Most people have a basic understanding of how a personal injury car accident lawsuit works. Assuming that the defendant was carrying liability insurance as required by Washington State law, a victim should be compensated for any injuries sustained in the accident if the other party was at fault. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
In theory, it should be simple; however, it is often far from simple. In order to better understand why the process becomes complicated, a thorough understanding of how an insurance company views and processes your claim is helpful.
Immediately After the Accident
Let’s assume that the defendant crashed into your vehicle while attempting to pull out into traffic, causing both property damage and personal injury to you as a result. The defendant is required to contact his or her insurance company as soon as reasonably possible after the incident to report the accident. Although each insurance company may have slightly different procedures, there are enough similarities to make some generalizations about how the claim is handled from here out. The insurance company will take down some basic information from the insured and start a file, or accident report, based on the information provided. The defendant may be required to provide a formal statement to the insurance company over the telephone, or in person, giving his or her side of the story. Typically, the adjuster assigned to the claim will then attempt to contact you, the victim, and anyone else who has asserted a claim against the insured. At this point, the adjuster will ask for a “statement” or your “version of events.” Although it may sound as though it is harmless to cooperate at this point, nothing could be further from the truth. Once you have retained an attorney, your attorney will advise you regarding communications with the insurance provider.
Once the initial claim has been asserted, the insurance company will likely conduct an investigation much like that which your attorney will conduct. This could include talking to witnesses, analyzing evidence or consulting with experts in an effort to determine who was at fault in the accident. In some cases, the insurance company will accept from the beginning that their insured was at fault; however, in most cases they will make every effort to absolve their insured from responsibility. Clearly, the less responsibility their insured has, the less it will cost the insurance company in compensation payments to the injured victims. This phase is crucial because the amount of compensation to which you are ultimately entitled will depend on the extent to which the defendant was negligent, or at fault. It may take longer than you had hoped for your attorney to prove the defendant’s negligence, but in the end it will mean more compensation for you.
At some point, the option to settle the case out of court will probably be discussed. If both sides agree on the issue of negligence, or fault, then negotiating an out-of-court settlement is more likely. Again, the insurance company will work to limit their liability in the accident. Even if their insured is clearly at fault, they can still negotiate the amount of compensation that you, the victim, are due as a result of your injuries. They may try and question whether or not your injuries are real, or whether or not they were, in fact, caused by the accident. They may also claim that your treatment costs were excessive. This is all fairly normal behavior on the part of the insurance company and should not be cause for alarm as long as you have an experienced car accident attorney on your side. If an out-of-court settlement cannot be reached, then your case will proceed to trial.
If you have been involved in a Yakima- area car accident and have suffered injuries as a result of the accident, you should consult with a Washington car accident attorney before making contact with the defendant. The Yakima area car accident attorneys at Mariano Morales Law can help. Contact the team today by calling (509) 853-2222 or by using our online contact form for your free initial consultation.