to call them to notify them that you were in a crash. You may have optional benefits you need to protect, like medical payments coverage or collision insurance.
- Notify the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
It is highly recommended that you have an experienced auto accident lawyer handle this step for you. You will need to call the other driver’s insurance company and report the accident. They will ask for a recorded statement. You should decline. The at-fault driver’s insurance company represents the other driver – not you. Once a claim is set up, a claim number will be assigned, and an adjuster will begin investigating and looking for ways to not pay you for your damages and your injuries.
- Follow Through with Medical Care
As you are recovering from injuries, be sure to follow through with your medical care by attending your appointments and following your doctor’s recommendations. Be aware that some insurance companies have been known to use surveillance tactics to “catch” people lifting, playing golf, going to the gym, or even trying to do yard work. If the activities are expressly prohibited by your doctor, this could be used against you to reduce your recovery.
- Make a Demand and Negotiate a Settlement
The last step is to negotiate with the insurance company. It is best to wait until medical treatments are complete before demanding a settlement, as you need to know the full extent and cost of medical care before agreeing to any amount. This process also involves working through liens, negotiating reductions in your outstanding medical bills, and making sure your settlement funds are not depleted by large government reimbursement claims, such as Medicaid and Medicare.
When Do You Need an Attorney For a Car Accident Claim?
In most cases where you have physical injuries from the car accident, it is best to hire an attorney. If you just have a couple bumps and bruises and your doctor says you have no injuries, you may be okay resolving your claim directly with the insurance company. Just be sure you know all your liens (including health insurance, your own car insurance company, Medicare, and Medicaid) before accepting a settlement.
But if you are suffering from significant bodily injuries, you probably should have a lawyer involved from the start. Common injuries that should cause you to hire a lawyer include:
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Severe property damage claims
- Back injuries
- Burns or chemical injuries
- Death of a loved one
What Shouldn’t You Talk to an Insurance Adjuster About?
If you are represented by an experienced Dothan auto accident lawyer, you should avoid talking to the other driver’s insurance company entirely. There is nothing you need to speak to them about without your attorney.
Get Help from a Skilled Dothan Injury Lawyer Today
If you were injured in a Dothan auto accident, call Gartlan Injury Law today to schedule a free initial case consultation with Dothan auto accident attorney Aaron Gartlan. Our firm will carefully review the facts and circumstances of your case and help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Remember, we never take an attorney fee unless we succeed at getting you compensated. So you have no risk for making the call.