There is no time too soon in the aftermath of an auto accident to speak with a car crash lawyer, especially if you have concerns about how the insurance company will respond to your claim. Auto accidents can result in devastating financial repercussions for the at-fault party’s insurance provider. Having a legal representative can help you avoid potential attempts at thwarting your claim or undervaluing your losses.
The Dangers of Talking to the Insurance Company First
Utah is a no-fault auto insurance state. Therefore, drivers must carry personal injury protection insurance in case of injury from a car accident. If you suffered minor injuries, you should have no trouble filing a claim with your PIP coverage. However, if you suffered severe injuries in a serious car accident, you may have the opportunity to bypass the no-fault policy and file a claim with the other driver’s insurer. In this case, speaking with a car crash lawyer first could save your claim.
Recognizing Signs of Bad Faith Tactics
Insurance companies assign adjusters to individual claims with the primary goal of protecting the company’s interests, and its interest is to avoid a hefty payout. If you speak with an insurance company on your own, without the support of an attorney, you may recognize some tactics the adjuster could use to thwart the company’s responsibility:
- Avoiding your attempts to communicate by not returning your emails or phone calls
- Intentionally delaying an investigation into your claim
- Immediately denying your claim without providing a sufficient reason
- Accusing you of causing the accident during phone conversations in an attempt to get a recorded confession
- Making unreasonable requests for unnecessary documentation as a delay tactic
Every conversation you have with the adjuster is on a recorded line. They sometimes use that opportunity to frustrate you into admitting guilt because they can use that as evidence to devalue your claim and save money. If you are partially responsible for the accident, talking to the insurer without an attorney could severely damage your claim.
How Utah Law Handles Cases With Shared Fault
Contrary to what the insurance company might imply, you are not immediately ineligible for compensation because you share responsibility for the car accident. Instead, Utah requires the application of the comparative negligence rule.
The Comparative Negligence Rule
Comparative negligence states that you can still receive a portion of the total value of damages minus the percentage of fault belonging to you. For example, suppose your losses from the accident amount to $45,000, and you are 15% liable. In that case, you will still receive $38,250, which is 15% less than $45,000.
However, in Utah, you are only ineligible for damages if your percentage of responsibility exceeds 50%. Therefore, if your total damages are $45,000 and you are 51% at fault for the accident, you will receive no award for your losses.
What To Do In the Aftermath of a Car Crash
What you do in the hours and days following your accident can help or hurt your claim. Consider these steps you can take to protect your right to compensation and increase your chance of adequately valuing your losses:
- File a police report. According to Utah law, all drivers in a car accident must report the crash as quickly as possible. As long as someone at the scene calls the police, that requirement is fulfilled. Additionally, calling the police ensures you have documentation of their findings at the location, often including a fault determination.
- Seek medical attention. If you did not need an ambulance, you should still have a doctor perform a complete medical evaluation within the first 72 hours following your crash to look for any injuries with latent symptoms and establish a medical record for your claim.
- Gather evidence. If you can, take photographs of your injuries and damage to the vehicles and the surrounding area to show your lawyer. Also, collect contact information from everyone present, including eyewitnesses.
- Avoiding discussing the accident with anyone other than the police and your attorney. This includes avoiding social media if possible because the insurance company will look through your pages for information. You will need to provide a statement to the police, but you should only speak with your attorney outside of that.
In the weeks after your accident, following your doctor’s recommendations and attending all your medical appointments is crucial to your case. With each visit, you prove efforts to improve your health as quickly as possible, and you have medical records and bills to support your claim for damages. In addition, as the plaintiff, you are responsible for proving your losses, so tracking your medical history during this time makes it easier to support your claim.
How a Car Crash Lawyer Can Help You
When you hire a car crash lawyer, the first task they take on is to investigate your accident and injuries, gathering evidence of negligence and damages. They then turn that information in to the insurance provider to make your demands for compensation. They also handle all communication with the adjuster as your representative to protect your rights and negotiate a fair settlement. Other tasks they perform include:
- Interviewing eyewitnesses
- Preparing your case for trial if the insurance company does not offer an adequate settlement
- Collecting, completing and filing all necessary paperwork to file your claim or lawsuit
- Identifying and valuing all your economic and non-economic losses
When the insurance company refuses to provide an offer that accurately reflects your damages, your attorney may advise you to file a lawsuit. During this time, negotiations will continue, and more often than not, your case will settle before reaching the trial phase. A trial can be lengthy and expensive, and most insurance companies will offer a better settlement to avoid legal fees, especially when their chances of winning are significantly lower.
How Do They Value Your Non-Economic Losses?
One of the most valuable contributions an attorney will make to your case is to help you value your losses, particularly the non-economic losses that have no automatic value. These losses include the physical pain and suffering you endure from your injuries and all the medical treatments you need to recover. It also includes emotional distress and mental anguish, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress and depression.
To add monetary value to these claims, your attorney will likely use the multiplier method. This entails calculating the total costs of your medical expenses to multiply by a number between 1.5 and 5. Choosing the correct multiplier is critical. For example, a four or five indicates severe injuries with a substantial impact on your quality of life, but a lower number represents injuries with a faster healing time and less impact on your life. Again, your attorney can use experience and precedent to help you choose the correct number.
Scheduling Your Free Consultation With a Car Crash Lawyer
Car crash lawyers offer free consultations with no obligation to hire. During that initial meeting, you can ask all the questions you want and go over the details of your case, providing you with peace of mind and a better understanding of your legal options. At Siegfried and Jensen, we provide our services at no upfront cost to ensure you have the benefits of legal representation without the financial burden. Our goal is to help you recover as much compensation as possible so you can move on with your life after a devastating accident. Contact us at (801) 845-9000 to schedule your free consultation today.