To be reimbursed for damages to your vehicle or property plus any injuries you suffered in an accident, your first step is to make a claim against the other person’s insurance company. If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence (meaning your injury is due to the other person or company not taking proper care in doing something and they are responsible for causing your injuries), then you have the right to be treated by physicians and specialists. The cost of your treatment will be paid for either by the person or company that caused the injury or by their insurance company. When you present all of your medical and damages information to the other party’s insurance company, that is called “making a claim.” You are claiming that you were injured in some type of accident, that the accident was caused by the insurance company’s client, and that your treatment has already cost, or is expected to cost, a certain amount of money. Prime Medical Accident Injury will help make sure you get the documentation needed to maximize your claim.
Two different types of claims may arise from an auto accident: vehicle damage and personal injury. Regardless of the claim type, insurance companies require you to promptly notify them of an incident that could trigger a claim, whether or not you believe you sustained any injuries. That usually means you need to call within a matter of days, or a few weeks at most. Remember that sometimes injuries don’t appear immediately, or may worsen over time, causing you to make a claim later. If you’re not at fault, the other driver’s insurance company will be responsible for paying for damages to your vehicle and for any medical bills you incur. If you need to go beyond filing a claim and have to file a lawsuit, then some time limits come into play. Arizona Statute of Limitations Every state’s deadline to file an injury lawsuit is different, but most states, including Arizona, require that you file an injury claim within two years of the injury occurring. Keep in mind that every situation is different, and you’ll want to make sure that before you make a claim, you talk to all the people who might be involved in your recovery. You need to know exactly what you’re facing, what surgeries or therapies will be required to get you back to 100%, how long that will take, how long you may be out of work, what therapies you may be facing in the future, and for how long, and whether you will make a full recovery. For all these reasons, it’s important to make the call to Prime Medical Accident Injury as soon as you believe you may have suffered injuries during the accident. The doctors at Prime Medical know exactly how to document your injuries to prevent your claim from being denied.
Whenever an accident occurs, the party or parties who are “at fault” are responsible for paying for any property damage and for any injuries, treatment, and pain and suffering that occur. After an accident, the first call you should make is to the police. They will take everyone’s statement about who was involved in the accident and then they will make a report detailing how the accident occurred and who was involved. If it is unclear who is responsible for causing the accident, the police report may help determine fault. Once liability is accepted, an at-fault party (or parties) will be declared. The at-fault driver’s insurance will help to cover the costs of car repairs, medical bills, as well as other pain and suffering costs. These costs can include lost wages and alterations to the victim’s lifestyle. If the accident is your fault, then claims will be filed with your own insurance company.
If you’ve been in a car accident, your own insurance company will typically require you to promptly notify them of an incident that could trigger a claim. That usually means you need to call your own company within a matter of days, or a few weeks at most. On the other hand, you are not required to speak with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The law does not require you to talk to the other driver’s insurance company, their agents, or adjusters. In particular, do not speak with the insurer if there’s a possibility that you, a passenger, or the other driver may make a claim for a serious personal injury.
First and foremost, be armed with the knowledge that insurance companies will always look for ways to find another driver at fault because that means they won’t have to pay out as much money. The other driver’s insurance company will use your statements against you and may even blame you for the accident (or argue that you were partially at fault for the accident). They will also try to argue that your injuries or damages are either non-existent or extremely minor. Keep in mind that many times, the effects of an injury don’t appear until long after the accident itself. Never agree to have your conversations recorded with the other driver’s insurance company. Anything you say can be used as a reason to refuse to pay you anything or to reduce the value of your claim. Only state facts; don’t guess what might have happened. If you don’t know what happened, say that. Finally, ask the other person’s insurance adjuster to deal with your attorney
There are two main types of automobile liability coverage:
Bodily Injury Coverage This pays the medical expenses associated with any injuries a person might have incurred from an accident. In some instances, it may also cover lost wages and legal fees associated with a lawsuit. Bodily injury coverage includes not only medical bills but also lost wages and pain and suffering damages. What does this mean for me? If you are involved in an accident caused by another driver and they carry minimum coverage, their insurance company will cover up to $25,000 of bodily injury liability per person and a maximum of $50,000 to cover everyone involved.
