How Does the Car Accident Settlement Process Work?

Car Accident | December 10, 2021

Filing your first car accident insurance claim can be a stressful and overwhelming process. You may not know what to expect from the insurance company or how long it will take to reach a settlement. Although each case is unique, the process for how an insurance claim works remains essentially the same. Your claim in Massachusetts will most likely follow these general steps from start to finish.

Crash Reporting

Every car insurance claim begins with crash reporting. In Massachusetts, it is a legal requirement to report any car accident that results in injuries, a death or more than $1,000 worth of damage to any one vehicle. The report to the Registry of Motor Vehicles must come within five days of the crash. Crash reporting to the police, however, must be immediate. Calling the police to the scene of a car accident is an important step as a claimant. The police can give you an accident report that you can use during the insurance claims process.

Claim Submission

The next step is submitting a claim. This process will vary according to whether the car accident took place in a fault or no-fault state. Massachusetts is one of only 12 no-fault states. This means that drivers seek benefits from their own insurance providers for car accidents, regardless of fault. There are exceptions, however, for car accidents that cause serious injuries. 

In a fault state, on the other hand, a driver must determine who caused the crash, then file a claim with that person’s insurance provider. This is only a possibility in Massachusetts if the victim’s injuries reach the state’s serious injury threshold. These are injuries that are permanently disabling, scarring or disfiguring, and injuries that require over $2,000 in medical care.

Submitting an insurance claim takes calling the correct insurance company and explaining that a car accident took place. Many car insurance companies also offer websites and apps where crash victims can file claims online. Submit your insurance claim as soon as possible, as many insurers have deadlines for crash reporting.

Accident Investigation

Once an insurance company receives the claim, it will assign claims adjusters and investigators to determine who or what caused the crash. The insurance company may send representatives back to the scene of the accident or to analyze the property damage in person. The insurance company may also review your police report, interview you and speak to eyewitnesses. Then, it will decide whether to accept or reject the insurance claim based on who it believes is responsible for the accident.

Proving Fault

If you filed a fault-based claim against another driver for causing your crash, it may be necessary to prove that he or she is at fault. If the insurance company initially denies your claim, or requests further information, you may need to provide evidence of fault. This may take the form of the official police crash report, photographs of the scene and your property damage, statements from eyewitnesses, expert testimony, and your medical records. If you can successfully prove fault, the other driver’s insurance company will accept your claim and offer a settlement.

Settlement or Lawsuit

The majority of car accident claims in Massachusetts reach settlements, or agreements between insurance companies and claimants. With help from a car accident lawyer, you can negotiate to achieve a fair and full settlement from an insurance company. However, if the car insurer refuses to offer fair compensation or rejects your claim, you may need to take your car accident case to trial in Massachusetts. This can lead to a longer and more complicated legal process, where you and the other driver will attend a hearing and prove to a judge or jury who caused the crash.

For more information about the car accident settlement process in your specific case, contact an attorney in Lowell at Merrimack Valley Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.