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What to Expect in a Car Crash Claim

Personal Injury AttorneyEach year, car crashes seriously injure more than three million Americans. Driver error causes about 95 percent of these incidents. Typically, that error involves a lack of ordinary care, like driving while fatigued, or a violation of a safety law – such as failure to yield the right-of-way.

In situations like these, a Rockford personal injury attorney might be able to obtain substantial compensation. More than 90 percent of these cases settle out of court. So, a victim/plaintiff will probably need not go to trial to obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills and non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Initial Concerns

In the immediate wake of a crash, most victims are not thinking about compensation for their injuries. They want to know how their children will get to school tomorrow and how long it will be before they feel reasonably normal again.

An attorney is obviously not a car salesman or a doctor. However, an experienced lawyer knows how to meet these immediate needs.

In terms of vehicle replacement, many insurance companies offer the cheapest possible alternative. That usually means a short-term loan of a compact car. For many families, that simply will not do. An attorney can connect car crash victims with a vehicle rental company and secure proper replacement transportation for as long as needed.

Attorneys usually send letters of protection to these providers. These letters guarantee payment when the case is resolved, allowing victims to receive this assistance and pay nothing upfront,

This process is roughly the same for medical attention. For liability reasons, many health insurance companies refuse to pay crash-related medical expenses. Because paying out-of-pocket for a physician is not an option for most people, attorneys send these same letters to medical providers. Generally, the letters obtain the same result.

As a bonus, attorneys use letters of protection as negotiation leverage to lower the amount of the medical or transportation bill. That means less money to pay when the case is resolved.

Pre-Suit Resolution

Once medical treatment and vehicle replacement are at least substantially complete, attorneys usually send demand letters to insurance companies. These letters typically demand compensation for economic and non-economic losses. To determine values for things like pain and suffering, most attorneys must rely on results in similar cases and depends on the facts of the case and some other circumstances.

If liability is clear, insurance companies usually have a duty to make and offer on the case within a few weeks of documentation of the injuries that have been sustained. The insurance code requires that insurer’s counteroffers must be reasonable, but this is a vague concept, which requires legal experience to define and enforce. Insurers are legally prohibited from unreasonable “low-ball” offers, but nonetheless, frequently make such offers. It is the attorney’s job to then hold the insurer accountable.

However, there is almost always at least some question regarding liability. For example, the contributory negligence doctrine sometimes applies in these situations. This legal loophole, if it is successful, shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim. Therefore, the claim often proceeds to the next and final phase.

Post-Suit Resolution

If the insurance company does not settle the matter on victim-friendly terms, attorneys must file legal documents to protect their clients’ rights. At this point, many Winnebago County judges will refer these matters to mediation.

During mediation, a neutral third party, who is usually an unaffiliated Rockford personal injury lawyer, listens to both sides then tries to facilitate a settlement. Mediation takes place in a non-adversarial setting. Insurance companies have a legal duty to negotiate in good faith. In other words, they must be willing to make sacrifices to reach a settlement.

If both parties negotiate in good faith and with open minds, mediation will often be at least partially successful.

Reach Out to Diligent Attorneys

Most car crash claims settle out of court and on victim-friendly terms. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. Home and hospital visits are available.