Being involved in a car accident in Atlanta can be a life-changing experience for everyone involved, especially when they result in major property damage and serious injuries. Even if you’re entitled to significant compensation, the recovery process may only add to your stress from the actual accident.
Negotiating a car accident claim can be time-consuming, especially without an attorney. However, it is certainly possible, as long as you are meticulous, thorough, and concentrated on your research and gathering of the facts.
There are three main steps to settling your car accident claim without a lawyer:
First, you should decide whether you want to do this alone. Your answer really depends on two key things:
For more information, see “Should I Negotiate a Car Accident Claim Without a Lawyer?”
If you do decide to tackle a car accident claim by yourself, here are some comprehensive steps to take throughout the entire process.
First things first: as soon as you’re involved in a car accident, call the police. They will file a report that can be used later on when you seek damages. Next, document everything. This includes:
The goal is start building your case with solid information as the foundation for your settlement.
Because car accident recovery can be time-sensitive, insurance companies like to act as quick as possible – thinking that they’ll get the one-up on drivers seeking a greater amount of damages. Do not take the first offer from an insurance provider – it is often much lower than what you would need to get your life back on track.
Therefore, it’s important to take swift immediate action toward recovery:
Now that you have all the paperwork necessary to build a case, you can begin to calculate exactly how much you need as compensation for your property and injury damages.
There are two types of damages to take into consideration when calculating total costs:
Damages capable of exact calculation (also known as special damages) are any damages that have a tangible cost to them. Things such as property damage, medical bills, and other financial damages attributable to your accident are examples.
Lost earnings (also known as “lost wages”) also fall into this category, although they can require a bit of math to calculate. Lost wages are categorized in two buckets; lost earnings and lost earning capacity. In Georgia, lost earnings typically refer to wages lost currently as a direct result of the car accident, while lost earning capacity refers to any earnings that may be lost in the future because of injuries or damage sustained in the car accident.
Current lost earnings will be relatively easy to calculate: simply tally up how many hours/days you missed due to the car accident and determine exactly how much salary you are losing.
Lost earning capacity may be a little more complex, as it requires an accurate prediction of how long you may be out of work, and how much of your actual job may be affected. This takes a number of factors into consideration that may not be realistically quantifiable in the present day, including:
Typically, this requires a comprehensive assessment by a medical professional, along with a consultation with an economist or financial advisor to better understand your true lost earning capacity.
Damages not capable of exact calculation are intangible elements to the accident that may nonetheless decrease your quality of life. This includes damages for mental anguish and pain and suffering. Although putting an exact price on this is difficult, it can nonetheless be a significant amount of compensation, and is almost always best left to an attorney.
Once you’ve accumulated all of your documents and determined the exact dollar amount of damages you are seeking, it’s time to send a demand letter. At this point, you are corresponding with whichever party is responsible for negotiating accident claims. Typically, this is almost always the insurance provider.
The demand letter is the most important part of your negotiations. It’s a document that highlights exactly how much you are seeking, and why you feel you deserve to recover that amount in damages. Be sure to include the following:
Attached to the demand letter should be copies of all the supporting documents you’ve gathered to this point, such as:
Hopefully, if the insurance provider is diligent, they’ll send you a response within the given time limit. At this point, they will present a counter-offer – usually much lower than the initial offer. That’s to be expected, as this is where negotiations are expected to begin.
If no reasons have been given as to why the settlement is lower than your demands, politely request a thorough explanation for the lower amount. If it is due to something like insufficient information about your bills, provide more details and documentation on your medical and repair bills.
However, if at this point you’ve already laid out all of your itemized financial needs, focus on the more emotional points. Explain how these losses will affect your life adversely and impact it in an overwhelmingly negative way. Then, make a counter-offer to their offer that is fair and within their constraints.
This back-and-forth may go on for months, but remain patient, polite, and professional. If you reach a mutual agreement on the settlement, make sure to get it in writing.
If the insurance company is still not offering a satisfactory amount for your claim, it may be time to contact the court and start the lawsuit process. At this point, it’s highly recommended to contact an Atlanta car accident attorney – they have the knowledge and experience to go through the court proceedings to maximize your settlement and ensure you end up with an offer that meets your needs.
Whether or not you decide to take on an attorney for your car accident and personal injury claims, Kaufman Law is here to give you the support you deserve. With more than 40 years of personal injury experience, we have all the tools, resources, and knowledge on hand to ensure you recover the compensation you’re rightfully entitled to.
If you’re still unsure about the car accident claims process, visit us for a free consultation. With our guidance, we can give you the knowledge you need to make a decision on how to handle your car accident claim.