Making an Insurance
Claim vs. Filing Suit
Suppose you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident that clearly seems to be the other driver’s fault. You file an insurance claim, and interviews, questioning, and negotiations seem to drag on forever. You start wondering, “Why don’t I just sue the other driver?”
The answer to that question hinges on many factors, including the extent of your injuries, your possible involvement (or shared fault) in the accident, how the insurance companies (yours and the other driver’s) are treating you, and how much time and patience you have to pursue legal action in court.
If you’ve been involved in an accident in or around Shawnee, Oklahoma, or nearby in Chandler, Norman, Okemah, or Ada, and you want to explore your options for recovering compensation for your injuries—or your loved one’s injuries—contact me at the Wilson Law Firm PLLC. As a personal injury attorney, I can help you deal with the insurance claims adjusters, and if need be, help you pursue the compensation you deserve through the legal system.
What to Expect When
Filing an Insurance Claim
Every driver in Oklahoma, unless they self-insure, is required to have a policy known as 25/50/25. In other words, each driver must have personal liability insurance covering up to $25,000 for injuries or death involving one person; $50,000 in liability coverage for the injury or death of two or more persons; and $25,000 for property damage or destruction in any one accident.
If your injury in an auto accident ends up costing you $10,000 in medical expenses and another $2,500 in lost wages from missing work, the other driver’s policy should cover that since it’s under the $25,000 cap.
“Should,” however, is the operative word. Once you file your claim, the claims adjuster for the at-fault driver’s insurance is going to use every tactical device to try to get you to admit some fault in the accident. This will then allow them to lower your compensation based on Oklahoma’s use of the modified comparative negligence rule.
Modified comparative negligence means you can be compensated for your injuries, damages, and losses so long as your fault doesn’t outweigh the other party’s, but only to the extent of the other party’s negligence. Once your fault reaches 51 percent, you cannot recover anything, however.
For example, you are rear-ended, and your losses reach $20,000 for medical expenses due to back and head injuries, and for lost wages. Say you had a brake light that didn’t work. The insurance claims adjuster could assert your malfunctioning light was 20 percent responsible for the accident, thus reducing your $20,000 claim by 20 percent, down to $16,000.
If, after negotiating back and forth with the insurance company, you still feel the settlement offer is too low (and the first offer invariably is), you may be able to take the matter to court.
What to Expect If You File a Lawsuit
You can indeed file a lawsuit if you feel you’re being shortchanged by the insurance company, or if your losses exceed the policy caps on the other driver’s insurance. However, courts use the same standard of comparative negligence that insurance companies do. The jury, after hearing testimony and evidence from both sides, will assign at-fault percentages to each driver.
Judges and jurors are independent parties, unlike claims adjusters, who work for the parent insurance company and are trained to hold down settlement offers. You may stand a better chance of getting your side of the events heard and accepted in a trial.
Going to trial also entails a time commitment. You will need to be present for the court proceedings, and the trial outcome can never be guaranteed. Additionally, there is a risk factor. If you turn down a $20,000 insurance settlement, hoping to get $35,000 in court, you could end up being disappointed, or even being awarded less.
You have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit under Oklahoma’s statute of limitations. In contrast, making a claim with an insurance company should be done as soon as possible. Insurance policies have clauses in them requiring prompt reporting of claims. If your claim isn’t reported in a timely fashion, usually in days or a couple of weeks, it could be rejected.
How Legal Counsel Can Help
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car wreck, you should seek experienced legal advice before making any decision about a lawsuit—and even before you talk to a claims adjuster. You need to report your claim in a timely manner but talk to an attorney before getting involved in the back-and-forth with a claims adjuster. It’s often better to let your attorney handle it.
If you’re in Shawnee, Chandler, Norman, Okemah, or Ada, Oklahoma, contact me immediately at Wilson Law Firm PLLC. I will listen to the details of your accident and injuries, assess your options, and advise you of the best path forward. I will then help you fight for fair compensation.