Car accident injury claim, we’ll have to go to court? Can We Settle Out of Court?
Car Accident Injury Claim Settlement Process Explained
Since 1993 I’ve represented thousands of injured workers and car accident victims throughout Massachusetts. Well, let me say first off in most cases, no, you won’t have to go to court to settle your car accident injury claim. Let me explain how the claims process works.
First off, there’s two parts to any car accident personal injury claim in Massachusetts; liability and damages. In a car accident claim liability means negligence,
who is at fault? So if we have evidence to show that the car accident was caused by the other driver’s fault then most cases you will not have to go to court because it’s clear and the insurance company will accept that their client they’ve insured was at fault for causing the car accident. Next is damages. Damages can be broken down to two types, special or economic damages and general or non-economic damages. Special and economic damages refer to things that are quantifiable, that you can add up.
Those include lost wages and your medical bills. You can add them up, you see how much they are. You have the documentation to show the total amount. And those are your special or economic damages. General damages are different. You can’t add them up, but they’re just as real. Things like pain and suffering, scarring, disfigurement, loss of function to the part of your body that was injured in the car accident.
One of the things that your lawyer has to do in a car accident injury claim in Massachusetts is to verify and to confirm the total amount of available coverage for the driver who caused the accident. Perhaps the owner of the car that caused the accident or sometimes if the driver was driving a commercial vehicle, maybe while working, what the policy limits are for their employer.
There are different coverage limits in Massachusetts, the minimal coverage, the compulsory limits what we call 2040, which means in that situation that the most that would be available under that policy, if those were the limit is $20,000 to settle your claim. There are other optional limits that we encounter quite frequently with private or personal lines insurance, 50,000, 100,000, 250,000. And sometimes there are other insurance that a person has that they buy separate from the car insurance, things like excess coverage or umbrella coverage. In terms of a commercial vehicle, oftentimes the limits for commercial policies are $1,000,000 or more.
While negotiating a settlement of a personal injury claim involving a car accident in Massachusetts, sometimes, we might reach a bump in the road where the insurance adjusters last offer or what they say the last offer is, is just too far apart from how we value the case or what we’re recommending to our client. In certain situations, we may file a lawsuit but we will continue to have discussions with the insurance company about potential settlement or resolution of the claim.
When we file a lawsuit quite frequently, the claim is reassigned to another adjuster within the claims department of the insurance company, usually an adjuster with a lot more experience. And one of the first things that a new adjuster will do on a claims file after reviewing it is to contact me, contact the attorney to see where things left off as far as settlement negotiations and is there anything more that we can do to see if we can reach an agreement?
We might find that there was additional authority, settlement authority that the other adjuster was holding back. Even after filing a lawsuit and even after conducting discovery, written discovery, interrogatories, document requests and deposition testimony, if there is not really a dispute as far as liability, and if the damages, the injuries sustained in the car accident are pretty well-documented and it’s not a lot of controversy. And it’s just a matter of trying to negotiate the right number that the insurance company is willing to offer and that we’ll recommend to our client, oftentimes we’ll use a process called mediation, which is very effective in helping the parties reach a settlement.
A mediation is basically a settlement conference and a mediator is either an experienced lawyer who has a lot of years of experience, decades of experience, handling personal injury claims resulting from a car accident. Oftentimes on behalf of insurance companies defending claims or on behalf of accident victims, who’ve been injured in an accident. And oftentimes the mediator might have experienced doing both on both sides. In addition to that, mediators may also be retired judges.
Based on my experience over 26 years handling car accident personal injury claims in Massachusetts I can tell you that overall over 90% of car accident injury claims settle before going to trial. even if a lawsuit has been started in most cases with an experienced lawyer, is a good chance that your case can be settled without the need to go to trial.