What Role Does Insurance Play in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Last updated June 16, 2020
A personal injury suit is one of the most common types of lawsuit you could find yourself in. Whether you're the one injured or someone else is claiming you injured them, you might hope that your insurance plan will take care of everything for you. And while insurance does play a role in a personal injury case, it often can't resolve the whole issue alone.
The steps you take during an insurance investigation and the information you share even in its earliest stages could affect the outcome of the whole case. That's why it's so important to work with a personal injury attorney before you move forward with your insurance company.
What Will an Insurance Investigation Look Like?
Before your case even reaches the lawsuit stage, your insurance company, or the other party's insurance company, will usually do their own investigation and try to settle before it goes further.
- Filing the claim. If you've been involved in an incident where you or someone else has been injured, the involved parties will need to contact their insurances companies to file a claim. This will trigger the start of an insurance investigation to determine who was at fault, how much the injured person is owed, and how much the insurance policy will cover. Even at this stage, saying the wrong thing to your insurance representatives can affect how much you're able to recover, or how much you have to pay out in the end.
- The initial call. While filing the claim or soon after it's filed, you'll be put into contact with an insurance claims adjuster. They'll start gathering more robust information for the insurance company's investigation. The adjuster works for the company, and therefore, is most interested in an outcome that benefits the company. Their goals could contrast your own, as they may want to settle for giving you less than you're owed. Therefore, you should be cautious of how much information you share with them. It's important not to acknowledge any fault, or to divulge information that could indicate your fault, as that could affect the outcome of the case. They'll usually ask for copies of medical records, police reports, and any other documentation that relates to the case. An experienced personal injury attorney can help advise you on how to answer the insurance adjuster's questions and what can of proof you can safely provide or may handle this directly on your behalf.
- The settlement offer. If the investigation shows that you were indeed injured due to the other party's actions, the insurance company may offer you a settlement. To accept, you may need to sign documents outlining the agreement. Once you sign and agree to the terms of the settlement, you'll usually be barred from recovering for any future claims related to the incident. That means if you anticipate lasting medical problems from your injuries, you may not want to agree to a settlement early on that releases the other party from further liability. When considering a settlement offer, take into account all the injuries you have suffered, including medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and the pain that has resulted from your accident. Your insurance company may require that the other insurance company or responsible party cover some of the costs they have paid on your behalf in pursuing the claim. Coming up with the correct amount you know you're owed can be incredibly difficult on your own.
What If Insurance Won't Pay Enough?
If you've been injured by someone else and their insurance company's settlement won't be enough to cover your costs, you may need to consider filing a lawsuit. A personal injury lawsuit may seek damages from the person who injured you, their insurance company, both, or any other entity that may have played a role in the circumstances that led to your injury.
In a personal injury lawsuit, both sides will present evidence, including medical records, witness statements, and physical evidence, to indicate who is at fault. State laws will dictate how much can be awarded in any case. For example, if both parties are found to be partially responsible for the events that caused an injury, the injured party may only be able to recover for the "percent" the other party is found responsible for.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
One of the most important things to keep in mind when working with an insurance company is that the company likely staffs several lawyers who help them in their investigations, settlement offers, and lawsuits. If you don't have an attorney of your own, you may be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to getting the compensation you deserve.
An experienced local personal injury attorney can help you navigate each step of the process, from knowing what to say to the initial claims adjuster, to evaluating settlement offers, to representing you in court for a lawsuit. Working with a lawyer who knows how these systems work could help you get the outcome you need.