My car was totalled in a MVA on 5/16/12. A commercial van ran a red light and hit me on the passenger side of car at rear over feul door & tire. He hit me hard enough to spin me from the s direction I was going, til I faced North...and no one wanted to be a witness that saw the incident. I have the police report, the 911 transcript & audio of my 911 call, he hit me and didn't stop, but came back a few minutes later before the 911 call ended & police arrived. His co's insurance isn't paying for anything. My car ins co has paid for everything of mine & my car loan, I am still without a vehicle. Should I wait until the car ins companies are finished amongst themselves or should I seek legal action. What can I ask for regarding reimbursement for the loss of vehicle my ins co had paid out? (my GAP hasn't done anything as of yet) and what can I ask for as compensation for the loss of vehicle for myself? Will this be heard in civil court or through mediation with a judge?
3 Answers from Attorneys
These are great questions. Your insurance company is an alternative to a private attorney, but not required. If you feel that your insurance company is not doing a good job negotiating on your behalf, you can hire a private attorney to help in the matter. If you are considering this route, you should note that you can only recover for the dollar amount of damages that you incurred. Taking that into account, you can email me for further assistance in this matter. Best regards.
It would be best if you consulted with a personal injury attorney now. I am not clear if you suffered injuries in this accident, but if you did, then you may have a right to make a claim against the other insurance company for your medical expenses, any lost wages, and your pain and suffering. I assume that your insurance company has been in contact with the other insurance company in an attempt to sort out the liability and fault issues in your accident. If the two insurance companies cannot agree to the fault, there is a mechanism they have to get that decided, usually through and arbitration process. It sounds as though your insurance company has paid you for the damage to your vehicle, and I am not sure if you have replaced the vehicle or not. If your insurance company paid you for the vehicle damage, I assume that they subtracted your collision coverage deductible amount, and you would have the potential of obtaining that from the other insurance company. Please note that there are statute of limitations time periods which apply to your claims, therefore, discussing the facts and potential claims with an experienced personal injury attorney at this point would be suggested for you.
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I recommend that my personal injury clients submit their property damage claims to their own insurer first, because it is just too expensive for individuals to litigate against 3rd party insurance companies when the only issue is a slight potential insurance premium increase due to your presenting the collision property claim against your own insurer. Most insurers will not count this against you unless you are extremely accident prone, since they can easily get most, if not all, of the money which they pay to fix your car from the adverse insurer through various industry arbitration agreements without the need to litigate in court, and within just a few days of payment. On the other hand, if you sue a third party insurer and have no contract with that insurer, you may be in for a long, slow and expensive ride through our civil justice system, which can sometimes take years to resolve fault and damages in such cases via the jury trial process. It is not unusual for litigation expenses in such cases to exceed $10,000, even if you win, and WI does not usually award actual attorney fees to the winner of such lawsuits, meaning that the attorney fee expense is not reimbursed by anyone. On the other hand, if you have an injury claim due to the same accident and were not significantly at fault in the accident, you can easily retain counsel on a contingent fee basis, wherein the attorney will often lend you the money for litigation expenses and be reimbursed for such cost advances out of the eventual settlement. Few attorneys will offer a contingent fee on the property damage party of your claim because the amount in dispute is usually too low to justify the amount of time and money they would have to spend litigating the case, although most of them will advise you for free in the property damage part of the case, if you also retain them on the injury portion. If you are legitimately injured, you therefore owe it to yourself to consult with an experienced attorney before negotiating with the insurer over settlement. Be aware that the opposing claims representative does not represent you, is usually a full time employee of the adverse insurer, and has few, if any, legal duties to treat you fairly or honestly (unlike a licensed attorney). Instead, his job is to advance the interests of a “for profit,” publically traded corporation, which has a legal duty to maximize profits for its shareholders. Rest assured that they do not maximize those profits by being generous in their evaluations of the value of adverse drivers’ injury claims. In WI accidents, the statute of limitations for many injury matters expires in two to three years, so you should obtain representation as soon as possible (because it can often take years or longer to properly prepare a claim for either settlement negotiations or litigation when serious injuries are involved). My comments here are for public educational purposes only and are not legal advice specifically tailored to your specific situation. You should therefore retain a lawyer in order to meet your legal needs, or at least schedule a private consultation with one. I am not your attorney and will not be taking any action on your case. Disclosure of confidential information in a public web forum is not recommended and is always subject to possible use against you later, in court. However, you are welcome to contact my Racine, WI office at 262-633-3090, see me on the web (www.jayknixonlaw) or, email me at [email protected] with further questions. Web forum answers may contain attorney advertising materials.