By Matt Hopkins
Special to The Sun
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly series of columns written by attorneys at Lester, Loving & Davies law firm in Edmond.
Q: I was hit by a driver who ran a red light. His insurance company wants to settle. What should I do?
A: Car accidents often leave the innocent party in a fix. You have lost your car and need alternate transportation immediately. You may have serious injuries, or just minor pain that you think will go away without treatment. You may need compensation for your loss quickly, but may not fully understand your rights or the pitfalls that can arise as you try to settle.
Enter the insurance company. Oklahoma drivers are required to carry minimum liability insurance. Despite the requirement, some drivers do not. If the driver who caused your accident has liability insurance, you are a step ahead because there is a party capable of compensating you. If the rogue did not have insurance, you hopefully have uninsured motorist coverage on your own policy that will step in and help pay the bill.
But not all insurance companies are created equal. Some will go the extra mile to fully compensate you. Others, though, will do all that they can to settle with you quickly for the smallest amount necessary to make you go away. So how do you know the difference?
You should take several steps. First, seek medical attention as quickly after the accident as possible — even if you feel fine. Now I confess my tendency to stubbornly beg off rational medical treatment. Don’t do it. You may have injuries that you can’t detect or need treatment to head off developing problems. Medical evaluation is necessary to both make sure you are unharmed and document your condition.
Second, don’t enter into a quick settlement with any insurance company (even your own). Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to compensation for the damage to your vehicle, medical bills, necessary future medical treatment, pain and suffering, lost income, disfigurement and other losses. But what amount is reasonable? If you settle with an insurance company too early — perhaps before your losses are even known — you may waive compensation to which you are entitled.
Third, consult an attorney quickly. Don’t give a statement to an insurance adjuster, authorize release of medical records or discuss your loss on your own. A good attorney can make sure that you do these things in the proper way, and can help you recover all the compensation you will need to get back on track.
MATT HOPKINS is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at lldlaw.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.