If you or a loved one suffered injuries and vehicle damage in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, their insurance company may need to compensate you. But what if the insurer denies your claim or doesn’t offer enough to cover all your losses?
You may need to file a lawsuit to fight for the maximum payout you rightfully deserve. This article explains the basics of how to sue a car insurance provider when they refuse reasonable payment for accident damages.
Steps To Sue An Insurance Company After A Car Accident
Suing an insurance company after a car accident means getting involved in legal processes like evidence gathering, negotiations, and possibly a courtroom trial. While complicated, understanding key steps can help you seek fair compensation when an amicable settlement with the insurer fails.
Step 1. Attempt To Resolve Without Litigation First
Before deciding to sue, make good faith efforts to settle your injury claim directly with the insurance company. Demand they pay policy limits to fully cover vehicle repairs, medical bills both current and future, lost income, pain and suffering, property damage, and other accident-related expenses you incurred.
Caution them that failure to compensate your losses fairly in a reasonable time frame will force you to take legal action to fight for your rights.
Hire an attorney to represent you, document your demands in writing, and give them opportunities to make you whole. However, if they deny responsibility or offer pennies on the dollar, suing may become necessary.
Step 2. Gather Evidence To Prove Your Claims
Suing an insurance company means using the civil court system to resolve a dispute. The plaintiff (you) must file paperwork with your local courthouse specifying damages and demanding a juror trial. Both parties then exchange relevant information through a discovery process governed by strict rules of evidence and procedure.
Your attorney must build a compelling case proving the insurer’s liability for the car accident. They will gather police reports, medical records, witness statements, expert opinions, photos, video evidence, and other documentation to back up your claims. Letters called subpoenas from your lawyer can also compel witnesses, doctors, first responders, and others to surrender evidence.
Familiarize yourself with this litigation process, typical case timelines, and legal resources at your disposal so suing does not intimidate you. Recognize it makes considerable demands on your time, energy, and finances as well. But suing often represents the only path to wrest fair compensation from unwilling insurance companies using unethical denial or delay tactics.
Step 3. Calculate All Your Damages
You cannot sue successfully without meticulously tallying and proving all accident-related costs you incurred. Compile stacks of repair invoices, hospital and provider bills, pharmacy receipts, payroll check stubs verifying lost work days, etc. Additionally, secure expert witness statements from health providers detailing the prognosis for ongoing medical care connected to your crash injuries.
Don’t overlook categories like pain and suffering which lack simple numerical documentation. The trauma of the event itself combined with physical and emotional struggles during recovery warrant compensation too. Your lawyer can suggest reasonable figures to seek for intangible damages using verdicts awarded in similar cases.
Step 4. Hire An Experienced Lawyer
While not strictly required, hiring a personal injury attorney to handle your car accident lawsuit proves vital. Seasoned lawyers thoroughly understand relevant state laws, local court rules, and what evidence effectively persuades claims adjusters, judges, and juries. Their negotiating skills can secure settlement offers substantially higher than what non-lawyers obtain through self-representation.
When vetting attorneys, inquire about their experience litigating car crashes specifically and success rate getting favorable verdicts or settlements. Ask what legal fee structures they use – most handle injury cases on contingency, taking around 30% of final payouts. Compare several firms’ references, resources, and specialties before entrusting your case to the best fit.
Step 5. Try Alternative Dispute Resolution
Lengthy court cases sometimes get resolved more quickly through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods. These include simpler processes like mediation where an impartial third party facilitates compromise between disputing sides. Arbitration may also have Merit where you and the insurer present arguments to an arbitrator who makes a binding decision.
Your attorney can advise whether mediation or arbitration offers viable options worth proposing to the insurance company’s legal team before proceeding to full-blown litigation. The goal is to reach an equitable settlement and closure faster while avoiding courtroom drama.
Step 6. Gather Evidence To Prove Your Case
The insurer will rarely settle without irrefutable evidence establishing liability and quantifying losses owed to you. Therefore you must furnish documentation like police accident reports, medical evaluations, provider billing records, property damage estimates, lost work pay stubs, and more. Photograph accident scenes, smashed vehicles, and visible injuries while fresh as these images greatly bolster injury demands.
Sworn statements from passengers, eyewitnesses, and first responders also prove invaluable if their account of events favors your version of what occurred. An experienced attorney can utilize subpoenas to legally compel other motorists, health workers, accident site bystanders, and public officials to surrender evidence for review.
Step 7. Be Ready To Support Financial Demands
Insurers rightfully scrutinize settlement demands to verify no exaggeration or inflation of amounts claimed. Therefore, you must thoroughly justify the figures cited for damaged assets, medical care obtained already plus that is likely needed in the future, lost income, and other outlays big or small. Rounding up property damage estimates, projecting decades of speculative treatments unsupported by medical opinions, or claiming exorbitant unverifiable lost wages will undermine your credibility fast.
Prepare to cogently explain the derivation of all financial compensation sought if you want negotiators to take your demand seriously. Supporting evidence must logically align with the total settlement figure reached. The insurer aims to negotiate down while you start higher expecting to meet somewhere in the middle. But well-substantiated reasoning and documentation make them more likely to offer fairer terms.
Step 8. Decide Whether To Accept Settlement Offers
Insurers make calculated settlement offers primarily to avoid costly litigation and negative publicity surrounding a public trial. Evaluate thoroughly before accepting an insurer’s proposed settlement terms. Ensure the amount sufficiently covers all documented expenses you already paid, plus future medical costs your providers foresee stemming from the crash injuries. Account for property damages, lost income, pain and suffering, out-of-pocket crash-related outlays and your attorney fees as well.
If the insurer’s offer substantially lowballs your substantiated financial losses, rejecting it may be wisest to proceed to a court trial. Your attorney can request additional mediation first to perhaps win a little more compromise. But refusing inadequate settlements sends the message you will fight tooth and nail in court if reasonable terms don’t get offered.
Step 9. If No Settlement Is Reached, Take Unresolved Cases To Court Trial
If mediation and negotiations reach an impasse, your car accident claim enters the litigation phase heading to trial before a judge or jury. Both legal teams now engage in discovery seeking depositions, subpoenas, and evidence to boost their trial arguments.
During the courtroom proceedings, witnesses testify to facts backing each side’s version of liability and damages owed. Common witnesses include police sharing accident investigative findings, physicians discussing your injury diagnoses, vocational experts projecting career impact, and more.
The judge or jury hears arguments from both legal teams with all evidence presented before deliberating their final decision. If they rule the insurer liable for crash damages, they determine fair compensation amounts to award you. Their judgment then legally compels the insurance company to pay court-ordered restitution.
While certainly tedious at times, understanding what suing an insurer after a car accident entails helps you seek justice undeterred. Arm yourself with truthful evidence proving fair compensation is deserved and attorneys skilled in fighting for accident victims’ rights.
Refuse to let profit-motivated insurers deny you recovery of damages another driver caused. Join forces with a legal eagle to compel accountable, ethical claims handling practices benefitting innocent automobile accident victims seeking what policies legally owe them.