How To: File a Personal Injury Claim for a Vehicle Accident
If you’ve been injured in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you probably have a lot of questions. Is there a proper procedure you need to follow? Where can you find the guidance you need? And when should you consider hiring a lawyer?
The issues involved in making sure everyone is fairly compensated after an accident can be thorny indeed, even in relatively straightforward interactions with your insurance company. There are many factors to determine, including:
- determining fault
- assessing damages and injuries
- deciding whether the settlement you’re being offered is acceptable
You’ve been in an accident — now what?
After an accident, make sure you’ve exchanged insurance information with the other driver and reported the accident to the police. Minor accidents can be taken to a collision reporting centre. But if emergency services had to be called to the scene, there should already be a police report.
If you suspect that you’ve been injured at all, seek medical assessment either by visiting your family doctor, attending a walk-in clinic or going to an emergency room. Should you need to submit a claim for your injuries, you’ll need a well-documented medical history. This is especially important with soft-tissue injuries which can sometimes take a while to develop.
If any injury or property damage is involved, you’ll have seven days to report the accident to your own insurance company, whether you’re at fault or not. Failure to report in a reasonable amount of time could result in a denied claim, so don’t delay.
Information that’ll come in handy
You’ll be expected to have some info on hand when you call your insurance company. Having things prepared will help get the ball rolling and help speed up the process a little.
Make sure you have complete insurance information for all drivers involved in the accident as well as their cars (make, model, year, registration, and plate number if possible). And have all of the details of the accident straight (date, time, location, nature of injuries/damages, passengers involved, name/badge number of investigating officer or officers).
Also, take a few minutes to examine your own insurance policy. Familiarize yourself with the coverages you have to avoid any surprises.
When should you call a lawyer?
On rare occasions, dealing with an insurance claim is simple and straightforward. In cases where injuries and damages are minor, especially when the other party is clearly at fault, you may be confident that you don’t need a lawyer to review your settlement offer.
But bear in mind that insurance companies are in the business of delaying and denying claims whenever possible. This means your case may not be as cut-and-dried as you think. Experienced lawyers know every loophole that your insurer might try to exploit and work to make sure no one takes advantage of you.
A personal injury lawyer becomes even more important in more complicated cases. They help you keep track of all the important aspects of your case. And when you start getting phone calls from the other party’s insurance company or lawyer, it’s easiest to tell them to just talk to your lawyer.
Never hesitate to call a lawyer if your injuries are serious. You could have future medical needs that your policy may not be able to provide for. In such cases, a personal injury lawsuit may be your only option.
Meeting your adjuster
After you file a claim, the insurance company will assign an adjuster to your case. They’ll help you figure out what’s covered by your policy and serve as a guide throughout the claims process. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions if you’re unsure about anything.
Sometimes they’ll want to meet in person, although many cases can be resolved over the phone and email.
Whose fault is it, anyway?
Accidents don’t just happen. At least not in the eyes of an insurance company. Someone has to be responsible.
Determining fault helps the insurance companies figure out who pays for what and whose premiums will take a hit upon renewal. Fault can be applied 100% to one driver, or it can be shared between all drivers involved, sometimes with one driver more at fault than others.
Insurance companies use predetermined fault determination rules to help them process claims quickly and consistently. With over 40 situations using illustrated diagrams, these rules cover almost any accident scenario. The rules are then applied, ignoring factors such as weather, visibility, and pedestrians.
In the rare instance that your accident isn’t covered under the rules, fault is determined by the ordinary rules of negligence law.
What if there are charges involved?
Police agencies and insurance companies determine fault in slightly different ways. And what the police decide may not line up with the findings of the insurance company.
Sometimes the police will say neither driver was at fault for an accident, such as an accident involving icy conditions. But the insurance company will find fault with at least one of the drivers. And as explained above, the icy conditions will not be considered.
Similarly, if the police lay criminal charges against a driver in an accident, that does not make them automatically at fault for the accident. For instance, a drunk driver could get rear-ended. Even though they’d face criminal charges for driving under the influence, the accident would not be their fault.
What if you’re injured?
Every auto insurance policy in Ontario has Accident Benefits coverage. This statutory coverage compensates injured parties, even at-fault ones, in the event of injury or death. Coverages include:
- Income Replacement: To compensate for lost wages.
- Caregiver: To cover expenses necessary when you can no longer act as caregiver to a family member in need.
- Non-earner: To compensate if you can’t carry on a normal life and don’t qualify for Income Replacement or Caregiver benefits.
- Medical: To cover medical expenses related to your injury.
- Rehabilitation: To pay for rehab expenses related to your injury.
- Attendant Care: This covers some of the expense of an aide/attendant.
- Compensation for Other Expenses: Qualifying expenses might include the cost of family visiting during your treatment/recovery, housekeeping/home maintenance, the repair/replacement of items lost/damaged in the accident, and lost educational expenses.
- Death: A payout to surviving family members in the event of death.
- Funeral: To cover some funeral expenses.
When applying for accident benefits, you’ll likely receive an Accident Benefits Application Package. The package contains five forms, and you’ll need to fill out every form relevant to your claim.
Fill the forms out as quickly and thoroughly as you can. And make sure that an employer or a medical practitioner filling out forms on your behalf are also quick and thorough.
If you have any questions about the forms, consult your adjuster or your lawyer. It’s best to get the forms done right the first time, even if that means taking a little longer to submit them. Once your insurer has reviewed your forms, they will notify you in writing about what they’re prepared to cover and what coverage they’re going to deny. Again, it’s advisable to have a lawyer review your accident benefits claim before you agree to anything.
How long will this take?
Filing an insurance claim is a relatively complicated process that involves a lot of paperwork. And every case is unique, depending on the extent of the injuries, each party’s degree of fault, and myriad of other factors.
In simple cases where there are no disputes, a case could be cleared in as little as four to six weeks. But if you’re not happy with the settlement offered by the insurance company and lawyers have to get involved, expect it to take a little longer.
In general, the process will go quicker if an out-of-court settlement can be reached. If the case goes to trial, you’re at the mercy of the courts. Getting your case in front of a judge could take several years.
When it comes to answering all of the questions about personal injury claims resulting from a motor vehicle injury, this article is only the tip of the iceberg. Though we’ve tried our best to present a focused response to the majority of inquiries made by car accident victims, every case is unique and nuanced. Some of the answers you’re looking for may not have made it into this article as a result of time and space constraints.
If you’ve got any pertinent questions, especially if you’re concerned that a claims adjuster isn’t offering the settlement you’re entitled to, don’t hesitate to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer.
Demand representation you can trust
If you’ve been hurt in a car accident and you’re not happy about the settlement offered by your insurance company, take immediate action. Use the link below to contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Mackesy Smye today for a free consultation. With over 200 years of combined experience fighting for the rights of the injured, we have the expertise and tenacity necessary to make sure you get the compensation you deserve.