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How to File a Bodily Injury Claim After a Car Accident



What is a bodily injury claim? The words may be self-evident but if you've never been in a car accident there is a chance you've never heard this term.

A bodily injury claim is a process whereby someone seeks compensation from an insurance company for an injury. The the following we'll explain in depth what these claims are, how they work, and what factors affect them. The goal is simple. Educate you and make sure you get properly compensated for your car accident injuries.

We'll cover….

The Most Common Bodily Injuries From Car Accidents
Documenting and Filing Your Bodily Injury Claim
Factors That Affect the Value of Your Claim

Let's get started….

The Most Common Bodily Injuries From Car Accidents

There is an estimated 2.35 million car accident bodily injuries in the US every year [1]. Self-driving cars may paint a different future, but for now, injuries are a fact of American roadways.

The first thing you want to do after an accident is to seek medical care. Making sure your injuries are treated and diagnosed properly is the highest priority. In terms of your bodily injury claim, establishing medical care and classifying your injuries is also a critical first step.

Categorizing your injury can help you correctly calibrate your approach to the claim. The most common categories are:

  • Soft tissue injuries -- Examples of this include a thigh contusion, strained neck, and/or sprained wrist. Soft tissue injuries are generally not that serious and settlements are in the lower amounts.

  • Hard injuries -- This category is referring to things such as broken bones, torn ligaments or damaged discs. Hard injuries are more likely to be serious, need surgery, and create disability. Settlements tend to be higher with these injuries and attorneys often get involved.

  • Whiplash -- Technically this is a form of soft tissue injury, but it's such a common one for car accidents it gets its own category. This is pain/dysfunction of the back or neck due to a jerking motion. This is an easy injury to fake so insurance companies are sometimes skeptical of whiplash.

  • Spinal Cord injuries -- Should go without saying, but spinal cord injuries are quite serious. They often lead to lasting injury or paralysis -- and the related claims can easily run into the millions of dollars. Legal representation is almost always required.

  • Traumatic brain or head injuries -- Concussions are very common in accidents but sometimes skull fractures or other brain damage can occur too. Mild concussions are easily dealt with, but some head injuries leave victims with impairments, memory problems, and the inability to function.

Documenting and Filing Your Bodily Injury Claim

As mentioned above, step one is get into the doctor's office. Make sure that they know you're coming to see them for a car accident-related injury. This may change how they phrase their chart notes.

Once this is done, what's next?

You will then either file a claim with your own insurer or the other parties carrier. This depends on a few factors.

You'll file with your own insurance company if:

  • You were clearly at fault.
  • You live in a no-fault state.

Claims are all about following rules and ensuring you get your documentation straight. When you file a bodily injury claim you'll want (if possible) to have the following info on hand.

  1. Police report
  2. Names, contact information, and insurance information of all involved parties
  3. Witness names and contact info
  4. Medical records
  5. Pictures or notes from the scene of the accident

Most insurance companies have an intake process that will cover all of this and more. So, if you don't have it all don't worry, the adjuster will likely try to track it down too.

Be aware that an adjuster might ask for a recorded statement and a medical authorization form (so the insurance company can get your records). Depending on your situation, you may or may not want to give this to them.

If your injuries are the result of an accident with a driver who lacks insurance you might not be able to be compensated unless you have uninsured motorist protection or pursue the other party in court.

Factors That Affect the Value of Your Bodily Injury Claim

How much are your injuries worth? There are different ways you can try to value different types of accident claims, but the truth is many of these attempts are speculative at best.

What can be done though, is analyze factors that affect claim value. Understanding these factors is the best thing you can do to try to understand your claim value.

  • Fault -- Insurance companies focus pretty much solely on who is liable in an accident. If their insured is not liable they are likely to deny and close your claim. If the accident was clearly not your fault chances of a higher settlement go up.

  • Property damage -- If your vehicle was totaled the logic follows that you could have sustained some serious injuries. Your injury claim is likely to get a higher payout with corroborating property damage.

  • Location -- State law plays a role, along with the city and county in which the accident happened. Some places are known for having higher settlement amounts such as New York and California.

  • Medical expenses -- Do not assume an insurance company will pick up the tab for all your medical bills. Even if they pay your claim they may deem some of your treatment “medically unnecessary”. This can obviously affect the overall value.

  • Multiple parties & policies -- In a multi-car accident who is responsible can become clouded and with different policies in play payouts, can as well. Additionally, policy limits may influence (limit) how much you can be compensated.

  • Comparative fault -- If you live in a comparative fault state an insurance company might be legally allowed to only pay a percentage of your expenses. For example, if you're deemed to be 40% at fault you can expect a 60% settlement.

There many other variables that affect how a claim is handled (and ultimately what it is worth) but these are a good baseline to judge your accident claim.

Summary

Bodily injury claims encompass a wide range of scenarios, dynamics, and financial outcomes. Regardless of your specific circumstances following some of the basic protocols outlined here should put you well on your way to successfully resolving your claim. Remember:

  • Categorizing and diagnosing your injuries is step one. Most car accident injuries are going to be soft tissue, whiplash or hard injuries.

  • Most claims follow a predictable trajectory. Make sure you collect as much information as possible, get your medical documentation in order, and remember the insurance adjuster (link) is not on your side.

  • The value of a bodily injury claim varies. Some primary factors affecting them are liability, the nature of medical treatment, location, comparative fault and policy limits.


Sources:

1 - Association of Safe International Road Travel


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