While big jury verdicts make the headlines and get turned into television shows and movies, the reality is that most personal injury claims are resolved through settlements outside of the courtroom. With auto accidents, these settlements typically involve negotiations with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Depending on the facts of the case, however, there may be a number of other parties (along with their insurance companies) involved as well.
Do Not Trust the Insurance Companies
For this article, let’s focus on a typical two-car accident where the other driver was clearly at fault. Shortly after the collision, you will likely be contacted by the other driver’s insurance company and offered a minimal amount of compensation for the damage to your vehicle. Do not accept their offer. In the vast majority of cases, it will be far less than you are owed.
In fact, you shouldn’t say much of anything during the call. You should simply take the insurance adjuster’s name and phone number, and let them know that your attorney will be in contact soon. If you give a statement or even suggest that you aren’t sure of the extent of your injuries, they will try to use this against you in the settlement negotiations.
Establishing Your Right to Financial Compensation
Once your attorney gets involved, he or she will communicate with the insurance company on your behalf. Your attorney will also prepare and submit all of the necessary paperwork to process your claim; and, if necessary, to take your case to court. Going to court does not mean that the parties cannot still settle. In fact, many cases settle after a lawsuit has been filed, and the prospect of going into litigation with strong facts on the victim’s side is often a strong motivator for the insurance company to settle out of court.
While your lawyer is doing this work behind the scenes, you will be getting your car repaired, seeing doctors, rehabilitating, speaking with therapists, and recovering from the accident. Remember, the insurance company isn’t going to settle if they aren’t convinced that you are actually injured – and they aren’t just going to take your word. A big part of the process will be demonstrating both (i) your losses to date, and (ii) the likely future impact of your injuries.
You Control the Final Decision
Ultimately, if an insurance settlement makes sense in your case, you and your attorney will discuss the insurance company’s offer, and you will make the decision whether or not to accept it. It is your case; and, while it is your attorney’s job to fight for maximum compensation on your behalf, it is your right to make the final call. If there is more money on the table and you want to go to court, the decision is yours.
Speak with an Auto Accident Attorney in Jacksonville, FL
If you have questions about auto accident insurance settlements, contact Timothy Armstrong, P.A. to schedule a no-obligation consultation.Read More
If you have been injured in an auto accident, it is important to understand what lies ahead in terms of obtaining compensation for your losses. In this article, we take a look at two important concepts that relate to proving damages as a result of your collision.
The Burden of Proof
The first thing to understand about auto accident litigation is what is called, “burden of proof.” When thinking about the burden of proof in accident cases, there are two primary points to keep in mind:
- The burden of proof rests with the accident victim. This means that if you were to file a lawsuit and do nothing else, the defendant would win because you would have failed to prove that the defendant was at fault. It is your personal injury attorney’s job to affirmatively demonstrate that the defendant is responsible for causing your injuries and financial losses.
- A personal injury lawsuit is a “civil” lawsuit, and in civil lawsuits, the burden of proof lies at the “preponderance of the evidence.” This is very different from a criminal trial, where the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You can think about the preponderance of the evidence as requiring that it be more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for your injuries. However, in Florida, a jury can apportion damages between the defendant, multiple defendants, or even the plaintiff under Florida’s comparative negligence rule.
Certain claims (such as a claim for punitive damages) may implicate a higher, “clear and convincing,” burden of proof, and some situations may require the defendant to prove an affirmative defense. However, the rules discussed above are the general ones to keep in mind when thinking about what it takes to win a personal injury claim.
Proving the Amount of Damages
Once you’ve met the burden of proof and established that the defendant was at fault in causing the collision, the next step is to prove how much physical and financial damage you suffered as a result. Most people do not realize the full extent of losses they are entitled to recover in a personal injury claim. These include (but are not limited to):
- Past and future medical expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Lost wages and lost future earning capacity
- Damage to your vehicle
- Damage to other personal property (your clothes, watch, jewelry, glasses, phone, etc.)
- Pain and suffering
- Damages for emotional effects of permanent scarring or disfigurement
Of course, you need to be able to demonstrate that you actually have – or will – suffer these damages. If the judge or jury isn’t convinced, you will not be able to recover. This again is where your personal injury lawyer earns his or her fee. At Timothy Armstrong, P.A., we have years of experience helping our clients fight for maximum compensation for their losses. For a free case evaluation, contact attorney Tim Armstrong today.Read More