When you have been hurt in a car crash or other serious accident, your first priority should be to seek medical attention. Getting to the hospital and getting treatment for your injuries — as well as getting a proper diagnosis for any long-term care needs — has to be the main concern. (You shouldn’t be worrying about your car when you’re on the way to the hospital, or when you get a call that your child (or spouse) has been in a wreck.).
However, after emergency care has been administered and long-term medical treatment has been assessed, the time comes to deal with the aftermath of the accident. The time comes to consider the financial consequences of the accident and how best to assert legal rights and claims for damages. Your next step is to demand justice for what has happened to you.
Injury Victims Assert a Demand for Damages and Compensation
In accident cases, the insurance carrier for the Other Guy isn’t going to show up in your hospital room or at your home, checkbook in hand, really to pay you the full policy amount automatically.
Injury victims must take the step of making an official request to be compensated for their damages and injuries. Officially, they make a “demand” for damages. This is usually done in a letter (sometimes with attachments or enclosures).
Demands Need to Be Complete and Comprehensive
However, that initial claim or demand is better served if it is made by an experienced Florida car accident lawyer. That demand letter can lay out the basis of your claim, after all.
If you go into mediation later, or if you go to trial, then that demand could be used as evidence of your claim. It could be used against you if you left things out of it — even if you left things out of your demand simply because you didn’t know that they could be legally included.
Demand letters should include things like:
- Medical expenses with documentation to support the number
- Facts to support the claim of fault (see our earlier posts related to fault here)
- Invoices and estimates to support property damage claims
- Medical opinions on future care needs
- Documentation to support lost wages, lost earning capacity, etc.
The demand letter is a supported summary of your claim. It can be used to negotiate a settlement with the insurance carrier. Therefore, it needs to be well thought out and thorough.
What Happens After the Demand?
After you draft your demand letter and send it to the Other Side, you should give them a reasonable time period to review the matter and determine a response. As a general rule, waiting at least one month (30 days) is not unusual.
What you will get back is not a check.
In response to your Demand letter, you may (but probably not) get an Offer.
If there are a large amount of damages and clear fault, then the carrier may offer the policy limits (Probably Not). That would be a fast settlement (which is highly unusual). It may not cover all your damages, but the policy limits are the most that the company can provide under the policy.
However, if they offer less than policy limits, then your next step is to negotiate with the insurance company (or file a lawsuit). If they offer you nothing, or they drag their heels about returning an offer, or make a lowball offer and stick to it, then having a personal injury lawyer on your side who routinely files lawsuits to seek justice and fair compensation for his clients is invaluable. Unfortunately, in South Florida, the only way to get fair compensation from an insurance company in a lot of cases is to file a lawsuit.
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in an accident, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.