A commonly asked question relates to whether pursuing a civil action for injuries in court is advisable. In making this determination, you must look at the many variables, facts, and unique circumstances that are potentially involved. In situations where someone is an accident injury victim, the goal is to secure compensation that is sufficient for the damages incurred. The vast majority of vehicle accident claims are settled as a result of negotiation before entering the courtroom. When such negotiation is conducted by seasoned legal counsel, litigation is typically able to be avoided. In some instances, an amicable compromise is not attainable and injured victims must proceed with a suit.
The Insurance Research Council's findings show the costs of medical care for accident injury victims has been rising at a rate that exceeds inflation. Costs associated with bodily injury claims have grown by approximately 4% annually. The Insurance Information Institute explains that claim severity, or the average size of an insurance claim, has been on the rise lately as well. As vehicle manufacturers continue to reduce the weight of their cars and the increased prevalence of electronic sensors, cameras, and other devices, the costs for repairs have risen.
Importance of Documentation
Those pursuing a claim should be properly prepared. Part of this includes having organized, written documentation. Throughout the claims process, the injured must diligently maintain records across the various categories of loss. Although insurance adjusters are likely to gather and collect independent estimates of costs, having a complete record of them may be necessary to adequately calculate and justify the amount of compensation that is ultimately recoverable. These records should contain medical costs, amount of work missed, activities that you were incapable of participating in, etc.
The ability to reach an agreement that is sufficient to account for your expenses, foregone wages, property damage, pain, and mental anguish is critical. Doing so has some of the following advantages.
- Avoids entering the legal system.
- Allows you to more quickly receive your much-needed compensation.
- Avoids the costs associated with hearings, depositions, discovery, and other costs of litigation.
- Eliminates the risk that exists based on the case's outcome.
One potential tool used in claims of personal injury is a demand letter, which is a formal sign that you are taking the matter seriously. These may contain an overview of losses incurred, medical care received, a current summary of expenses, and more. The letter may contain what the claimant deems to be a reasonable dollar amount to resolve the matter, or at least a range of which to base further discussions. It may prompt an insurer to propose a counteroffer.
All insurance policies contain terms that clearly state the maximum amount of coverage (policy limits). If negotiating a claim, it may be useful to be aware of these maximum limits. Insurance adjusters are obviously going to resolve the matter at the lowest possible cost.
At-Fault Party's Ability to Pay
In a tort system, such as what exists in Colorado, the party found to be at-fault for the accident faces liability for the losses incurred. There are cases where this party may not have insurance coverage. Here, the victim may turn to their insurer for compensation if they have uninsured motorist coverage. This is one example of when filing a lawsuit would likely be a mistake. This party has demonstrated irresponsible (and illegal) behavior by operating a vehicle without the required insurance. It is probable that if you were to prevail in court, the individual would not have available cash or assets with which to pay the award anyhow.
Importance of Legal Counsel
Regardless of whether you ultimately file a civil lawsuit resulting from an auto accident, it is advisable to at least consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer in cases where injuries or property damage is moderately significant. You are unlikely to be familiar with insurance company tactics, the local laws, and what may or may not be a reasonable settlement. An attorney will be your advocate and will at a minimum serve notice to the insurer that you have the knowledge to effectively commence litigation if necessary.