Trying to manage the aftermath of an accident can feel like a balancing act. On one hand, you want to decrease the effects on your life as much as possible. Yet it’s often hard for accident victims to do that. You may find yourself weighing considerations like whether you can afford the car repairs or medical care you need and how quickly you must agree to a settlement in order to keep your costs from continually increasing. In the back of your mind, you may also be worrying about whether the actions you take right now could be hurting your claim.
Your situation is unique, but the best advice we can give you is also the simplest. Do whatever you can to lessen the impact of the accident on your life. Remember, while your claim is important, it is nowhere near as important as your health, your family’s wellbeing, or your valuable time. You won’t get extra compensation for problems that you exacerbate.
The problem of car repairs typically goes like this: You want to get your car fixed as soon as possible, not only to prevent damage from growing more extensive over time, but also so that you have your familiar method of transportation back. However, insurance companies don’t always cooperate in helping you resolve the problem as quickly and completely as you would like, especially if you are getting the repairs done through the other driver’s insurance company. If you opted to purchase collision coverage as part of your auto insurance policy, you may have the option to go through your own insurance company to get your car repaired. This may allow you to get back on the road sooner, but you’ll also be forced to shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars to pay the deductible.
Do you cough up the cash even though the accident wasn’t your fault, and hope that your insurance company gets the money back from the other company and sends it along to you? If you don’t want to go through your own policy or don’t have the necessary coverage, how long will you have to fight with the other driver’s insurance company to get them to pay up? Can you afford to wait to get the repairs done?
Regardless of how you decide to pay for it, your best bet is to get automobile repairs done in a timely manner. You should be able to settle the property damage claim (separate from your personal injury claim) and get your repairs completed within 30 days no matter which insurance policy you go through. While having your car back is important for getting to work, doctor’s appointments, and other locations, there’s a more long-term reason to repair your car sooner rather than later. Imagine that a rear-end accident leaves your bumper loose. Getting the problem fixed early on could cost just a few hundred dollars – but if you wait so long that the loose bumper falls off of the car, creating even more damage, the final cost will be much higher. Which expense do you think the other driver’s insurance company will be willing to pay – the original cost, or the price tag of procrastination?
Just as you shouldn’t postpone getting your car repaired, you shouldn’t put off getting the medical care you need. By using an injured body part in ways that contribute to the loss of your health, you can very well make your injuries worse. That can mean increased pain, a lengthier recovery time, and the need for more – and possibly more invasive – medical intervention.
Right now, a laceration may require cleaning and stitches, and a broken bone may require a splint or cast. Wait to get treatment, and you could end up with infected wounds or needing surgery to break and correctly set an improperly healed bone.
Another health-related question many victims ask is what to do about work. The anxiety of missing work when your expenses are already piling can be daunting, but so can the notion of trying to work through the pain. Is rest the best option? Will working hurt your health, your claim, or both?
When you see your doctor, ask him or her for recommendations as to whether your injury makes you unable to work. You should have the kind of relationship with your doctor that allows you to trust his or her advice – if you don’t, it’s time to find a new doctor. If you can work, do. Not only will the insurance company limit your settlement if the adjuster has a reason to be suspicious about the time you miss from work, but going about this regular activity can help you keep some normalcy in your life. If you and your doctor fear that your injury will prevent you from working, take the time to rest, period.
If the insurance company offers you a settlement, you face another difficult decision. Do you have to accept this initial offer, or is there room for negotiation? How long do you have to make a decision?
It is rarely in your best interest to accept the insurance company’s first offer. Settling a personal injury claim is a process of negotiation, and the insurance adjuster knows it. The initial settlement offer does not represent the full amount that the insurance company is willing to pay. Unless you absolutely need the settlement money right now, you should keep negotiating. When you do decide to accept a settlement, you have to read all of the paperwork carefully to make sure that you are not signing away any additional rights. If you rush to cash a check and deprive yourself of future medical treatment from your own insurance company, for example, you could be costing your family more in the long run.
Just as you shouldn’t make hasty decisions about your claim, don’t spend so much time considering settlement offers that it increases the costs you have to pay out of your settlement. Keep in mind that if your automobile is in storage, those storage fees increase over time. When you receive a settlement offer, consider making the decision of whether or not to accept that settlement your top priority.
Because you have so much to worry about, it’s common to feel overwhelmed by the decisions you have to make after an accident. Always do what you can to limit the effects the accident has on your life. Your health and your family’s wellbeing have to come first – your claim should be a secondary priority in comparison.
Before you begin contacting the insurance companies involved in your claim, check back for the next installment of How to Handle Your Own Personal Injury Claim.