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Filing an insurance claim vs. filing a lawsuit after an auto accident

Regardless of how careful you are on the road, another driver’s negligence might cause an auto accident. Car accidents are split-second occurrences, and victims are often muddled by the aftermath of a crash. In fact, most auto accident victims are unsure of what to do after a crash or even how to start their claim process.

Once the dust settles, you can take the required steps, like exchanging information with the parties involved and calling the police. It is also vital that you consider talking to an auto accident attorney so that you protect your legal right of pursuing compensation.

Generally, car accident victims will have the option of filing an insurance claim against the at-fault party’s insurer or filing suit against the at-fault driver. Your lawyer’s advice on whether to settle or sue is key, but it is important to note that this decision boils down to the amount of money each option can put in your pocket.

Should I file an insurance claim after a car accident?

In California, drivers are required to carry bodily injury liability coverage, property damage liability coverage, and uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. That means that in the event of an accident, you can file a claim against the at-fault party’s insurer, who, in turn, makes an offer for compensation to settle the case without litigation.

Here’s an example to put things into perspective. If your lawyer values your auto accident case at $50,000-60,000 and the insurer makes an offer of $55,000, then it makes sense to accept the offer and settle the case. If the pre-suit offer is $40,000, which is far from the valuation of your case, that’s a straightforward decision. Take the case to court.

Before deciding whether to accept an insurer’s offer or file a lawsuit, it is important that you keep some things in mind. Putting your case in suit means months of litigation, and you may not be able to talk settlement with the insurer during this period.

You also want to consider the costs involved. Normally, these will include out-of-pocket expenses incurred pre-suit and the contingent fee after accepting the award. For instance, if out-of-pocket expenses are $1,000 and you’re offered $42,000, which means a 1/3 contingent fee amounts to $14,000, the total lawyer fees are $15,000. That means you’d put $27,000 in your pocket.

Suppose you reject the offer and file a lawsuit. After a year of investigation and discovery, the insurer increases the offer to $60,000, but your attorney’s out-of-pocket expenses have also increased to $6,000. After deducting the 1/3 contingent fee, you’d have $34,000 left after a year of court sessions. In that case, only you can decide whether it was worth a year’s wait and hassle to get $7,000 more.

What should I do before filing an insurance claim?

Claim filing processes can be confusing, and talking to a lawyer before starting the process can guarantee a smoother process. If you wish to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurer, there are important steps you should follow. Here are those steps:

• Contact the at-fault driver’s insurer. Be prepared to give your insurance details, the details of the at-fault driver, the time and location of the accident, a brief description of the accident, and the contact information of other involved parties and witnesses.
• File a police report. The at-fault driver’s insurer will request a police report number when filing a third-party claim.

Need a lawyer to help you file your claim?

Dealing with insurers alone can be overwhelming, especially if you have been injured after an auto accident. However, filing your claim doesn’t have to be a nightmare. At Guy Levy Law, we help car accident victims seek compensation for their injuries and property damage by offering legal insight and representation. If you wish to file a claim against another driver’s insurer, call us for a free consultation session to understand your legal options.

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