Immediately after a car accident, you're busy filing claims and police reports, as well as getting medical care. However, for some people, it can take months, even years, to finally get compensated for damages. While these years may be difficult emotionally and financially, there are a few things you can do to make sure the time is worth it and to keep yourself in a good place financially until you get the money you need to pay off medical debts and compensate for lost income.
1. Document Everything
The longer the insurance company and the lawyers put off agreeing on settlement, the more things you will be able to claim. For example, if you suffered nerve damage as a result of your accident, you may not know the actual extent of how this damage affects your life until you spend a few months living with it. Waiting for a while could end up meaning a bigger check for you. As you wait for a settlement, be sure to:
- keep a daily journal detailing the struggles that come with living with your injury. These could include things like how difficult it is to cut up vegetables, or even that you are unable to walk your dog every day.
- collect reports from your rehabilitation program or physical therapist. These will provide substantiation for an injury that cannot be seen or was not initially documented in the hospital when you were released from medical care.
- get second and third opinions. Getting verifications from several medical experts will make your case stronger.
- keep a record of how your family members are affected. Does your injury (or the injury of a family member) create difficulties for them, or did it result in your spouse working fewer hours? These small losses of income could add up and become part of a settlement demand later.
2. Prepare For Court
Most insurance companies and injury lawyers try to settle car accident cases out of court, simply because going to court costs more and the ruling of the judge could end up costing more than the settlement requests currently on the table. However, if your case is especially complicated, like if it is difficult to prove fault or if you had injuries before your accident, the insurance company may feel like going to court will help them to have no financial obligations to you. You can prepare for a future court date by:
- finding people who are willing to make statements on your behalf. This is important if you have to prove that your injury came from the accident. Someone who knew you well before and after would be able to write or testify that your physical abilities have changed.
- compiling your case with the help of your lawyer. If you do go to court, you'll need to have concrete proof of the at-fault driver. Things like drinking history, driving records, and other evidence will help to show that the other driver should not have been on the road.
- being reasonable during settlement conferences. While you should never accept a low-ball offer, showing neutrality and respect to your legal representation during settlements will help to demonstrate that your demands are not unreasonable, and that you have been judicious and fair during the process. You want to make it look like the opposing side is being more unreasonable.
3. Manage Financial Hardships
If you know that you are going to be buried in debt because of loss of income, medical bills, and legal costs, getting a preemptive strike can help. If you can, use your home equity as a line of credit to keep paying your bills. If this is too risky, you may consider selling your home and using the surplus to pay for living costs. Renting a smaller place in the meantime will mean you avoid foreclosure and have some extra equity to use for the many rainy days to come. Remember, you can list needing to sell your home as a hardship—this gives you a good reason to ask for a higher settlement, so that you can restore yourself to a home like the one you left.
Try to put off paying medical bills and accident-related expenses for as long as you can. Set up small payment plans with the hospital and doctors, and keep a record of every bill, even if your own medical insurance covers it. The insurance of the at-fault driver will still have to cover those costs if you win your case, paying back your personal insurance
Click here for more info about coping with the legalities of a car accident lawsuit.