How to Settle a Car Accident Claim Without a Lawyer – in Houston or Anywhere in Texas
The Steps You Need to Follow
By Michael P. Fleming, Board Certified – Personal Injury Trial Law – Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
In most cases, it is not a good idea to try to settle your car accident injury case without legal representation. The reason is that while this may be the first time you have tried to settle a claim, the insurance adjuster will have handled thousands of claims more than you and has an unfair advantage. However, in some instances it may make sense. In cases where the injuries and medical expenses are minimal, it may not be worth it to hire a car accident lawyer. In fact, in such situations, depending on the facts, I might recommend that a potential client not hire us if they might end up receiving more compensation without having to pay an accident attorney.
Before you even begin to evaluate your claim, you need make note of several important things which can destroy your claim if not handled properly.
- Follow the doctor’s recommended treatment until you have recovered. If you miss doctor appointments or delay your treatment, the insurance company adjuster will use this to devalue or even deny your claim completely. Make sure you have reached maximum recovery before you attempt to settle the claim without a lawyer.
Make note of the Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations is the time in which you must bring a lawsuit or your claim is barred by law. In Texas, the Statute of Limitations for a personal injury case such as a car accident is two years from the date of the crash. Once two years pass, you cannot bring a lawsuit and the insurance company will not pay you a thing. So, even if you don’t plan on filing a lawsuit in court, you must get a claim settled before two years or you will not be able to resolve the claim at all.
6 Steps to Take To Settle Your Car Automobile Collision Claim Without a Lawyer
Ok, so you have fully recovered from you injuries. Follow these steps to present your claim to the insurance adjuster:
- Obtain the Accident Report. The accident report is the form filled out by the police officer that investigated your accident. You can contact the department the officer worked for to obtain the report. Generally, the agency will be the city police, or the sheriff’s department. The report will contain the officer’s conclusions on the cause of the crash. If the other driver received a ticket, this is important in making you claim. More information on accident reports is found in our Car Accident FAQ.
- Obtain your Medical Records. You should contact every medical provider you saw – including any ambulance service – and obtain copies of your medical bills and records. These records will show the extent of your injuries, the treatment and the cost of the treatment.
- Collect any Lost Wages Information. Even if you used vacation days, you are entitled to get paid for this loss.
- Gather any Pictures of the Damaged Vehicles. This is especially important to show the severity of the accident which will confirm the doctor’s findings as to the extent of the injuries.
- Take Pictures of the Injuries any Scars or Disfigurement. Pictures of injuries right after the accident as well as any permanent scarring or disfigurement are very persuasive in presenting your claim.
- Get Health Insurance Payment Information. If you used your health insurance to pay your medical bills, call them and get a written statement as to how much they paid. The health insurance company will have a right to get paid back out of any settlement.
Once you have obtained all of this information, present it in a package to the insurance adjuster and either include a demand or ask them for an offer. Before you make a demand or accept an offer, you need to know how much your health insurance paid out and what the outstanding medical bills are. These will need to be paid out of any settlement funds and your health insurance company will have a right of subrogation.
If you are successful in settling your case without a lawyer, the insurance company will require that you sign a release. Once you do this and accept the payment, you cannot ever bring another claim against the other driver – even if you find out you need more medical treatment. This is why it is important to fully recover before you settle your case.
PLEASE NOTE: If you were hit by a drunk driver, you should not try to settle your case yourself. You may be entitled to additional damages that the insurance company will not pay if you do not have a competent attorney.
If you have any questions about whether it is a good idea to try to settle your car wreck claim yourself, call Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C., today.