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Before getting into the types of compensation you MAY be entitled to as a result of a car wreck that was the other driver’s fault, there are a few things to be aware of. The first is that, assuming the driver was insured, you will likely deal with his insurance company rather than him personally. Keep in mind that insurers are in the business of paying out as little as possible. They want to make money. In this pursuit they may say that some percentage of the accident was your fault, or that you haven’t supplied enough documentation to prove damages. Nowhere is it written they must settle with you for a certain amount. You might have to file a lawsuit to access the following types of compensation. Even then, it’s no sure thing.
Compensation for personal property damage falls into these two categories. You may be entitled to both if the wreck is the other guy’s fault. The first is the most obvious – damage to your vehicle. This is often a straightforward case. You car gets crunched through the negligence of another driver and you are owed a replacement vehicle of equal or greater value. It’s important to obtain a police report because, though it won’t always establish fault, per se, reading the details of the accident often makes it obvious who carries the greater blame.
You may also file for replacement value of personal property you had in the car that was damaged by the crash. Examples include, computers, cell phones, priceless art, and even the world-class mountain bike on the carrier in back that got turned into twisted tube art exhibit of its own when you were rear-ended while making a turn. In a perfect world, you would remember to take pictures of the damaged goods at the scene of the accident. When it comes to convincing an insurance company to scratch a check, the more proof you have of your damages, the better.
This can be a big compensation. Medical expenses often run into many thousands of dollars. You might miss lengthy periods of work or be unable to work at all, in a more grim scenario. Lingering mental and/or physical pain could become a permanent part of your life. Sometimes the injuries are obvious. Other times pain may manifest itself over a period of time.
The critical thing to remember, if you have even an inkling you have suffered injuries, is to NOT sign any kind of settlement agreement with the insurance company. Remember, they are in the business of reducing costs. You might receive what you think is a generous offer within the first few days following the wreck. The only reason they make that offer is that their experience has shown it is cheaper to offer up front money than remain on the hook for future medical expenses.
With injuries at stake, it’s best to contact a skilled personal injury lawyer who can advise you on how to watch out for your interests. At the very least, it’s foolish to sign anything until you know the full extent of injuries and what kind of treatment might be involved in recovery. Once you settle for an injury payment, that’s it. There’s no going back for more as medical bills pile up.
A final category of expenses that the other driver and his insurance company might be on the hook for falls in the “miscellaneous” category. Keep track of expenses that were created as a direct result of the accident. For example, if your car was totaled, you might have to rent one to get to work or school. Maybe you rented a taxi to get to the police station or forked over ten bucks for a copy of the police report. If it is a cost that you wouldn’t have had without the wreck, it’s legitimate to be reimbursed. Remember to document also! Keep receipts, make notes, whatever it takes to prove the cost to the insurance company.
The bottom line is that, though you may be entitled to a variety of compensation, the insurers are not normally going to just hand it over without a fight. If they cave completely, be suspicious because they must think they could pay much more by dragging it out. It is wise not to enter into negotiations on your own behalf. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need attorneys, but in this world we do. They are familiar and effective with what it takes to extract compensatory justice from a stubborn insurance company.
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