Car accidents come in all shapes and sizes. Some are minor fender benders between compact sedans. Others are high-speed collisions involving tractor-trailers and SUVs.
Some vehicle crashes are the result of distracted driving, while others occur due to a specific traffic violation such as running a red light or driving while under the influence.
When so many potential factors are involved, it not really possible to assign a standard value to a car crash. If you’re the victim in a collision, the insurance company will study a variety of factors and make an offer based on an aggregation of these elements.
But there’s almost always some wiggle room in the numbers, and it’s up to you to maximize the compensation you receive.
Five Tips for Maximizing Your Compensation
In the wake of a car accident, it’s imperative for you to think about valuation and try to obtain as much compensation as you possibly can for damages and suffering. Here are five essential tips.
- Document the Evidence
If you’re physically able to, take the trouble to gather as much information as possible while you’re still at the scene of the incident. This includes the name and contact information of other drivers, witnesses, and law enforcement officers who are present.
“It is also a good idea to take photographs while you are still at the accident scene,” Nolo advises. “Most of us carry cell phones, and most of those cell phones have camera capabilities. While you are at the accident scene, take pictures of the following: the locations of the vehicles, areas of physical damage on each vehicle, and the license plates of each vehicle.”
- Obtain a Police Report
If you fail to obtain a police report at the scene of the crime, you’ll find yourself facing a steep uphill battle during the insurance claim process. So it’s highly recommended that you call the police, have them fill out a report, and have them provide you with a copy of it later.
- Understand Negligence
In order to understand how car accidents are regarded in the insurance arena, you have to familiarize yourself with the subject of negligence. That’s the principle that allows you to sue someone for an auto accident.
In order for negligence to lead to compensation, it must be proved that someone’s actions caused you to be hurt (physically, emotionally, and in other ways). In some states, comparative negligence comes into play.
“Comparative negligence refers to the assessment of fault on both sides of a vehicle crash,” Will Ferguson & Associates explains. “Sometimes, you can be in an accident where both parties hold some blame. That doesn’t preclude you from going after the other party for the role they played in the collision. You can still sue the other party because of the law of comparative negligence.”
In other words, if you’re 45 percent to blame and the other party is 55 percent to blame, you can still get compensation for 55 percent of the damages. Comparative negligence is essentially a way of prorating the case’s value and assigning levels of liability based on blame.
- Don’t Accept the First Offer
An insurance company isn’t going to bring its best offer first. If the case is worth $15,000, they might offer you $7,000 to start with. As much as the company may act as if this is its “bottom line offer,” it most likely isn’t.
Continue to negotiate until you reach a figure that you believe is: (a) reasonable, and (b) adequate to cover your expenses.
- Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
Although you’re completely within your rights to negotiate the insurance settlement on your own, it’s not a move that most people would advise. Insurance companies have well-trained, experienced adjusters who understand how to negotiate and manipulate claimants into accepting low-ball offers.
In order to counteract this, you should hire a lawyer who specializes in car crashes and injuries, and understands how the insurers operate and can make smart counters.
Focus on Your Recovery
At the end of the day, money is just a tool. Yes, it can help make you more comfortable, but it’s not the most important thing in the world.
Your health is what matters most: Without it, you’ll continue to suffer long after the accident is over. Focus on all aspects of your recovery — not just the financial side of the matter — and you’ll find joy in the midst of challenging circumstances.