If you are injured by another person’s negligence here in the state of New York – in a traffic crash or any other accident scenario – you may seek the help of a Rochester personal injury attorney to file a claim and seek compensation for your medical expenditures, your lost wages, and your personal pain and suffering.
If your injuries are sustained in a traffic collision, New York is a “no-fault” auto insurance state, so your own auto insurance company should pay for at least the first part of your compensation.
When you’ve collected your medical bills and the other pertinent documents, you will probably fill out some paperwork to submit your injury claim to the appropriate insurance company.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE INJURED BY NEGLIGENCE?
If you are injured by negligence in western New York, the wisest move is taking your case directly to a personal injury lawyer – one who routinely handles injury claims and negotiates with insurance companies on behalf of injury victims.
But if you decide to go it alone, before you file an injury claim and negotiate for your compensation, be prepared. Determine what you think is a fair settlement figure, and then decide on the lowest amount that you can accept.
Expect the first settlement offer from an insurance company to be almost unreasonably low. People sometimes take those offers. Don’t. Your response to – and your rejection of – that first settlement offer should be made in writing.
HOW SHOULD YOU HANDLE A LOW-BALL FIRST SETTLEMENT OFFER?
Ask the insurance company why the offer is so low, and refer to any evidence you have that supports your claim.
Be patient. If you’ve heard nothing from the insurance company after about fourteen days, call the adjuster and ask when you can expect a response. When you have that response, address in writing every point that the insurance company raises, and then make your counteroffer.
The more documentation you can present to an insurance company, the stronger your claim will be. A company’s low settlement offer for an injury claim may be based on insufficient evidence regarding the severity and extent of your personal injury or injuries.
Rochester personal injury attorney Donald A. White says, “I believe that the best defense to a low settlement offer is a good offense … if I am faced with a low settlement offer and the case is not on the court’s trial calendar, I would push the case to get it on a trial calendar.”
Attorney White suggests responding to a low offer by completing the discovery process and telling the judge that you are ready for trial.
He explains, “The trial judge could then assist in trying to get a reasonable settlement offer from the defendant or, perhaps, send the case to mediation to try to achieve a settlement.”
WHEN YOU FILE YOUR CLAIM, WHAT WILL AN INSURANCE COMPANY NEED?
Thus, it is imperative to make sure that the insurance company has up-to-date copies of all of your medical bills, pharmacy receipts, tests results, and any other documents that support your claim.
You may speak several times back-and-forth with the insurance company’s claims adjuster before you reach a final settlement agreement. Don’t feel pressured, intimidated, or hurried.
When you negotiate with an insurance adjuster, after you have set forth the basics of your claim, if the negotiations continue, emphasize the strongest parts of the claim.
WHAT MIGHT BE THE “STRONG POINTS” OF A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
Stress any long-term injury or disability and any basic daily activities that you cannot perform. If you will be out of work for months, if the other driver was intoxicated well above the legal limit, if you will need to hire someone to care for your kids or household – emphasize that.
When you negotiate a personal injury claim, these are the kinds of “strong points” that may help you prevail.
When a final agreement is reached, confirm it immediately in writing. Send a letter to the insurance company confirming the amount and the expected payment date. Once an agreement has been reached, you should expect to be paid promptly.
If you are handling your own personal injury claim without a lawyer, you must be fully prepared. Fair compensation for the most serious long-term and permanent injuries will be something that no insurance company wants to pay.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SEEK AN ACCIDENT ATTORNEY’S ADVICE?
If, at any time in your negotiations, you believe that the insurance company is being negligent, dismissive, or disingenuous with you – or just plain lying to you – seek advice from an experienced Rochester personal injury attorney.
In fact, if you are seriously injured in western New York by a negligent driver, you really should have a Rochester accident attorney handle your injury claim from the very beginning.
A good injury lawyer will launch an immediate and independent investigation of the accident, determine exactly how you were injured and who was at fault, and examine the evidence and witnesses on your behalf.
Personal injury lawyers are skilled negotiators who know how the insurance companies work and what it takes to win the compensation you need.
You’ll be able to refer all inquiries about the case to your attorney, while you focus on regaining your health and recovering from your injuries.
WHAT IF YOU THINK THAT YOU CAN’T AFFORD A LAWYER?
When people handle their own personal injury claim, it is often because they believe that they cannot afford to hire an attorney, but that’s a myth. In New York, a personal injury lawyer will provide an injured victim of negligence a free first legal consultation with no obligation.
Every case is different, so a free consultation allows injury victims to learn more about their rights, where they stand legally, and how New York’s personal injury law applies to the specific case.
Accident attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, so if you and your attorney decide to move forward with legal action, you will pay your attorney nothing until a settlement or a verdict is obtained on your behalf.
HOW MUCH TIME DOES AN INJURY VICTIM HAVE TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION?
Here in New York, the statute of limitations gives an injured victim of negligence three years – from the injury date – to file a personal injury lawsuit. Do not wait three years and then scramble at the last minute to file a lawsuit. The sooner your attorney is on the case, the better.
Sometimes it really is possible to negotiate successfully your own personal injury claim with an insurance company – but frankly speaking, that’s rare. Those who try often end up frustrated and eventually retain an attorney out of exasperation.
In the greater Rochester area, if you suffer injury because someone else was negligent, you need to put a qualified accident lawyer on the case – at once.
Don’t take any chances if your health and your future are in the balance. Having an attorney’s advice and representation is your right.