Liberty Mutual insurance covers millions of drivers nationwide and in Ohio. If you have been in a vehicle collision or car accident with a driver covered by Liberty Mutual, you may have been in contact with one of their insurance agents, particularly if their client was liable for the crash. It can be a highly complex and confusing process figuring out how to bring a claim or receive coverage in the wake of a serious accident. It can be even more stressful once you start receiving calls from Liberty Mutual insurance agents. It is important to understand that how you handle these phone calls can be critical when it comes to getting coverage for your claim, and the insurance agents are skilled at knowing how to guide you toward pitfalls so that you will accept the lowest possible settlement. It is especially helpful to have an experienced lawyer for Liberty Mutual car accident claims, as they are familiar with their process and system and have first-hand knowledge of what constitutes a fair settlement.
What is the Process for Filing a Car Accident Claim in Ohio?
The process for filing a car accident claim in Ohio starts by making a police report, and a report to Ohio’s bureau of motor vehicles assuming the crash resulted in more than $400 in damage. Likely very soon after (sometimes even the same or next day) you will receive a phone call from an insurance agent. If the other driver was at fault for causing the accident and was represented by Liberty Mutual, you will likely receive a call from a Liberty Mutual insurance agent.
Insurance agents often seem like any other customer service agent, but insurance agents are not there to make you happy or serve your best interest. Rather, their job is to serve their employer’s best interest, which is to settle all valid claims for as little as possible. Very soon after the accident, they will make you a settlement offer. This offer will likely be far too low and you should not accept it without first talking to an attorney.
You can choose to accept this offer, or, if you decide it is too low you have a couple of options legally. You can appeal the offer to the insurance company claims supervisor to try and get a higher settlement offer. The claims supervisor may return the same offer or an increased offer. You may either accept this offer or appeal again by submitting a written complaint to the Ohio Department of Insurance which will then determine whether the insurance agency made a reasonable offer or not.
As an alternative to this rather drawn out appeals process, many claimants instead choose to head to court by bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible driver if the insurance company fails to make an adequate offer. Your personal injury lawsuit can be filed in county court. You will likely have jurisdiction to file either in the county you reside in or where the accident took place. It is important to note that although you could go to court, most car accident cases do not make it to trial and instead settle outside of court, sometimes through mediation or arbitration. However, the likelihood of receiving a settlement offer before your matter actually has to be litigated is very high. This can be a relief to some claimants who fear that going to court route as opposed to the administrative appeal route may be more time consuming because of the litigation. In reality, the lawsuits often receive an acceptable settlement sooner because the insurance companies are motivated to settle the issue before the case goes to trial.
Determining Fault for an Accident
It was mentioned above that the insurance company of the driver who is at fault for causing the accident will reach out to settle the claim, but how is fault determined? Usually, fault is determined by the insurance companies. Their determination relies heavily on the police report, which is also why it is important to be careful about what you say to the police. You should try to stick to the facts and not make assumptions about what happened, but be sure to mention any pain or physical discomfort that you are experiencing so that there is a record of it.
Insurance companies will also consider any available information. Collecting the names and contact information of witnesses to the accident at the scene is another way to bolster your claim and aid in the determination of liability. Additionally, taking photos and video at the scene can be very helpful, especially if you take photos and video of the damage to both vehicles and the larger crash scene. Video or photos of things like tire marks on the road and relevant traffic signs and signals can also be greatly helpful. Your statement will carry a significant amount of weight as well, as will the other driver’s.
Comparative Negligence in Ohio
Ohio is a comparative negligence state, which means that the fault of all parties will be considered in determining who is responsible for causing a car accident. It is actually rarely the case that one driver is 100% liable. In most cases both drivers can be found to have done something to have contributed to the occurrence of the crash. Luckily, under Ohio’s comparative negligence law, you do not have to have been totally without fault in order to recover for injuries that you sustained in the crash. Rather, as long as you were not the primary cause of the accident, you can still recover for your injuries. Your total recovery will, however, be decreased by a percentage amount equivalent to the total amount of fault that you contributed to causing the accident.
