From Car Accident to Compensation: How to Receive a Fair Settlement

May 28, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

Personal injury lawsuits have garnered something of a negative reputation over the years. Who out there hasn’t heard of the slip-and-fall scams or the millions sought for hot-coffee spillage? But when it comes to car accidents, rarely does the subsequent call for redress amount to nothing but a shameless cash grab. According to no less an authority than the CDC, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of injury in America. Also disheartening is the fact that many people injured in car accidents don’t know how much compensation they are entitled to, or even how to go about seeking such a financial award.

Receiving a fair settlement after a vehicle accident is a multi-step process. But in the immediate aftermath of the incident, the onus is on the victim to gather do as much as possible to bolster his or her cause. Here is what to know.

Be thorough at the scene

Those who are healthy enough to stay at the scene of an accident should do so until all details have been covered. This includes taking photographic evidence (when possible), jotting down detailed notes about everything up to and including the accident, exchanging insurance info, taking down contact info of any witnesses, and preserving any physical evidence.

Contact the insurance company sooner rather than later

Procrastination on any front regarding an auto accident will only hurt a claim. Just as it’s crucial to swap insurance info with all relevant parties in an accident, it is incumbent on those involved in said accident to contact their provider at the earliest opportunity. This gets the ball rolling on the process. The insurance company will assign an adjuster to the case and they can then begin working on the claim. Keep all receipts and documents. If there is protracted pushback from the other party’s insurance company, and it doesn’t appear a settlement is forthcoming, it’s to consult an attorney with years of experience dealing with insurance providers in accident cases, such as those available at

Seek medical attention if necessary

And just like contacting the insurance company, this needs to be done as soon after the accident as possible. If a person waits weeks or even months to see a doctor, this will be taken into account during settlement negotiations. Even if the medical issues are valid, the perception of feet dragging can undermine legitimate health concerns, which can mitigate any potential payout.

Understand the insurance coverage

Not all vehicle insurance policies are created equal. Whether a victim is entitled to compensation depends specifically on the type of policy involved. In a nutshell, the coverage is as follows:

Personal injury protection—known in many circles as “no-fault insurance.” This policy is just what it sounds like: coverage that will pay out up to its limits regardless if the policyholder is responsible. And it covers everything under the sun, from funeral expenses to loss of income.

Medical payments coverage—is like personal injury protection in that it pays out regardless of fault. However, it only covers medical bills and no other attendant expenses.

Uninsured/underinsured coverage—this policy covers hit and runs as well as accidents where the party at fault does not have insurance.

Knowing the ins and outs of the specific policy will help determine if a settlement will be forthcoming. As for calculating what is fair in a personal injury case, these insurance experts offer savvy advice when it comes to settlement negotiations.

Determine fault

Many times this easier said than done. However, there are occasions where accident fault is easily established. Rear-end collisions, for example, are almost always the fault of the other driver. As for determining fault in other accidents, the operative word is “negligence.” Most states in the U.S. operate under a set of guidelines called “comparative negligence.” Basically, this means all parties in an accident can be at fault, but just how much fault falls on one party can determine insurance payouts.

It’s worth mentioning that some states do operate under a principal called “contributory negligence,” which means that if one driver is even partially at fault, he or she will not receive an insurance payout.

The more the accident victim arms him or herself with knowledge, and the more thorough he or she is in adhering to the above steps, the stronger the claim will be. And the greater chance there will be for fair compensation down the line.