Property Damage Coverage This pays for the damage that results from an accident, including vehicle repair or replacement, as well as any other property that may have been damaged. The minimums stated are the insurance coverages required to drive on Arizona roads. Many people carry more than the minimum, knowing that the costs of an accident can skyrocket quickly if expensive vehicles and serious injury are involved.
The settlement is the amount the insurance offers or you negotiate. Your attorney will negotiate until you reach an amount agreeable to you. You can also file a lawsuit if they cannot reach an agreement you are satisfied with. Your attorney will guide you through this process.
Accident to Settlement: The Timeline. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, expect the following sequence of events to occur:
1. A car accident occurs. The police will issue a report and insurance companies will be notified that an incident has occurred that may trigger a claim.
2. Get medical attention if there is the possibility that you’ve been injured, whether at the emergency room or at Prime Medical Accident Injury. The doctors at Prime Medical are here to help get you on the road to recovery, we will document your injuries and treatment, and submit the documentation to the insurance company on your behalf.
3. Gather documentation to support your claim for damages to your vehicle.
4. Gather documentation to support lost wages, pain and suffering, changes in your lifestyle, and any other monetary or nonmonetary damages you’ve suffered. In Arizona, a number of elements may be considered when awarding damages for pain and suffering, including:
- Impairment of bodily health and vigor
- Interference with normal living
- Diminished capacity to work and earn money
- Interference with enjoyment of life
- Actual pain and suffering experienced (past and future)
- Fear experienced regarding the extent of the personal injury
- Mental anguish experienced (past and future)
- Shock of the injury’s impact.
5. Submit your claim to the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
6. The insurance company’s investigation begins. After you have submitted all your documentation to the insurance company, the insurance company will do its own investigation of the accident. Do not agree to make any recorded statements; the insurance company can and will look for any discrepancies in your statements and hold them against you. You may want to involve a personal injury attorney at this point; they can handle all communications with the insurance company on your behalf.
7. The insurance company makes an offer. The insurance company will verify the documentation you’ve submitted and may come up with documentation of their own. They may disagree with the dollar amount that you are stating is necessary to cover the costs of your case. Some factors that may impact the dollar value of the offer include:
- Percentage of fault (to what extent did your actions have some bearing on the accident)
- Extent of your injuries and whether there will be lasting effects. Did you break a bone, or have permanent brain damage?
- Strength of your medical records. Medical records are important evidence in supporting your accident-related injuries. Seeking medical treatment immediately following an accident allows a medical professional to diagnose your injuries, link them to the accident, and prescribe treatment. This is where the documentation your partners at Prime Medical come in to support your case. If you do not have strong medical evidence, insurance companies may try to say your injuries are not related to the accident or are not as severe as you state, leading to lower settlement offers. The stronger your medical records, the greater the chance of a more favorable settlement.
- The statements you made during and after the accident to police, witnesses, and the insurance company.
8. Counter any offers the insurance company makes until you settle on an agreed-upon figure. Be prepared to discuss your request for a higher amount using evidence such as police reports from the accident, hospital and medical records, evaluations from the medical experts at Prime Medical Accident Injury, and even comparable cases. Having evidence of your losses can improve your odds of getting a higher settlement offer. A personal injury lawyer can help you outline how the accident has impacted your life, whether it’s your ability to still do your job, take care of your children, or enjoy the company of your spouse. Emotional appeals can help bolster your case for a higher settlement, including punitive damages. Often, having a personal injury attorney involved in the discussion will bolster your chances of the insurance company agreeing to the amount you ask for. Have a dollar amount in mind before getting into the counteroffer discussion.
9. File a personal injury lawsuit if you’re unable to come to an agreement on the value of your claim. The lawsuit may or may not continue through a trial.
10. Reach a settlement and receive your monetary compensation for damages. This may be at the conclusion of either the negotiating process, the pre-trial motions, or the trial itself. After more than 30 years of experience in managing auto accident cases, it is the opinion of the Prime Medical organization that it is very difficult for the average person to settle their case in a satisfactory manner without professional assistance from a quality personal injury attorney.
This article was not written as legal advice but as a guide to help inform you in what can be a complicated process.