For instance, if you were involved in a rear-end accident where the other driver was drunk but you had one tail light that was out, you might be found 10% liable for contributing to the accident, while the other driver is found 90% liable. If you receive $10,000 in damages, you will then receive $9,000 of those damages. The remaining $1,000 will be deducted, since it is equivalent to 10% of your total damages, proportionate to your amount of fault. It is also important to note that your amount of fault is not set in stone and can be argued. When cases do make it to court the other party will often try to contend that you hold a greater amount of the fault in order to decrease their own liability and vice versa. Your lawyer will prepare the best possible case for your defense.
Why Should I Hire a Lawyer For My Liberty Mutual Claims Negotiation?
If you are currently getting calls from a Liberty Mutual insurance agent and are unsure what to do or whether to accept their settlement offer, it is important to get a sense of how much your claim is actually worth so that you can make an informed decision. Of course that is very difficult to do if you are not a lawyer. So many different factors go into calculating damages. If you are not aware that something qualifies for reimbursement or compensation, you can end up missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars. For instance, many people know that your medical costs qualify for reimbursement, but they do not realize that transportation to and from medical appointments also qualifies.
Additionally, the cost of all anticipated future treatments if you have a condition that is chronic or will require ongoing care can also be covered. If you do not know that, you can miss out on hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in damages. You simply cannot know what you do not know. That is why a lawyer comes in handy. They know what you do not. A half-million-dollar settlement can sound like a lot of money and a great way to end a very stressful chapter of your life, but if you have not properly accounted for your damages and your expenses long-term, you might be back in debt within a matter of months.
It is important not to get caught up and accept your initial settlement offer without first consulting with a lawyer whose role is to represent and advocate for your best interests. After all, this is something that you will probably do once in your life, but lawyers do this dozens of times a day. Sometimes it just makes more sense to let people play to their strengths. Retain a lawyer to do what they do and get you the maximum amount of compensation that you are entitled to while you focus on healing and getting your life back on track.
How Much is My Insurance Claim Worth?
Your insurance claim value is determined based on a number of factors. These factors include things like estimated damages to your vehicle, medical expenses, and the permanence or severity of your injuries. When you bring a personal injury lawsuit in court you can receive compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include things like all medical expenses, lost wages, vehicle damage, and other real and anticipated costs.
Non-economic damages are meant to provide compensation for the physical and emotional trauma caused by the accident. These damages are not totally subjective though, they are usually determined based on the total amount of economic damages as compared to the permanence and level of severity of the injury. It is important to take note of the fact that Ohio has a cap on non-economic damages, limiting claimants to three times their total amount of economic damages.
The more severe your injury is, the more critical it is that you retain representation and consult with an attorney to get an accurate estimate of your injuries and whether your settlement is fair. In some cases, additional damage may be available. Punitive damages are available in certain cases. Punitive damages, unlike economic and non-economic damages, are not intended to make the victim of the car accident whole, but rather to punish the responsible party and to make an example of them so others will be deterred from acting similarly. Punitive damages are available only in certain cases where the conduct leading to the accident was particularly reckless or malicious.
Is There a Time Limit on Car Accident Claims?
Ohio, like all states, has a statute of limitations, or time limit, on bringing personal injury claims such as car accidents. When insurance claims adjusters start calling they often act like it is important to respond, provide information, and accept or reject their offer. However, this sense of urgency is both overblown and manufactured. Agents know that the more they rush you to accept a claim in the immediate aftermath of an accident, the more likely you are to accept a lower claim. This is because so soon after the accident you are unlikely to have an accurate idea of how much it will cost to recover from the injury.
In reality, you have two years from the date of the accident to bring a claim. This does not mean that you should wait two years. You should still file an accident report soon after the accident and contact a lawyer earlier rather than later as the longer you wait the harder it will be to gather available evidence, however, waiting a few extra days to respond to give you time to consult with an attorney is strategic rather than reckless. Do not let an insurance agent pressure you into accepting a claim because you think you have a limited amount of time. Insurance agents will often say that if you do not respond within a certain amount of time they will close your claim. This is true but misleading. They can close your claim but they can also reopen it at any time prior to the statute of limitations running out.
Contact the Law Firm of Kruger & Hodges
The Law Firm of Kruger & Hodges serving the City of Hamilton, Ohio, represents victims of negligent drivers covered by Liberty Mutual and other huge insurance corporations to make sure that they get the compensation they are entitled to. We will level the playing field and fight to get you every penny that you deserve. Contact the Law Firm of Kruger & Hodges today to schedule a consultation.