If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may be wondering if you can save money by working out a settlement with the insurance company on your own.

Everyone is looking for ways to save money these days, and perhaps you think that if you negotiate your own claim you will be able to keep more in  your pocket by avoiding an attorney’s fee.  But in many cases handling your own claim can actually end up costing you money.  Here’s why:

Despite what their commercials may lead you to believe, insurance companies are not in the business of paying claims.  This is true, of course, because the less they pay out in claims the more profit they make.   While the insurance adjuster may seem nice you should remember that she is not on your side!

So, if the insurance company isn’t looking out for your best interest, who is?

Having an attorney on your side can help level the playing field and give you a better chance of getting the compensation you deserve.

According to a study conducted by the Insurance Research Council, injury victims who use lawyers for their personal injury claims receive bigger settlements than victims who do not use a lawyer.  You may be saying to yourself, “yeah, but how much of that money do they actually keep after paying for the lawyer?”  According to the study, injured persons who used lawyers received more money on their claims even taking into account fees paid to their lawyers.

The bottom line is that an attorney can help get you your best possible recovery because he knows how to deal with the insurance companies.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help maximize your recovery to get you the compensation you deserve.  Call Al Lewis of Lewis, Lewis & Falkner at 205-553-5353 for your free consultation.

Mistake #1: Not Calling the Police

Always call the police after a car accident, even if you think the damage is minor. The police can keep you and the other driver safe by doing things like diverting traffic from the scene of the accident. Plus, a police report will be especially vital to you if you were not at fault in the accident.

Mistake #2: Not Seeking Medical Attention

Your car accident has made you late for work and thrown off your entire schedule for the day. You don’t want to further derail your routine by taking time to go to the doctor for a comprehensive exam, especially if you think you feel “okay.” You’re a little sore but you decide to wait and see if your injuries just heal on their own over time.

Sounds reasonable, right? Big mistake.

While you may truly not have any injuries from your car accident it’s a good idea to seek medical attention right away no matter how “okay” you feel.

Getting immediate medical attention is obviously important for your health because a trained medical professional can assess your injuries and help you get on the road to recovery sooner than if you put off treatment.

But it’s also important to keep in mind that your failure to get immediate medical attention can be used by the insurance company to justify lower compensation for your injuries.

Mistake #3: Forgetting to Gather Information and Evidence

It is crucial to gather the other driver’s personal information after the car accident. The police will put this information in their report as well, but while you wait for them to arrive it’s a good idea to make note of it yourself. You’ll want to keep track of:

  • The name, contact information, driver’s license number, registration number, and insurance information of the other driver(s) involved;
  • The make, model, and license plate number of the other car(s) involved;
  • The names and contact information of any witnesses to the crash, including passengers in any other vehicles that were involved;
  • Details like the weather, date, and time of the crash;
  •  The damage to the vehicles, the vehicles’ positions, and any other relevant factors, like the presence of skid marks on the road.

Document the scene and any injuries or damage by using your cell phone to take pictures (assuming it is safe to do so).

Mistake #4: Admitting You’re at Fault

Your impulse may be to apologize after an accident, even if you know you’re not at fault. You may think you’re just being polite by saying “I’m sorry,” but the other driver can later use your words against you, arguing that they were an admission of fault.

In general, you should remember that anything you say after a car accident could come back later to haunt you.

Don’t say things that minimize your injuries like “I’m fine,” and don’t say things that could make the accident seem like your fault, such as “I didn’t mean to slam on my brakes,” or “I didn’t see your car in the other lane.”

Mistake #5: Trusting Insurance Companies

The insurance adjuster may seem nice and may even say things like “I want to help you.”

Despite what their advertisements may say, insurance companies are not in the business of paying claims; they’re in the business of making money for themselves.

Their goal is to pay you as little as possible for your accident, so don’t assume that the other party’s insurance adjuster is on your side, no matter how friendly he seems.

Mistake #6: Talking About Your Accident on Social Media

Anything you post about your accident on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media site can be used by the insurance company against you. For example, if a friend comments on your Facebook page asking how you are feeling and you reply “much better,” the insurance company could later use this as evidence that your injuries are not serious enough to merit the compensation you really deserve.

Mistake #7: Accepting the First Settlement Offer

The first offer from the insurance company is often much lower than what they are actually willing to pay. It may seem like a good idea to get the process over with quickly by accepting the first offer, but don’t sell yourself short. Your claim may be worth much more!

And remember that once you settle your car accident claim you can’t go back later and ask for more money if your injuries are worse than you initially thought.

Don’t lock yourself into a too-low settlement just for the sake of putting the accident behind you.

Mistake #8: Not Hiring a Lawyer

The biggest mistake you can make is not hiring an attorney to handle your personal injury claim.

The insurance adjuster may even tell you that you don’t need one, but that’s because they don’t want you to have one. They know that accident victims with attorneys receive, on average, settlements that are 3.5 times higher than what victims without attorneys receive.

You may think that you can handle your car accident claim on your own, but a personal injury attorney can help you maximize your recovery. It’s important to get in touch with an attorney soon after your accident so that he or she can begin investigating your case and putting you in a position to get the best possible recovery.

Lewis, Lewis & Falkner Can Help

Let an experienced lawyer guide you through the personal injury claims process and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Call us today at 205-553-5353 or come visit our office in Tuscaloosa for your free consultation.

What if I was in a car wreck and wasn’t wearing my seatbelt…can I still win damages?

In Alabama you are required to wear a seat belt if the car is in motion and you are in the front seat.  Interestingly, if you are seated in the back seat of a car and over 15 years of age you are NOT required to wear a seat belt, even if the car is moving  (although, or course, it’s a good idea to always wear a seat belt, no matter which seat you’re in!).

But, what happens if you are in a car wreck and aren’t wearing a seat belt even though you’re in the front seat?

To answer that question we first have to discuss a concept called “contributory negligence.”

Under the contributory negligence principle, if an injured person negligently “contributed” to his own injury then he cannot recover damages (money) from anyone else who caused the injury.

For example, if you step into a busy intersection without looking for oncoming traffic and are hit by a car you may be “contributorily negligent” for your own injuries.

So, does not wearing a seat belt make you contributorily negligent for your injuries in a car wreck?

Alabama has rejected the so-called “seat belt defense,” which applies in some other states to award plaintiffs only the damages they would have recovered had they been wearing a seat belt.

Instead, in Alabama failure to wear a seat belt is NOT evidence of contributory negligence and does not limit the liability of an insurer. 

Of course, you should still wear a seat belt because seat belts save lives.  When used properly, a seat belt can reduce the risk of fatal injury by front seat passengers by up to 45 percent.

Don’t let an insurance company convince you to settle for less just because you weren’t wearing a seat belt.  Find an experienced personal injury attorney to help you maximize your recovery.

If you have been hurt in a car accident in Alabama you may be entitled to compensation.  Call or come by our Tuscaloosa office today for your free consultation