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What Is the Difference Between an Indiana Car Accident Claim and a Lawsuit?

Lawyer Presenting Lawsuit Paperwork to a ClientIf you were injured in an Indiana car accident that was not your fault, you may be wondering if you have to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party in order to be compensated for your medical bills and pain and suffering. When it comes to personal injury, there is a lot of confusion about when you file a claim against the liable insurance company and when you file a lawsuit. We clear up the confusion here.

First Step: Call an Attorney

Before even worrying about whether you will need to file a lawsuit, you should contact an attorney. The experienced car accident attorneys at Keller and Keller will hear your story in a free initial consultation and take the first steps on your behalf, freeing you up to focus on your recovery. Our legal team will gather evidence such as police reports and witness statements to build a strong case for compensation from the at-fault driver.

Your Attorney Will File a Claim With the Insurance Company

Rather than jumping right into a time-consuming lawsuit, your attorney will first file a personal injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This claim will seek damages for the injuries you have sustained, including pain and suffering, as well as compensation for lost wages if you are unable to work because of your injuries. As part of the demand letter, your attorney will present evidence of the other driver’s negligence and of the extent and seriousness of your injuries. Photos of the accident scene, police reports, your medical records, therapy bills, paystubs, documentation of sick leave taken, and statements from loved ones about how you have been affected could all be presented to the insurance adjuster. If the insurance company does not immediately agree to your attorney’s demand, he will enter into negotiations in order to get you the compensation you deserve. Your attorney will argue for insurance policy limits to compensate you for the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of income

It is often in the insurance company’s best interest to settle with your attorney because the next step could end up costing them a lot more.

If an Agreement Is Not Reached, a Lawsuit Can Be Filed

If your attorney cannot come to an agreement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company through negotiations and your injuries are serious, the next step may be to file a lawsuit. A lawsuit can be a lengthy process and there are risks involved, so your attorney will not file a suit unless he is confident you have a strong case. If your injuries are not serious and your potential damages are not significant, your case could be dismissed by a judge.

An experienced personal injury attorney will have prepared for trial in the process of putting together a strong demand letter, but he will further prepare by building the strongest possible case. The burden of proof is on your attorney and, to prove that the other driver should be held accountable for your losses, he will present evidence such as the following:

  • Witnesses to the accident, including those involved
  • Police reports and police testimony
  • Medical records and medical experts
  • Photographs or diagrams of the accident scene
  • Statements from a crash reconstructionist or engineer
  • Driving records

Just like any other trial, the judge will hear from both sides and will issue a decision.

Keller and Keller’s Car Accident Attorneys Are Always Prepared to Litigate

When you work with our Indianapolis attorneys, you can be confident that we always have your best interests in mind. We will fight hard to settle your claim for the compensation you deserve rather than putting you through the stress of a trial. However, if we are not able to get you what you deserve through negotiations, we are always prepared to go to court. If you have suffered serious injuries in an Indiana car accident that was not your fault, you deserve an attorney who will go all the way to fight for your recovery. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

 

James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller

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How Much Is My Car Accident Injury Claim Worth?

Before we look at the factors that determine the value of your car accident claim, know this: NO ONE can initially tell you what your car accident claim is worth; not until you tell your version of the story, liability is nailed down, your medical treatment is finished, and an experienced personal injury law firm has reviewed your case.

And it's ok not to have an immediate dollar amount thrown at you. After all, if your accident had a "price tag," then there would be no opportunity for you to present your particular case, meaning you'd potentially risk shorting yourself thousands of dollars, or the entire claim!

(Having settled thousands of personal injury cases, we are certain of one fact: No two clients are alike, no two car accidents are alike, no matter how similar they seem.)

Our firm's #1 goal is likely similar to your own at the moment: recover the maximum amount of compensation for the accident. The way to ensure you receive a fair settlement is to present a professional and persuasive case that is supported by medical documentation and measurable course(s) of treatment, e.g., physical therapy.

WHAT FACTORS CAN INCREASE MY CASE VALUE?

You're likely worried about hospital bills, property damage, lost wages, and a possible change in lifestyle, so a quick settlement may seem attractive. However, as time passes, most clients are thankful they took the time to consult with someone who could advise them of future factors that could potentially increase their case value.

