What Are the Steps for Filing Auto Accident Claims?

Renee Booker

In most jurisdictions throughout the world, a driver who was responsible for a vehicular accident must compensate any victims who suffered injuries as a result of the accident. Within the United States, auto accident claims are generally handled through the liability insurance provider for the negligent, or responsible, driver. A victim must first ascertain if the driver had the required liability insurance, and, if so, contact the insurance company and provide required documentation in order to file an auto accident claim. If the insurance provider is unwilling to acknowledge responsibility, or if the parties are unable to reach a satisfactory settlement for compensation, then the injured party must file a lawsuit against the negligent driver.

An insurance claim form.
An insurance claim form.

Within the United States, individual states determine what level of liability insurance coverage a driver must carry, as well as under what conditions a victim is entitled to recover compensation for injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Some states require a driver to be 100% at fault in order for a victim to recover damages for injuries; however, most states use comparative negligence, which entitles a victim to compensation even if he or she contributed to the accident, as long as the other party was more negligent. Before injured victims can file auto accident claims, they must determine that they are entitled to compensation under the laws of the jurisdiction where the accident happened. Although an attorney is not required to file auto accident claims, when negligence is not clear, the advise and assistance of an accident attorney may be necessary.

An official police report is often needed when filing auto accident claims.
An official police report is often needed when filing auto accident claims.

A victim may contact the negligent driver's insurance company directly following an accident; however, a victim should remember that the insurance company is ultimately an adversary, which makes consulting with an attorney prior to contacting them an important step in most cases. In order to file auto accident claims, the injured party will need to submit various documents to the insurance company. The required documents may vary, but generally include a statement regarding what happened, an official police report, and verification of the victim's injuries, such as doctor reports and/or bills. Documentation of additional "damages," a legal term synonymous with injuries, may include the cost of repairs to the victim's vehicle and proof of lost wages as a result of the accident.

Each driver should contact their insurance company and that of the other driver.
Each driver should contact their insurance company and that of the other driver.

In many cases, the victims and insurance company are able to reach an out of court settlement that compensates the victims for auto accident claims. If an out of court settlement cannot be reached, then auto accident claims must be litigated in a court of law. For monetary damages under a certain dollar amount, a victim may be able to file in a local small claims court, which makes the process faster and easier for a pro se, or self-represented, victim. For auto accident claims where the injuries amount to a substantial dollar amount, the case must be filed in a superior or circuit court where the rules are much more complicated and formal, making it all but essential that the victim obtain the services of an accident attorney.

Some states require a driver to be completely at fault in order for a victim to receive damages.
Some states require a driver to be completely at fault in order for a victim to receive damages.

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