This is the next post in a series of articles discussing uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) claims in Fort Worth, Texas. The previous post provided a general overview of Texas’ minimum insurance coverage rules and how UM and UIM policies can cover damages when a driver has no or insufficient coverage. It also encouraged victims of automobile accidents to retain counsel with experience negotiating with and litigating against insurance companies. In this article, we will discuss the process of handling an UM/UIM claim. If you have been in an accident, we recommend that you contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
We have previously written about dealing with an insurance company in a personal injury case. When making a claim for damages under UM/UIM coverage, the process is very similar. The major difference is that you will be negotiating and possibly litigating against your own insurance company. Following the accident, the victim’s insurance company will be notified and begin investigating the incident. An insurance adjuster will contact the victim to collect a statement and information about the injuries or property damages suffered. One should not assume that because a claim is being made under one’s own policy, that the process will not be adversarial. It is important to understand the adjuster’s goal is to minimize the exposure to the insurance company. When possible, we suggest that accident victims retain an attorney soon after the accident to handle the discussions and negotiations with the adjuster directly on the victim’s behalf.
The injured party’s attorney will investigate the accident and gather the information necessary to calculate potential damages. Identifying information that may be relevant to the case, such as medical bills and records, police reports, witness statements is an important part of this process. It may be necessary to engage experts to evaluate the seriousness of the victim’s injuries, the cause of the accident or potential long-term or permanent damages suffered. Depending upon the seriousness of the person’s injuries, it may take a significant period of time to ascertain the medical prognosis.The attorney will use the information to prepare a demand letter to be sent to the adjuster setting forth the damage calculation.
After the insurance company receives the demand letter, the parties will begin settlement negotiations. Depending upon the facts of the case, discussions about settlement may be lengthy. This is particularly true in complex cases or if the insurer decides to challenge the proposed damage calculation by engaging experts of its own. If a settlement can be reached, the attorney will negotiate the terms of a settlement agreement. If one cannot be reached, the case will proceed to litigation.
Some law firms advertise the ability to negotiate a “quick settlement” as a benefit to their clients. For obvious reasons, this approach may not be in the best interest of the victim on a long-term basis. We recommend hiring a law firm with adequate resources and expertise in negotiating with insurance companies for as long as necessary to reach a favorable resolution. We also suggest that a firm should employ multiple attorneys, an on-staff investigator, and that the attorneys are board certified in personal injury law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. These recommendations apply regardless of whether the incident took place in Fort Worth, Dallas, or another Texas area.