We recently were contacted by a young man who had tried to negotiate his car accident settlement on his own. We believe that in many cases individuals can and should settle their car accident cases with the insurance company. We've even written a book which shows consumers how to settle their own car accident case.
Filing a lawsuit in order to pursue your claim is another matter altogether. While TV legal shows may make this sound easy, it's a mistake that could very well be fatal to your claim.
In a recent case, a gentleman had negotiated with the insurance company but they still had not reached an agreement as to the final settlement amount. They were close; both parties knew that the two-year time limit for filing a lawsuit was coming up very quickly. The insurance company correctly told the gentleman that if he wanted to negotiate beyond the two-year limit he had to file a lawsuit in the court to protect his rights.
However, they didn't give him any advice on who he needed to sue. Unfortunately, he filed a lawsuit and sued the insurance company. Their lawyers went to court and have the case dismissed. Since he had not filed a lawsuit against the individual who had hit him within 2 years, the insurance company withdrew their offer and closed the file.
In Virginia, even if you are filing a claim against your own insurance company under the uninsured motorist benefits clause of your policy, the case is still against the individual who caused the accident. If the accident was a “hit-and-run”, or for some reason, you don't know the identity of the individual, a case can be filed against “John Doe”; however, this is a limited circumstance.
Yes, you can settle your case on your own in many cases, but it is not a good idea to go to court without an attorney.