Do I Need a Lawyer to Settle a Car Accident Case?
Many people struggle to decide if they need to hire a lawyer after a car accident. While serious injury claims will certainly benefit from the assistance of an experienced Kansas City car accident attorney, some accident claims do not need an attorney. In every case, we believe it is beneficial for injured parties to seek input from an experienced car accident attorney.
There are many potential pitfalls in trying to settle your own claim, and you only get one chance to do it right. The insurance company for the at-fault party is not your friend and is well-versed in tactics to delay, deny or defend against your claim.
Our car accident attorney provides free, confidential case reviews, and there is no obligation to hire our firm. If we believe your case can be handled without an attorney, we will tell you and provide helpful guidance tailored to your particular circumstances.
The information below provides general guidance and hints on how to handle an accident claim without an attorney. Of course, every case is different, and the information is not intended to be legal advice for your particular case. If you would like specific input on your case, please contact us for a free consultation.
Steps to Settling a Car Accident Claim in Kansas or Missouri
The basic steps required to settle a car accident claim include:
- Identifying the correct insurance company to file a claim.
- Collecting evidence to prove fault and damages.
- Preparing a settlement demand package for the insurance company.
- Negotiating with the insurance company to settle your claim.
Take these steps after you take care of your medical needs. Your health should come first. Additionally, you will not recover very much for your accident claim if you do not have medical documentation proving you were injured.
1. Identify the correct insurance company to file a claim.
The first step is to identify the insurance company that insures the other driver. You may be able to obtain this information from your copy of the police report. You need to notify the insurance company that you intend to file an injury claim.
You should check your car insurance coverage. If you have PIP or MedPay, your insurance provider may pay benefits under your policy regardless of who was at fault for the crash. Also, you may need to file a claim with your insurance provider under your underinsured motorist coverage if the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance to pay your claim in full.
2. Collect evidence to prove fault and damages.
If the insurance company acknowledges that its insured was at fault, you only need evidence to prove your damages and losses. However, if the insurance company denies fault, you would need evidence to prove the other driver caused the crash. This process can become very complicated and time-consuming, so you likely will need to contact an attorney if the insurance company contests fault.
Evidence that you need to prove your damages may include:
- Copies of your medical records.
- Proof of lost income, such as pay stubs, a statement from your employer, and tax returns.
- Proof of expenses and payments for assistance with household chores and other tasks you could not perform while you were recovering.
- Copies of receipts and bills for any expenses related to the car accident, your injuries, and your recovery, including travel expenses, medications, medical equipment, etc.
- Photographs of your injuries.
There could be additional documentation you need to prove your damages. You will need proof for every financial loss you claim.
TIP: Beware of releases or authorizations that allow the insurance company to obtain all of your medical records. Signing a medical authorization could give the company access to your entire medical history, regardless of when or why you were treated. It is best for you to obtain the copies and forward the copies to the insurance company.
3. Prepare a settlement demand package for the insurance company.
A settlement demand package includes a letter detailing your injuries and losses. The letter also includes the amount of money you demand for your claim. Also, the package includes copies of your evidence.
Calculating the value of a car accident claim can be difficult. For a simple case that does not involve permanent impairments or disability, you can total all the bills and expenses related to the car accident and injury. That figure is the value of their economic damages.
However, you are also entitled to ask for compensation for your noneconomic damages or pain & suffering damages. This figure is subjective and difficult to calculate. Many people multiply their economic damages by two or three and use that figure for pain and suffering damages.
If you have no idea what your claim is worth, it might be a good time to call a Kansas City car accident attorney for that free consultation.
4. Negotiate with the insurance company to settle your claim.
You can mail or deliver the settlement demand letter and evidence to the insurance company. An insurance adjuster or claims agent contacts you to discuss the settlement.
You need to remember that insurance adjusters do not represent you. They represent the insurance company. Their goal is to pay as little for your claim as possible. Therefore, ask for more money than you want for your claim in your demand letter so that you have room to negotiate.
It helps to have a bottom figure in mind before you begin negotiating with the company. If the company refuses to pay that amount, it is time to call a Kansas City personal injury lawyer.
TIP: Avoid providing a written or recorded statement other than your demand letter. These statements are designed to trip you up and hurt your claim. Your demand letter should only include the basic information and facts related to the accident and your recovery. Insurance companies can use what you say in a statement or your demand letter to deny your claim or undervalue your claim if you are not careful.
What Should You Do If You Run into Trouble?
At any point in the claims process that you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or do not know what to do, call our office at 816-203-0143. While we want you to succeed if you decide to settle your car accident case without a lawyer, we also want you to know that our legal team is ready to assist you at any point you need help.
An insurance adjuster may convince you that hiring an attorney is just a waste of money, but there are cases in which you can benefit from hiring an attorney. Some advantages of hiring a car accident attorney include:
Remember, there is a strict deadline for filing claims and lawsuits, so don’t wait too long!
Contact a Kansas City Car Accident Attorney for More Information
Still have questions about how to handle your car accident case? Download our Kansas City car accident attorney's free book, Crash Course: An Insider's Guide to Accident Law in Kansas and Missouri, which is loaded with tips, tricks and mistakes to avoid. If you have second thoughts about handling your claim, you can always change your mind and get an attorney, but it's usually better to do so sooner than later.
Many critical tasks arise early in the claims process, such as gathering evidence, documenting your claim, responding to adjuster requests and navigating the legal issues that arise during medical treatment. Our Kansas City car accident law firm is standing by and would be happy to help. Call us today at 816-203-0143 for a free consultation with our Kansas City car accident attorney. We represent clients throughout Missouri and Kansas.