5 Questions to Ask About Your Car Accident Claim

By Peter DePaolis

A DC auto accident can be one of the most traumatic experiences of your life. Recovering may take weeks of doctor’s appointments, psychological therapies and expensive property damage repairs. One of the most important steps to take toward recovery after a car accident is filing an insurance claim. You may need to hire an attorney to help you with the claims process. Knowing what questions to ask a lawyer can help you move your claim along quickly and efficiently.

Who Caused the Accident?

Causation is an important question to answer at the beginning of the claims process. Learning who or what caused your car accident will allow you to start the insurance claims process. Depending on your state’s insurance laws, you will bring a claim either with your own insurer or the at-fault driver’s insurer.

Washington D.C. and Virginia have no-fault laws, while Maryland is a fault car accident state. With no-fault insurance, you will file your claim with your provider even if someone else caused your crash. Fault insurance claims, however, require you to determine fault before you can file. An investigation of your car accident and any available evidence can help determine fault.

What If I Contributed to a Crash?

If you believe you contributed to the car accident, this does not necessarily mean the loss of the right to file for compensation. Many states follow comparative negligence laws. Comparative negligence holds that even if a victim contributed to the crash, he or she could be eligible for compensation. The insurance company or courts may analyze the case and assign a percentage of fault to you. Then, they will reduce your compensatory offer by your percentage of fault. You may receive 20% less, for example, if the courts find you 20% at fault for causing the wreck. Work with a car accident injury lawyer to help you prove the other driver was more at fault than you were. In many states, more than 50% of fault will prevent a victim from receiving compensation.

What If I Suffered Catastrophic Injuries?

If you suffered injuries that qualify as catastrophic (i.e., broken bones, a brain injury, a spine injury, a permanent disability, etc.), an insurance company may not offer as much as you deserve during settlement negotiations. You may instead need to take your personal injury claim to court to obtain a fair amount. Ask your lawyer if your injuries qualify as catastrophic. If so, consider taking your claim to court if an insurance company is undervaluing your losses.

What Much Can I Get for a Car Accident Claim?

Not all car accident claims are alike. The severity of your injuries can make a difference to your case and a compensatory award. A successful claim could result in recovery for many damage types.

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Coverage for disability costs
  • Property damage repairs
  • Personal pain and suffering
  • Lost wages and future lost wages
  • Out-of-pocket costs, including legal fees

Your lawyer can calculate the true worth of your claim based on what your injuries have already cost you and what they will foreseeably cost you in the future. With your lawyer’s help, you can argue for a compensatory award that matches the damages you suffered in a car accident.

How Do I Deal With an Insurance Company?

Auto insurance companies will not be on your side in the aftermath of a car accident. Insurance companies want to minimize their liability and offer as little as possible to crash victims. Be wary when dealing with an insurance company. Do not admit fault or give the company permission to record a statement from you. Do not accept the very first settlement offer, as this could bar you from asking for more later. Wait to do anything official until you have spoken to an attorney. Having a lawyer take over settlement negotiations could be in your best interest.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.