In most cases, recovering your losses after an auto accident means accepting a check from the insurance companies. But, while you may be anxious to get your vehicle repaired and move on, you need to be very careful to make sure that you do not accept a check too soon.
Why? Because once you accept a check-in settlement of your claim, your claim is over.
Many people do not realize that accepting an insurance check can waiver their legal rights. While some insurance companies will make partial payments without requiring a waiver, others will not. If you waive your rights by accepting a check – even if you do so unknowingly – you will not be able to seek additional compensation for your accident-related losses.
7 Tips for Making an Informed Decision about Your Auto Insurance Settlement
With this in mind, how can you avoid settling your auto accident claim too soon? Here are seven tips from our auto accident lawyers in Plano, TX:
Tip #1: Make Sure You Know Your Legal Rights
First and foremost, you need to make sure you know your legal rights. Your insurance adjuster will not explain your rights to you, and he or she is not going to handle your claim with your best interests in mind. Insurance adjusters get paid to ensure that the insurance companies pay as little for accident claims as possible, and, as a claimant, it is up to you to make sure that you receive the full compensation you deserve.
Where can you learn about your legal rights? Our article, 7 Important Facts for Auto Accident Victims in Texas, is a good place to start. For personalized legal advice, you will need to speak with an attorney.
Tip #2: Make Sure You Know the Total Cost of Your Medical Needs
If the other driver was at fault in your accident, you are entitled to compensation for the full cost of your current and future medical care. Before you settle your insurance claim, you must obtain a comprehensive assessment of your long-term treatment needs. Your health insurance might not cover all of your accident-related medical expenses, and, if it doesn’t, you will be looking at paying out of pocket unless you obtain the auto insurance coverage you deserve.
Tip #3: Make Sure You Know How Much It Will Cost to Repair or Replace Your Vehicle
In addition to taking care of your medical bills, you need to make sure that your insurance settlement takes care of the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle as well. The insurance companies use many different tactics to avoid paying accident victims the full amount they are owed, from sending accident victims to “preferred” repair shops to not disclosing the full amount of coverage available.
You have the right to take your vehicle to the shop or dealership of your choosing; and, if your vehicle has been totaled, you have the right to a replacement. The available coverage will determine the answers to questions such as whether you are entitled to new OEM parts (as opposed to refurbished parts) and how much you are entitled to receive toward purchasing a replacement vehicle.
Tip #4: Make Sure You Know the Other Financial Costs of Your Auto Accident
Beyond your medical bills and vehicle repair or replacement costs, if the other driver was at fault in your accident, you are entitled to compensation for your other financial costs as well. This includes both direct out-of-pocket costs and loss of income, and it includes both costs you have incurred to date and costs you will incur in the future.
For example, let’s say your accident-related injuries prevent you from working. Maybe you have a broken arm, and you will be out of work for a minimum of six months. Losses you may be entitled to recover through your auto insurance claim include:
- Your lost wages or salary to date
- The wages or salary you will lose over the next six months (or longer)
- Your lost benefits for the entire period you are unable to work.
- Your transportation costs for getting back and forth from your doctor’s office
- The cost of prescription medications and medical supplies
- The cost of physical therapy and rehabilitation
Tip #5: Do Not Overlook Your Right to Compensation for Your Non-Financial Losses
One of the biggest mistakes auto accident victims make is failing to seek just compensation for their non-financial losses. If you are entitled to compensation for your injuries’ financial costs, you are entitled to compensation for the non-financial costs as well. This includes costs such as:
- Emotional trauma (including post-traumatic stress)
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of comfort, companionship, and consortium
- Loss of services, society, and support
In many cases, these non-financial costs are calculated as a multiple of accident victims’ financial losses. This means that your compensation for your emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and other non-financial losses could very well account for the majority of your auto accident insurance settlement.
Tip #6: Do Not Sign Anything (Including a Check) Until You Speak with an Attorney
If you don’t sign anything, you can’t waive your legal rights (unless you wait too long to assert them). With this in mind, you should not sign anything – including a check – unless an attorney tells you that it is safe to do so.
Tip #7: Consult with an Auto Accident Attorney Before You Deal with the Insurance Companies
Ultimately, the best way to avoid settling too soon is to hire an auto accident attorney to represent you. An experienced auto accident attorney will be able to (i) make sure you do not waive your rights, (ii) calculate your financial and non-financial losses, and (iii) deal with the insurance companies on your behalf. Your attorney will be able to determine if you have other compensation claims as well and will be able to take all necessary steps on your behalf to recover the full financial compensation you deserve.
Contact Us 24/7 for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation in Plano, TX
Do you need help protecting your right to just compensation after an auto accident in Plano, TX? To speak with an experienced auto accident lawyer at The Law Office of Joel M. Vecchio, P.C. in confidence, call 972-380-4444 or request a free consultation online now.