What are the car accident injury settlement basics every crash victims should know? The word settlement refers to an agreement between an injured crash victim and a person, entity, or organization legally responsible for causing the victim’s injuries and for compensating the victim for that harm.
In a typical car accident settlement agreement, the injured victim agrees to release the legally liable party from future financial liability in exchange for the payment of money. A settlement ends a legal case. If the injured person has already filed a lawsuit against the responsible party, then the settlement almost always includes an agreement to end the lawsuit. If the injured person has not yet filed suit, then the agreement typically prevents the filing of a lawsuit in the future.
Generally, an insurance company that sold an automobile policy pays the settlement amount to the injured crash victim. There are times though when a portion of the money for a settlement comes directly out of the responsible party’s own pocket. Experienced car accident injury attorneys investigate all potential sources of settlement dollars available to pay a car accident settlement, to ensure that insurance policy limits do not unnecessarily limit the amount of money an injured client receives.
Once the agreement is signed by the parties, a settlement is final. For that reason, injured crash victims must approach settlements with care and should always seek the advice and counsel of an experienced auto accident injury lawyer before reaching an agreement. Those precautions help to ensure victims receive the maximum amount of money reasonably available in exchange for giving up their important legal rights.
To reach a settlement you can usually expect the following steps:
- A crash happens and someone gets injured. The injured person gets medical care and then hires an experienced car accident injury attorney.
- The attorney investigates the case. This may include reviewing police reports, visiting the accident scene, interviewing witnesses, and working with experts to determine how the accident happened, who may have a legal liability to the injured victim for damages and the ability to pay them, and how much money the victim deserves to receive under the law.
- The attorney requests the victim’s medical records from the hospital, doctors and other medical providers. The attorney may visit with the medical professionals to determine the extent of victim’s injuries and the prognosis for the future including needs for continuing medical care.
- The attorney demands money from a person or entity who have potential legal liability to the injured crash victim for damages. The attorney may do this by sending a letter to the party, to the party’s attorney, or to the party’s insurance carrier. The attorney may take a more formal approach and make the demand by filing a lawsuit against the person or entity. In some cases, the attorney may do both. Different cases will have different approaches to this step.
- The party with legal liability responds to the demand usually through an attorney or insurance representative. The response may dispute certain issues in the case, and may argue who is at fault for the accident, or the extent of the victim’s injuries.
- If fault and injuries are disputed, often the victim’s attorney may need to file a petition with the court and the case proceeds to its next phase, known as discovery, in which each side exchanges information relating to a car accident claim.
- At some point, the parties begin negotiating a potential settlement of the injury case. When and how this happens varies widely depending upon the case. Sometimes the responsible party comes to the negotiating table right away. Other times, the other side may want to take time to investigate first, or engage in discovery including depositions of the victim, witnesses and the medical care providers.
- Negotiations can take various forms—in person, over email, by phone, etc.—and may involve multiple rounds of offers and counter-offers. Sometimes parties go to mediation where a third party neutral such as another lawyer, or retired judge, may help the parties reach a settlement.
- The parties reach a settlement when they agree on the amount and terms of payment of money the injured crash victim.
- The lawyers will then draft a settlement agreement, the parties will sign it, and money will be paid to the victim.
Contact us today for a free evaluation if you are the victim of a car accident injury case.