One of the first things to do after you’re involved in a car accident is to call your insurance company. One of the equally important things not to do right after you’re involved in a car accident is to accept the insurance company’s first offer.
Insurance Companies Want to Settle for as Little as Possible
Insurance companies want you to trust them, to understand that they are your best friends in a dangerous world. However, what insurance companies – and their adjusters and lawyers – also want is to settle your claim for the lowest possible amount. So, their first offer will be the lowest offer they think there is an outside chance of you accepting. Remember, the lower the amount you settle for, the happier their bosses will be. And you, watching money fly out the door for medical bills and lost wages, will likely be in a frame of mind to settle as soon as you can.
How an Attorney Can Protect Your Rights
When you’ve been the victim of a personal injury, whether it’s a car accident or a slip-and-fall, you are likely not in the best frame of mind to make important decisions about your claim. First, you are, in fact, injured and not at your best. Second, this is not your field of expertise – as it is for those at the insurance company. Finally, you may not even be very sure about what your damages are. Also, although you may think you have a lot of time to consider these issues, North Carolina has a three-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims. These problems can be alleviated by speaking to an attorney whose practice concentrates on personal injury cases.
Free Initial Consultation
Most personal injury attorneys offer free case evaluations to discuss your case. Because personal injury lawyers generally take cases on a contingency fee basis, they will be familiar and straightforward with you about your case’s litigation potential and value.
Evaluate Your Losses
A knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyer will understand the nature of your losses and help achieve the best possible settlement or award for you. There are generally two types of compensatory damages in a personal injury case in North Carolina: special and general damages.
Special or Economic Damages
Economic or special damages are not all that special. They are the damages that you can prove with a receipt or a bill. That is, special damages are things like:
- Hospital and doctor bills (present and future)
- Drugs and assistive equipment
- Therapy and rehabilitation (present and future)
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Property damage
These all have in common that they are easily verifiable with receipts, bills, pay stubs, and similar documentation. They are relatively easy to prove to the other side and the other side’s insurance company.
General or Non-Economic Damages
General or non-economic damages are those which aren’t easily proven by a receipt. They include things like:
- Pain and Suffering – Pain and suffering is the broad general term for your non-economic damages. It does include things like chronic intense pain and long-term suffering, but it also includes other results of your injury.
- Loss of Consortium – Loss of consortium technically means a loss of social interaction, but in personal injury cases, it most often refers to the loss of all or a portion of the marital relationship.
- Loss of Cognitive Skills – If you have suffered a head or traumatic brain injury, you may have lost some of your cognitive skills. No matter what kind of work you did or how you enjoyed life, this loss can permanently affect your ability to work at your previous occupation or any occupation at all.
- Loss of Motor Skills – Your injury may have caused paralysis or other loss of motor control, affecting your ability to earn a living and live and enjoy life as you once did.
- Chronic Pain – Intractable pain resulting from your accident can utterly destroy the quality of your life. This pain is compensable as general damages.
You should also note that, although rare, punitive damages may be available in a personal injury case under the right set of facts.
You should be aware that if your personal injury is a medical malpractice case, North Carolina limits your non-economic damages recoverable to $500,000. Further, in all personal injury cases, North Carolina law limits punitive damages to the great of no more than three times the compensatory damages or $250,000. Drunk driving is one exception to the cap.
Prepare Your Claim Paperwork and Your Demand Letter
As we mentioned above, the days and weeks following a personal injury are not likely to be the sharpest time of your life. A personal injury lawyer can help you with the extensive detail needed to support your insurance claim. Moreover, the attorney can also help you draft any demand letters needed to move the claim along. An attorney can take this off your plate, and make sure that you are being treated fairly.
Engage in Settlement Negotiations
A personal injury attorney is highly experienced in engaging in settlement negotiations with insurance companies. Your attorney may well have even negotiated with your insurance company or its lawyers and adjusters in the past. This experience is of value to you because the attorney has an intimate understanding of the negotiating process and the insurance company’s desire to settle that would be foreign to you. It’s a valuable skill of which you should take advantage.
If Necessary, File a Lawsuit on Your Behalf and Try Your Case
Sometimes, for whatever reasons, the insurance company simply will not make a reasonable settlement offer. In those cases, you will want to be represented by skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorneys. They will be able to use their knowledge and experience to file a suit on your behalf, seeking all of the damages to which you are rightfully entitled. An attorney who has been with you throughout the process will be even more prepared to handle that lawsuit.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Wilmington Personal Injury Lawyer
Your personal injury has left you not at your full fighting capacity. You are injured, potentially still in pain, and watching money move through your bank account at the speed of light. Trying to negotiate with insurance company lawyers whose only goal is to outlast you is not the best thing to add to your burden. Instead, contact an experienced advocate for your rights and damages.
How much does a lawyer cost?
A personal injury lawyer almost always works on a contingency fee basis. This agreement means that you will owe the attorney no fees, barring a successful conclusion of your case. If you do settle or win your case, the attorney will receive a percentage (usually around one-third) of the award.
When are accident victims entitled to compensation?
Accident victims are entitled to injury when they suffer damages in an accident caused by another party’s intentional or negligent misconduct. Negligence essentially means being careless or reckless toward someone that you owed a duty of care. You will receive damages in North Carolina only if the other side cannot show that you were at all at fault.
How long should I wait to call a lawyer?
As you have seen from most of this article, the earlier you contact an attorney, the better. An experienced attorney can help you at all stages of the personal injury process and help you to reduce the stress load you are carrying.