Scenarios that can increase the value of a car accident case might include:

  • The client's injuries worsened over time, leading to unforeseen treatments and costly procedures.
  • The client didn't predict the type and/or duration of treatment their injuries required.
  • The client didn't anticipate the strain the accident would place on their personal life.
  • The client didn't account for the long-term psychological effects.

These points are common after-effects accident victims are unable to predict immediately following their accident, and the insurance company is going to try and settle with you before any of these scenarios occur.

Ultimately, your damages are likely to have additional value if presented to an insurance company by way of experienced legal representation. Having an attorney allows you to take the time you need to ultimately see the full picture of your claim, and remember, once you sign a release of all claims, you're essentially telling the insurance company they're "off the hook."

ARE SIMILAR ACCIDENT TYPES WORTH THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY?

Each person is unique, each accident is unique, every case has unique value, and there are no exceptions to this rule. Let's look at an example:

  • Driver A is a young pregnant female with no pre-existing medical conditions. She has been involved in a rear-end car accident collision. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital for examination of back and neck pain. The doctors diagnose her with whiplash and prescribe her a course of treatment that is consistent with the needs of her pregnancy. She completes treatment and is released soon after.
  • Driver B is a middle-aged male with prior back surgery. He has also been involved in a rear-end style car accident collision and is experiencing neck and back pain. He was not able to visit a doctor until two weeks after the crash due to fear of missing work and losing his job. When he is able to visit the doctor, he is diagnosed with whiplash and is prescribed a course of physical therapy. He is released soon after.

Let's also assume that Driver A and Driver B were rear-ended at the same spot on the same highway on the same day. Additionally, the vehicles that struck A & B were traveling at the same speed at the time of impact. Weather conditions were the same for both accidents, and both A & B and the adverse drivers have the same insurance companies, etc.

What does all this mean?

Despite everything we know about driver's A & B accident details, their claims will have different values!

Even with all the listed similarities, it's very unlikely that driver A & B will undergo the similar medical treatment for their injuries; respond to treatment in the same manner; or experience the same types of aggravation and frustration in the days and months after their accident.

IS IT TRUE THAT I'LL GET THREE TIMES THE MEDICAL BILLS FOR MY ACCIDENT CLAIM?

This "formula" is an estimate that has often been thought of by many as a way to value car accident claims. And though it is true that you may receive three times your medical bills, it's also just as likely that you'll receive more or less.

In short, never assume the value of your car accident claim is simply "3 x's your medical bills."

WHAT THINGS CAN I RECOVER FOR IN MY CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM?

There are typically 3 components we look to recover for in a personal injury case that arises from a car accident:

  1. Past and future medical bills
  2. Past and future lost wages, or loss of earning capacity
  3. Past and future pain, suffering, disfigurement, and disability

Again, the numbered factors above don't apply to every case, and you should always have an experienced injury lawyer evaluate your specific claim.

IS THERE EVER AN INSTANCE IN WHICH I CAN IMMEDIATELY KNOW MY CASE VALUE?

Accidents that leave a person with traumatic injuries; broken bones; the need for surgery; permanent hardware; and/or cause death, may constitute what is known as a "policy limits demand."

In these instances, our personal injury attorneys will immediately notify the adverse insurance company of our representation of a client and ask that they send us what is known as a "certified declarations (DEC) sheet." This document will reveal the total amount of available dollars under the liable party's policy.

Once we receive the DEC sheet we will be able to tell you how much money is available, and whether or not your injuries justify asking for the entire amount. However, it will still be very difficult to predict the value of your car accident claim, because other factors will almost certainly play a role.

For instance, we may be able to reduce certain medical bills on your behalf so that you're not required to pay back the full amount, thus increasing your settlement. We may also be able to secure Underinsured Motorists Coverage (UIM) from your policy in the event that the adverse policy limits are inadequate.

ASK AN ATTORNEY TO REVIEW THE INSURANCE POLICY.

Asking an experienced personal injury attorney to examine an insurance policy ensures you aren't leaving money on the table. Policies can be confusing, full of difficult-to-understand contract language, some of which is applicable to your case, and some that isn't.

If your everyday job doesn't require you to review insurance policies, then your chance of fully understanding available coverage will be challenging. Fortunately, we have more than 75 years of locating and examining insurance polices for car accident victims, so we can help guide you and youir family in the right direction at no cost.

Ultimately, speaking with an experienced injury law firm about your case is an excellent step toward determining what your car accident case is worth.

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