Navigating The Settlement Process After a Car Accident

Bills can quickly pile up after a car accident. Suddenly, you’re dealing with medical bills and car repair costs. Adding to your stress are potential lost wages if your injuries are preventing you from returning to work.

You pay your car insurance premiums on time every month, so shouldn’t your settlement check be in the mail within a few days? Unfortunately, this isn’t how insurance typically works. Unraveling the complexities of the settlement process often takes time, and even then, you should expect issues to pop up along the way.

How to Make Your Settlement Process Go Smoothly

Okay, chances are, regardless of what you do, the settlement process with an insurance company isn’t going to go quickly or completely smoothly. You should expect and plan for the occasional hiccup. However, there are a few things you can do to help speed up the process.

After all, you don’t want to wait years to receive your settlement check, especially when the bills are continuing to roll in.

Understand Your Insurance Policy

Suppose you’re like a majority of drivers. You only have a basic understanding of your auto insurance policy. You know you’re meeting Arizona’s minimum insurance requirements, and you’re covered if you’re the at-fault driver in a car accident.

Don’t forget: Arizona uses a fault-based insurance system, meaning the driver responsible for the accident is legally required to cover all damages associated with the car crash. So, if you’re not the at-fault driver, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t expect to receive a settlement check without any issues.

The type of car insurance can make a difference. For example, is the policy for liability, or does it provide complete coverage? In Arizona, drivers only need to carry liability auto insurance. If you’re the at-fault driver and carrying liability insurance, you may not be eligible to receive compensation. Liability auto insurance only covers damages sustained by the other driver as long as they’re not responsible for the accident.

However, if you or the other driver is carrying full coverage, all damages should be covered. Guess what? There’s another stipulation. Almost every insurance policy has caps on coverage amounts. Even if your damages exceed the cap, the insurance provider isn’t going to cut a larger check. The cap is in place for a reason, and insurance companies follow it very closely. In other words, you can’t receive a settlement larger than the cap.


Does this mean you’re responsible for covering the remaining damages? The answer is often no. Even if you’re partially to blame for the auto accident, you may still be able to file for compensation—this brings us to Arizona’s comparative fault rule.

Comparative Fault and Settlements

What is comparative fault? This rule can work for or against you. Comparative fault allows a driver partially responsible for the accident to file for compensation. Some states don’t allow drivers to file a personal injury claim if they’re found to be more than 50% at fault for an accident, but this doesn’t apply to Arizona. Even if you’re 99% to blame for the vehicle collision, you can still file for compensation.

How comparative fault works is pretty simple: the insurance company, responding officers, judge, and/or jury places a percentage of the blame on each driver involved in the accident. Your percentage of blame determines how much is deducted from your settlement amount.

For example, you’re 30% to blame for the accident. Your settlement amount will reflect a 30% deduction. If you’re not at fault for the accident, then you receive the full settlement amount.

Negotiations are Key

After an accident, you’ll want to contact your insurance company. Don’t worry if you’re not the at-fault driver; you still need to contact your insurance provider. Your insurance company and the other driver’s carrier will work out the settlement details later in the process. You’re just getting the ball rolling on your claim.

Be prepared to provide proof of your damages. You can’t call the insurance company and ask for a specific settlement amount. You need to prove the accident occurred and you sustained injuries and/or property damage. Thankfully, this is one of the easiest parts of the settlement process. So, start gathering all of your paperwork.

  • You need a copy of the accident report. Even if the accident isn’t reported immediately, you still have 24 hours to file a report. A quick note: it’s never a good idea to wait to file an accident report, and sometimes it’s illegal. For example, if the accident results in injuries, you must remain on scene and notify authorities. You can grab a copy of your accident report online or at your local police station, usually within a week of making the report.
  • Keep all of your medical records relating to any injuries you sustain in a car accident. This includes diagnoses, treatments, and even prescriptions. If you’re starting to pay off your medical bills, keep every receipt. Without the receipt, you can’t file a claim for these damages.
  • Property damage is common in auto accidents, and you can receive compensation. Keep all repair and/or vehicle replacement estimates, along with receipts for any bills you may pay.

You may also incur non-economic damages, and your personal injury attorney can help you calculate these costs. Having the paperwork in hand before starting negotiations with the insurance company will help move the process along.

Going Through Negotiations

Even with all of your documentation, don’t expect the insurance adjuster to start writing a check immediately. Unfortunately, it rarely works this way unless you’re ready to accept the insurance company’s offered amount.


Since this amount is usually less than the total of your current damages, get ready for a lengthy series of negotiations. Hopefully, you and the insurance company can reach an agreement. If not, it’s time to file a claim in civil court.

Let an Attorney Navigate the Settlement Process

Engaging an experienced personal injury attorney can be a significant advantage when negotiating a settlement with an insurance company. Insurance claims and negotiations can be complex and challenging, often requiring an in-depth understanding of legal and insurance policies.

A personal injury attorney brings expertise in these areas, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you are not undervalued or overlooked during the settlement process. They can effectively communicate and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, aiming to achieve a fair and just settlement.

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