Settling a car accident claim takes speed, organization and skill

Nobody wants to be hurt in a car accident and nobody wants to cope with the agony that comes after the accident -- the insurance claim.

Keeping that in mind, there are some basic things you should know about how to handle an insurance claim when you've been the victim of a negligent driver:

  1. Try to settle out of court. It's far less stressful and generally less expensive. What you might gain in an award in court could easily be lost again through court costs, the price of depositions, expert witnesses and more.
  2. Move fast. You don't want to let the insurance company know that you are planning on asking for a settlement. You also want to get to witnesses while their memories are clear and gather evidence while it's easy to collect.
  3. Get organized. Make certain that you build a solid case -- and that means putting together a paperwork trail. Gather every bill and medical report associated with your case and make certain they're in chronological order when you present it to the other driver's insurance company.
  4. Have a goal in mind. You can expect the insurance company's goal when it comes to what kind of settlement to offer you to be a lot lower than your goal. Ideally, you'll eventually meet in the middle.

Usually, the negotiations that go on center on a couple of major issues: Which driver is responsible for how much of the accident and how much compensation you ultimately deserve for "soft" figures, like pain and suffering.

In Louisiana, courts use the rule known as "pure comparative fault" when determining fair compensation -- so any award you are due for a personal injury gets reduced by any fault attributed to you for the accident. In other words, if the other driver was 90 percent responsible for the accident and you were 10 percent responsible, a $10,000 claim would be reduced by 10 percent. You'd only be due $9,000 instead.

You may also have to do some serious arguing about how much your pain, suffering, lost enjoyment of life and other hard-to-calculate losses are really worth.

Remember, you don't have to try to navigate the ins-and-outs of insurance claims and settlement amounts on your own. An attorney can advocate your case for you.

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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Baton Rouge, LA 70809

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