Almost every driver is guilty of “rubbernecking” – rolling slowly past an accident scene, staring at the damage and feeling grateful it didn’t happen to them.
However, no driver can escape the possibility of being involved in a car accident. In 2021, there were 1,506 car accidents in Tulsa, and as a result,1,851 people suffered minor or serious injuries.
Although no driver wants to imagine themselves on the side of the road in the aftermath of a crash – at best, very shaken up or at worst, needing emergency medical services, it is a scenario that drivers should be prepared for.
Conscientious drivers will seek an auto insurance policy that offers them maximum protection in the event of an accident. In Oklahoma, drivers are required to hold minimum liability policies for bodily injury and property damage. However, considering the cost of medical treatment, in the case of a major accident these minimums are low, and many drivers will opt to purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage.
Therefore, a car accident in Tulsa can mean making claims from both the at-fault party’s insurance company and the driver’s own policy, creating additional complications. At what point should an accident victim hire a lawyer?
In some cases, establishing fault in a car accident is straightforward. If the other driver rear-ended the accident victim, for example, or the incident was captured on a traffic camera, there should be no disputes in assigning fault. But if an at-fault party denies responsibility and will not cooperate with the accident victim, a lawyer can step in and build a case to prove the other driver is at fault. The lawyer can obtain accident reports and interview witnesses to support their client’s claim.
The Driver and/or Passengers Suffered Injuries
No driver wants their life to be disrupted by injuries. However, even if an accident seems minor at first, the extent of injuries may not be obvious right away.
Medical bills can quickly pile up, and even if the victim has medical insurance, the out-of-pocket costs can be extensive. While recovering from injuries, navigating claims from the at-fault party’s insurance company, the victim’s own insurance and keeping track of records and necessary paperwork can be unbelievably stressful. A lawyer can advise their client about what supporting evidence they need for their medical claims, and all of the expenses they are eligible for – including hospital stays, surgeries, follow-up doctor’s appointments, prescription drugs, physical therapy and assistive devices. Damages for lost wages are usually a significant part of a personal injury claim as well. The accident victim will likely have missed work while recovering from their injuries, or had to leave their job altogether. A debilitating injury may mean that the victim’s future earnings are in jeopardy. A lawyer can help calculate these damages and fight for the fairest settlement.
A lawyer can also build a case for non-economic damages, also known as pain and suffering. Pain and suffering damages include physical pain, emotional anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Disputes With the Insurance Company
Even if an accident victim is meticulous in their record keeping and submits their claim thinking they’ve covered all their bases, there’s no guarantee an insurance company will accept it. Although insurance companies present themselves as helpful and reassuring in the event of an emergency, they may deny an accident victim’s claim based on a lack of evidence, or even just a technicality.
Insurance companies also have legal teams that will be working on their behalf. Hiring a car accident lawyer means an accident victim has an expert in their corner to advocate for their rights and fight for the maximum compensation their client is entitled to. An experienced lawyer will have worked with many insurance companies and claims and will push back on denied claims based on their expert knowledge.
Negotiating a Settlement With the Insurance Company
When recovering from injuries and dealing with a wrecked car, it is very tempting as an accident victim to accept the first offer from an insurance company to settle a claim. Just getting the process over with is a motivation to take the amount offered, even if it’s low, and doesn’t compensate the victim for all of their eligible damages.
A lawyer is not intimidated by insurance companies, and will not accept a low figure on behalf of their client. While their client focuses on recovery, a lawyer will account for every type of expense their client can claim and make sure the settlement is comprehensive and fair under the law.
Making a Claim Against Your Own Insurance Company
If an accident victim has been hit by a driver who only carries the minimum liability requirements in Oklahoma – which is $25,000 each for medical costs and property damage – their costs can exponentially exceed these limits. After reaching the limits of the at-fault party’s liability insurance coverage, the victim will have to make additional claims to their own Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist insurance policy.
An accident victim may feel some reassurance working with their own insurance company – after all, they purchased the insurance for their own protection in a situation just like this one – but it is not a given that the claim will be accepted. Just as with another driver’s insurance company, claims can be denied even if they are carefully prepared and seem straightforward. A lawyer will meticulously build a case for their client’s claim and apply their expertise to get a fair settlement.
Specialized Legal Expertise
An individual person making a substantial claim against an insurance company can be a David and Goliath type of situation. The insurance company has a team of legal experts who will deconstruct the claim and look for legal reasons to deny it.
In some cases, the accident victim cannot get the at-fault party to accept responsibility for the accident and cooperate in the claims process. Both of these situations can be overwhelming and leave the accident victim at a loss as to what to do next – or simply want to give up.
Simply put, a lawyer knows the law when it comes to personal injury in Oklahoma, and will apply that expertise to gaining the maximum settlement for their client.
If you have been injured in a car accident, our expert team can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us or call us at 918-359-6600 today for a free consultation.