If you’ve been the victim of a car accident, you might be at a loss for what to do next. Your car may be damaged, you may have suffered significant injuries, and the other driver’s insurance company may be giving you the runaround. It can all be confusing and stressful, especially if you’ve never dealt with it before. Should you continue pressing the insurance company? Or should you pursue legal action and try to get a settlement and go to court?
Is It Better to Settle a Car Accident Claim or Go to Court?
The Stages of a Claim
If you were involved in a car accident that was another driver’s fault, there are a few ways the situation can resolve:
In a best-case scenario, you’ll go through the offending driver’s insurance company, which will cover every penny of damages to your vehicle and expenses related to your injuries. If they don’t have insurance coverage, or if you were the victim of a hit-and-run, you may be able to tap into your own uninsured motorist coverage. Unfortunately, insurance companies tend to look out for their own best interests, so they’ll try and short change you in one form or another. Taking legal action may be the only way to be fairly compensated for the accident.
2. Settling out of court.
After working with a lawyer, the offending driver’s insurance company may make you an offer to “settle” out of court. This can be advantageous because it spares you the need to go through a lengthy trial, but it typically offers you less than you might get through court.
3. Going to court.
Court cases can be long and stressful, but if you have a solid case and a good lawyer on your side, it can result in far more compensation than you’d get with a settlement or an insurance claim.
Variables to Consider
There are several factors to consider in your decision, including:
The severity of the damage.
How much damage has your vehicle sustained? If your car was totaled, the insurance company may not agree to provide you with the full value of the vehicle. If your vehicle only suffered cosmetic damage, going to court may not help you earn much more compensation than an insurance company might offer.
The severity of your injuries.
You may also need to consider the severity of your injuries, and how much you’ve had to pay for medical costs (if you’ve paid for them upfront). Insurance companies may have attempted to pay you only a fraction of your medical costs, or you may have physical injuries that result in long-term chronic pain, requiring more than just surface-level compensation.
Mental and emotional effects.
Don’t underestimate the effects a car accident can have on your mind and emotions. These costs are difficult to calculate, especially for an insurance company looking to decrease its payout as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth considering. If you’ve had difficulty getting into a car, or if you’ve suffered from depression or PTSD after an accident, you need to take those mental damages into account when determining whether to take legal action.
Fault and causes.
Fault was likely determined by a law enforcement officer who responded to the accident, but some cases are clearer than others. In cases where one person was clearly responsible for the entirety of the accident, you’ll have a higher chance of a more substantial payout than if the fault was distributed between you and the other driver.
If the insurance company is offering you fair compensation, or a settlement that rivals what you could get in a court case, it may be wise to take the offer. Otherwise, legal fees could jeopardize what you receive and draw out the timetable in which you receive it.
Time and energy.
Do you have the mental resilience and patience to go through the weeks-to months-long process of a drawn-out court case? Not everyone has the stamina for this, and it’s not always worth it.
The potential payout.
That said, if the settlement proposed by an insurance company is severely undermining your damages, injuries, and stress, it may make total sense to pursue your case in court.
Talk to a Lawyer
There are too many variables for you to come to an accurate conclusion on your own, especially if you don’t have any legal experience. Accordingly, if you’ve been the victim of a car accident, it’s in your best interest to talk to a lawyer. An experienced car accident lawyer will help you understand the nature of your case, how insurance and court cases work, and your chances of success in a courtroom. From there, you’ll be able to make a much more educated decision.
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