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When a car accident happens, you feel like you’ve lost all control. One way to feel like you’re back in the driver’s seat is to figure out how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer. However, it’s not always the right way to pursue a claim.

When is self-representation a good choice for your rightful compensation, and when could it have the potential to derail matters even further? We’ll explore when it makes good economic sense, look at the steps for how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer, and explain when it might not actually serve your interests.

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How To Decide If Self-Representation Is A Good Choice For You

The particulars of your accident–including how many people were involved, the clarity of liability, and the types of damages sustained–indicate how complex your case will be and how smoothly it will likely go. To better determine how best to approach your car accident claim without a lawyer, you need to consider the following elements.

Assess The Extent Of Your Damages And Injuries

Determining how serious the accident’s impact was to you and your vehicle is step one. How severe were your injuries and your car’s damage? The more serious, the harder it might be to prove the full extent of your claims. Total up the following to evaluate the true worth of your claim before speaking to an insurance adjuster:

  • Exact calculations: Special damages, lost earnings, and present value—Losses that are special damages are those that can be specifically calculated. They include a lost earning calculation and how much you expect to lose. Also, present value is that adjusted sum (if it were all in your bank account today) that you would have for your entire future lost earnings.
  • Inexact calculations: Pain and suffering—Because the calculation of this amount is vague at best, some attorneys estimate pain and suffering to be a multiplier of the underlying value of calculable damages above. As such, the nature and extent of your injuries are a key indicators of how much mental anguish this accident caused you.

Assess The Strength Of Your Evidence And Proof Of Fault

Ensure that you have sufficient proof of the accident because the clearer the evidence of fault against the other driver, the easier your claim will be to pursue. At the accident scene, write down witnesses’ phone numbers and take meticulous notes that best prove fault in your claim, including getting a police report. If there is a possibility that you were at fault, it might be best to retain an attorney.

Steps For How To Settle A Car Accident Claim Without A Lawyer

File An Insurance Claim

File your claim with the appropriate insurance company, being mindful of your state’s statute of limitations. If you live in a no-fault state, file a claim with your own insurance company regardless of fault. If you live in an at-fault state, file your claim with the other driver’s insurance company if you believe they were at fault. Remember, it is up to you to defend and pursue your claim to the best of your ability.

Speak To An Insurance Adjuster

Speak to the insurance adjuster with a fixed number in mind that you are willing to accept from the prior value estimate of your calculated damages mentioned above. The adjuster will review the medical costs, damages, and any associated expenses to offer you a proposed amount for the totality of your damages. If, as is sometimes the case, they lowball you, expect to negotiate back and forth and stand your ground as need be.

Send Your Demand Letter

If negotiating–often the hardest part of the process–fails, you might need to draft a demand letter to the driver’s insurance company. A demand letter is a formal document that itemizes all the damages and losses you’ve sustained from the accident. It makes the case on paper for the amount you believe you’re owed. If your letter gets rejected, then file a counteroffer indicating the amount you’re willing to presently accept.

Decide Whether To Settle Or Go To Court

If the insurance company gives you a reasonable counteroffer that you believe is fair, you should consider taking it. You would then sign the release papers, receive the money relatively quickly, and not risk losing it all in court. Otherwise, you’ll need to prepare for a personal injury lawsuit and might need to consider retaining an attorney at that time.

Challenges You Might Experience When Pursuing A Car Accident Settlement

Representing yourself can be very stressful, especially because so much is riding on it and you only have yourself to consult. Knowing how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer may be too challenging overall because these factors also compound the difficulty of self-representation:

  • Lowballing your claim’s worth—Because the insurance adjuster knows that you may be strapped for cash, they might offer you a lesser sum than what your claim might actually be worth. This is a major reason why it might be better to retain an attorney to fight for your best interests by getting the maximum cash value for your claim.
  • Out-of-context statements—Statements that you make with an insurance adjuster regarding fault could come back to haunt you. Be careful when discussing fault with the adjuster because you could ensnare yourself in liability for the accident.
  • Implications that you were responsible for the crash—The insurance company could decide that you were responsible for the accident and reject the claim entirely because they did not believe you had sufficient evidence. Again, you should be careful if you are self-representing to ensure that you know how to present the evidence in the best light that serves you.

When Should You Not Try To Pursue A Case On Your Own?

Rather than knowing how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer, there are some times when it might be best to leave your claim in an attorney’s good hands:

  • Substantial hardship—If you have experienced serious injury and/or missed excessive work and your losses feel inordinate, you might consider retaining an attorney to take on the burden of pleading your claim.
  • Excessive medical bills—If your medical expenses are hefty and you’re depending on payment from your insurance claim to recompense you for these bills, you might consider retaining an attorney to ensure you get the full payment due to you.
  • Complex or unusual accident—If you were involved in a motorcycle, drunk driving, 18-wheeler, or other kind of unusual accident, you may need to solicit the expertise of a knowledgeable attorney who has seasoned experience in handling similar cases.

Considering Whether to Pursue a Claim With An Attorney? Consult An Expert Today

If you haven’t decided whether you want to pursue a claim on your own, or don’t know how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer, speak with an expert today to see how best to handle your claim.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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