An attorney is not required in claiming compensation for auto accident injuries. Some people are able to handle the claims process on their own, but doing so successfully entails much preparation and caution. There are many potential mistakes that would cost a claimant their case, which is why having a lawyer’s protection is important even though it’s not required.
To give you an idea, here’s an overview of the car accident injury settlement process in New Jersey, and problems you may encounter if self-representing.
How To Self-Represent In NJ Car Crash Claim
Step 1. Laying the groundwork
It’s crucial to research the laws and rules that apply to your NJ car accident case. Make sure you understand your rights, New Jersey’s personal injury laws, the applicable statute of limitations, and the provisions of your insurance policy. Also look into how the insurance company actually deals with injury claims so you know what to expect from them.
Gather evidence as early as you can, including your immediate medical bills, a copy of the police report, photos of the accident scene, and related documentation.
Estimate the value of your damages (losses), which might include tangible costs such as hospital bills and lost wages as well as less tangible ones such lower future earning capacity, pain and suffering.
Step 2. Starting your claim
In New Jersey, you must contact your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) provider first to pay for your initial medical bills. Once you’ve exceeded the PIP coverage threshold, you can then file a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance carrier. You can send them a formal demand letter stating why you hold the other driver liable for your injuries and how much you’ve valued your damages.
Step 3. Insurance negotiations
Once you’ve contacted the other driver’s insurer, expect to receive a low counter-offer from them. This is one of the numerous tactics that insurance companies are known to use during claims negotiations. You don’t have to settle with their early offers. You can go back and forth with the insurance adjuster regarding the valuation of your losses and other damages.
Step 4. Reaching the end of negotiations
If you and the insurance company agree on a settlement amount, follow it up in writing so you have a written record of what was agreed on. You will need to sign a settlement agreement – review this document carefully before signing it.
On the other hand, the negotiations might not reach settlement at all. The process often fails due to any number of reasons, such as being stalled, having a deadlock, or the use of bad faith tactics.
Common Problems When Claiming Without A Lawyer
Injury claimants usually encounter “delay, deny, defend” tactics of insurance companies. An insurer might prolong the processing of a claim in an attempt to frustrate the claimant into accepting a low settlement offer. They might outright deny the liability of the policyholder, minimize the value of the injury, or defend their party using the many defenses available in a car accident case.
If the claimant has not built a strong case at this point, or is unable to match the negotiating power of the insurance adjuster, it can be near impossible to obtain a fair settlement.
Another risk when self-representing is saying or doing something that the other party could use to damage the claim. Sometimes, even utterances like “I’m fine” can be used to devalue your injuries. Apologizing could also be interpreted as an admission of fault. In addition, any kind of delay in your medical treatment could be taken to mean that your case is not as serious as you claim. It is vital that you seek medical attention immediately after the accident, and avoid missing doctor’s appointments.
Pitfalls like these and many others exist throughout the claims process. The fact is that people who don’t hire a lawyer are far more vulnerable to losing their claim or receiving much less than they deserve.
If your injury is minor, you could probably attempt to settle on your own, but if a serious injury is involved and you are racking up substantial expenses, having an attorney in your corner is definitely the most advisable option. A good injury lawyer should protect you from costly mistakes, and level the playing field when negotiating with an insurance company.
Even if you are not considering a lawsuit right now, you should at least consult with a personal injury attorney to know your best options for getting compensated. In NJ, The Grossman Law Firm provides a free consultation, so you lose nothing by talking to us. Call us at (732) 625-9494 today.