After you have been in a car accident, the process to getting paid is a long and winding road — pun intended.
The hardest part about getting what you should for your case is that most of the time you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t know what doctors are best, so you go to your PCP who sends you to another doctor, who tells you that you need surgery. None of those doctors actually wrote the medical reports carefully, though, so there is no actual proof that your injury came from your car accident. You then didn’t know that you had to attend most, if not all, of your medical appointments so that your case would not be valued less because of absences, delays and gaps in treatment. You also didn’t know that your settlement payment should have included future time off of work and money for future medical treatment, including major surgeries or procedures that are expected to occur based on your current injuries. You didn’t know a lot of things because you are not a car accident lawyer.
You may be worried about losing a lot of money on your claim to a lawyer because you know they take a chunk of your settlement. A lawyer will likely not only get you paid more than you would on your own, but he or she will help you each step of the way, both medically and financially. One of the most important things they do is to try and get you full policy limits.
What are policy limits?
Policy limits are the financial liability of the insurance company to you on behalf of their client who hit you. They are contractually obligated to pay up to this amount on behalf of their client — though they don’t have to pay the full amount if they feel it is not justified.
The amounts of a policy can vary greatly from $15,000 all the way up to millions of dollars. The person who hit you would pay a higher premium for more insurance. If that person is wealthy, then he or she would likely get a lot of insurance to cover them because you can sue them individually too and they may have to pay you out of their pocket.
How do I get the policy limits?
Just because there is a lot of value on a policy it doesn’t mean that you can get all of that money just because someone hit you. Generally, the policy pays more based on the amount of damage you have incurred as a result of the insured’s negligence.
To even attempt at getting the full amount of a policy, you have to do these four things at a minimum:
- Find out how much the limits are.
If they are $15,000 – $25,000, getting those amounts in your pocket are fairly easy because insurance companies would rather just pay you than dig into a claim that is worth a small amount of expense to them. They would rather save their resources for more expensive claims. You get the limits by asking the adjuster if this is a minimum limit policy. If they say it is not, then you know you are dealing with something higher. Then you know what you are working with and how much medical treatment you should get. Of course, you should get the treatment you believe you need in order to get better, but just be aware that more medical treatment means higher bills, which can mean less cash for you.
- You should start getting medical treatment right away.
The closer to your accident the better. Obviously some symptoms take time to manifest, but others happen the very same or next day. Get treated quickly and do all the recommended treatment and you’ll get paid something. Medical treatment is important because it shows the insurance company that you were actually injured and the medical bills are covered by the insurance company. They will pay you the bills your health insurance company charged after you get a settlement (be aware that some of the money you get from the insurance company will have to be repaid to your health insurer who paid for your treatment).
- Get your certified medical records and medical bills from doctors.
Gather these records and draft a settlement demand letter to the insurance company. In that settlement demand letter, write down all the dates of treatment and the total cost of treatment for each medical provider. The adjuster will reference that amount in the actual medical bills that you provide to them. Demonstrate to the adjuster that your medical bills, plus your pain and suffering, are greater than the policy limits by at least 40%.
- The adjuster will come back to you with a low ball offer, which is why you asked for more than the policy limits.
You will explain to the adjuster why you think their point of view is wrong and you will lower your offer of settlement by 20%. They counter with a higher offer and you will lower it again by 10%. Then again by 5%. This gives you another 5% cushion to lower it one more time if you have to. If they don’t budge and you want the limits, then you may have to call in a lawyer to file a lawsuit.
Getting policy limits is a lot easier on the smaller value cases than the high dollar ones, so if you find that you have a large policy, it’s likely best left in the experienced hands of a reputable car accident lawyer. It is all doable, at any level, as long as you had physical damages to your body, have gone to medical treatment, have provided the certified medical records and bills to the adjuster, and provided a summary of everything that has happened to you medically, all without budging on the negotiation too much. After doing all of that, you will be in a fantastic position to secure the policy limits that you so rightly deserve after your car accident.