Should I accept a check from the at fault driver or their insurance?
Many people who are in car accidents want to get their vehicle repaired as quickly as is possible in order to put the accident behind them. Insurance companies know this, and an at-fault driver’s insurer will frequently rush to cut a check and to settle the matter for an amount that is often far less than the costs of the property damage and injuries that the other driver suffered.
The Los Angeles personal injury lawyer team at Ellis Law Corporation caution drivers to be wary about accepting the first offer from an at-fault driver or insurance company. The full extent of damages and injuries, even from a minor accident, may not be known for weeks or months after the accident. Contact a Los Angeles car accident lawyer if you have any doubts or questions about an at-fault driver’s settlement offer. You should also take a few other steps in every car accident situation.
File a police report.
If there were no witnesses to the accident and there is any question of fault, your police report can be very valuable evidence regarding which party caused the accident. Police are trained to assess car accidents and to determine which party was at fault. If there is any question of fault or there are no police reports in your accident, the other party’s insurance company might argue that you were partly at fault and rely on California’s comparative negligence laws to reduce your payment in an amount that is proportional to their assessment of your responsibility for causing the accident.
Get a medical examination.
An injury from an accident may not manifest itself immediately, or something that at first feels like a minor injury can degrade into a more significant problem over time. Get a medical exam as soon as is possible after your car accident to document the immediately-obvious injuries. Follow any recommendations that the examining physician might make. An early medical exam will also prevent the at-fault party’s insurance company from arguing that you sustained injuries in an event that occurred after the car accident. Injuries that become worse over time may entitle you to compensation for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other non-economic damages.
Be careful about making statements to the at-fault driver or that driver’s insurer.
Even a casual statement to an at-fault driver or his or her insurer that you are fine or that the damage to your car is not bad can be held against you as you negotiate the settlement of your accident claims. Any time you speak with an at-fault driver’s insurance company representative, either by phone or in person, you should assume that your conversation is being recorded. You will need to give a statement directly to your own insurance company, but you are under no obligation to speak with the other party’s insurers. When you retain a qualified car accident attorney to handle negotiations with an at-fault party’s insurers, you are leveling a playing field that is otherwise be tilted in the at-fault insurer’s favor.
Do not deposit any checks you receive from the at-fault party’s insurance company.
The other party’s insurance company might directly send you a check soon after an accident, even without speaking with you. If you accept or deposit that check, you may well be forfeiting any rights you may have to seek a larger amount of damages. When you retain a car accident lawyer to negotiate a settlement or to take your case to trial, the at-fault party’s insurer will then be obligated to communicate only with your lawyer, who will verify that any payments that are made to you will not be treated as a waiver of your opportunity to collect greater damages for all of your property losses and injuries.
You incur no extra charges or fees if you retain an attorney.
If the Ellis Law Corporation accepts your case, we will not charge you any fees unless we are able to recover damages to compensate you for your property losses and injuries. Our fee will then be paid out of the insurance company settlement. In virtually every case, that settlement will be significantly higher than the first offer made by the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Call the Ellis Law Corporation Before You Talk to the Other Party’s Insurance Company
The Los Angeles car accident lawyers at the Ellis Law Corporation represent southern California drivers that have suffered property losses and injuries in automobile collisions. We have extensive experience in negotiating with insurance companies and in protecting drivers from insurance company practices that seek to minimize an injured driver’s compensation. Call a personal injury attorney at our firm for more information on the risks of dealing directly with an at-fault party’s insurer, and on how our representation can maximize your damages award.