Understanding your rights after being the victim of a rear end collision can be a difficult and confusing process. However, there are several points to keep in mind when facing this situation.
Contact the Police
First, be sure to contact the police immediately and document as much as you can about the accident. Your next call should be to your insurance company who can give you advice on how to proceed. You can make your life much easier by taking a few simple precautions. The law favors the individual who suffered the rear-end collision over the person who smashed into the car in front of him or her. This is primarily based on the presumption that the person was following too closely behind the car in front or was simply not paying attention. Thus, when you seek to file your claim with the insurance company, the more information you provide, the better chance you have at filing a successful claim. Certainly obtain a copy of the police report from the officers who arrive at the scene, take date-stamped photographs of the accident and speak with anyone who may have observed the accident and can confirm your version of events. Obtain contact information from these people as they may be valuable witnesses later. Additionally, if you feel any pain or have any suspicion at all of an injury, visit the hospital and obtain a report of your injuries and any money you spent on medical services. The insurance company will likely want to see all of this information. If a dispute arises between your insurance company and the company of the individual who rear-ended you, stick to your version of the story and do not speak directly with the opposing insurance company.
Filing Your Claim
Once you have filed your claim, your insurance company will likely offer a settlement as a way to avoid litigating the claim. Always approach these settlement offers with caution. Most insurance companies have a method for calculating settlement amounts. First, all financial damages are assessed, including things like medical bills. Second, insurance companies factor in the amount of lost income. This figure is based on the victim’s income multiplied by the amount of time lost from work as a direct result of the collision. Finally, the category of “general damages”, which includes pain and suffering, is determined by multiplying these damages by a variable multiplier. Insurance companies multiply general damages by a multiplier based on the severity of the damage. Higher damages result in a larger multiplier and vice versa. Thus, the worse the damage to the car and the driver, the higher the settlement offer should be.
Contacting a Lawyer
Generally, if you have been rear-ended, you will not be considered at fault and your insurance company will seek for the other driver’s insurance company to pay. This is where things can get tricky. If the insurance company refuses to pay, litigation may ensue. Sometimes your insurance company may come back to you and claim that you are somehow at fault or failed to comply with the insurance contract. Your insurance company may refuse to defend you in court, though it is obligated to do so in most cases. The insurance company may attempt to “low ball” you and offer you much less than what your accident is worth. When these problems arise, and they almost inevitably will, it is important to contact a personal injury attorney right away. Make sure that you have all of your evidence and paperwork and tell your attorney the full story of what occurred. If you receive a settlement offer and are unsure about whether the amount is fair or not, consulting an attorney is also a good idea because a qualified attorney can assess the case and tell you what type of settlement you should be receiving.
Being involved in a car accident is a frightening experience but dealing with the insurance companies afterwards can be a nightmare. A competent personal injury attorney can navigate the process for you and obtain a higher amount that what the insurance company would offer on its own. Remember, when insurance companies offer you a settlement, they are doing so with the best interests of the company put first. You deserve to have an attorney who will put your best interests first.