When you’re in a motor vehicle accident, you may expect that filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer will be relatively simple. Yet too often, the process is fraught with complications and delays – and accident victims end up getting far less money than they should. This is frequently the case with Erie Insurance.
Based in Pennsylvania, Erie Insurance Company is the second-largest auto insurance company in West Virginia. While Erie tends to be more reasonable than many other insurance companies, it can still be difficult to get a fair settlement from them. A seasoned West Virginia car accident lawyer can help you get the money that you deserve.
At Johnstone & Gabhart, we are fierce advocates for injury victims. Our legal team works hard to help our clients get the money that they deserve for their losses. We offer free initial consultations, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you.
Erie Insurance Accident Claims Process
If you are in an auto accident caused by a driver with Erie Insurance, then they should file a claim with their insurer. This is known as a third-party claim.
Once the claim has been filed, Erie Insurance will assign a claims adjuster to handle it. The adjuster will start with an investigation. They will interview witnesses, request a police report, and gather documentation of any losses.
The insurance adjuster assigned to your personal injury claim will also contact you, either by phone, in-person or perhaps even via the mail. They will likely try to get you to give a statement and to sign some documents. The adjuster may even tell you that they accept full responsibility for the accident or offer you a settlement.
While the adjuster may be friendly, remember that they aren’t on your side – they work for the insurance carrier. Their goal is not to make sure that you get maximum compensation. Instead, they are working to pay you as little as possible, or even deny your claim outright. That is how insurance companies make money.
You can protect yourself by hiring a WV personal injury lawyer as early as possible in the Erie Insurance accident claims process. Your attorney will make sure that you don’t make a statement or sign any paperwork that could harm your case. They will also handle all communications with the insurance company for you.
Most personal injury law firms offer free consultation, where you can learn more about your legal rights. If you choose to retain an attorney for your personal injury claim, then they will start to build a strong case – gathering evidence, researching WV insurance laws, and working with expert witnesses. Throughout the process, they will fight for your right to full compensation for your losses.
Erie Insurance Settlements and Payouts
In a personal injury claim, you may be entitled to three types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Economic and non-economic damages are compensatory, which means that they compensate an accident victim for a specific loss. By contrast, punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer.
Economic damages cover specific financial losses. They may include money for medical bills, future medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and even funds to make your home or vehicle accessible. Economic damages can often be proved through documents like medical records, invoices, and bills.
Non-economic damages compensate injury victims for their intangible losses. These types of losses can be harder to quantify, but are no less important than economic damages. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, scarring, and disfigurement.
Finally, punitive damages may be awarded in cases where the victim can prove that the at-fault driver acted with “actual malice,” or with a conscious, reckless, and outrageous indifference to the health, safety, and welfare of others. Punitive damages are not generally awarded in car crash cases, which are typically based on a theory of negligence (carelessness). However, there may be situations – like drunk driving accidents – where punitive damages may be awarded.
A settlement with Erie Insurance should cover all damages that are applicable to a particular case. Like many other insurance companies, Erie uses a software program called Colossus to value accident claims. A claims adjuster will enter data into Colossus, which will then assign a settlement range for an accident victim’s bodily injury claim.
Colossus is a software program that is marketed to insurance companies like Erie for a specific reason: to keep costs low. A claims adjuster will rarely offer a settlement for more than what Colossus suggests. In fact, they may even be rewarded for settling a case on the low end of the settlement range from Colossus.
So how can you get a payout from Erie Insurance that truly represents your losses? Most often, you won’t get the money that you deserve unless you are represented by an experienced personal injury attorney. In fact, studies show that people with legal representation recover an average of 40% more in personal injury claims compared to people who represent themselves.
Suing Erie Insurance
Car accident claims are usually resolved via a settlement. After your attorney makes a demand for compensation, Erie will come back with a counteroffer. The parties will then go back and forth until they negotiate a fair settlement.
In some situations, it may be necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit to get Erie to offer you the compensation that covers all of your losses. This is particularly true in cases where the claims adjuster is determined to only settle the case within the range provided by Colossus.
Filing a lawsuit does not mean that your case will go to trial. In fact, most personal injury lawsuits are resolved outside of court. Instead, filing a lawsuit may be a necessary step to show Erie Insurance that you are serious – and that you won’t settle your claim for pennies on the dollar.
Most often, the insurance adjuster will be motivated to offer you a much higher settlement to resolve your personal injury claim. Insurance companies know that taking a car accident case to a jury can be a risk – and can be very expensive. When you are represented by an auto accident lawyer with significant trial experience, the claims adjuster knows that you can and will take this claim to court if you don’t get full compensation.
After the lawsuit is filed, the case will enter the pretrial stage. Each party will file motions with the court, and start the process of exchanging information (known as discovery). Throughout the pretrial phase, negotiations will continue – up until the eve of trial.
If the case is not resolved before trial, then your attorney will make arguments, present evidence, and question witnesses before asking the jury to find in your favor. Lawyers for Erie Insurance will have the same opportunity. The jury will then deliberate and return a verdict.
When to Hire an Attorney
After a car accident, you may not know what you should do. You may also be struggling financially, as you are dealing with time off of work (lost wages) and mounting medical bills. If a claims adjuster approaches you with a settlement offer, you may be tempted to just take the check and move forward with your life.
Before you sign anything (or give a statement), you should always schedule a free consultation with a WV car accident attorney. They will listen to your story and give you legal advice on your rights and options for pursuing a claim against Erie Insurance Co. They can also give you a rough estimate of the value of your case.
This advice can help you make a more informed decision about whether to settle your case. You may also decide that the best course of action is to hire a lawyer to handle your claim. To protect yourself, you should schedule this appointment as soon as possible after your car crash.
While you have up to two years to file a lawsuit under West Virginia’s statute of limitations for personal injury, it still makes sense to contact an attorney as soon as possible in any car accident caused by another driver. Erie Insurance is not on your side – they want to settle your claim for as little money as possible to keep their profits high.
By comparison, a personal injury lawyer is duty-bound to represent your best interests. They will fight to make sure that you get top dollar for your personal injury claim. If you have been hurt in any type of accident, it is in your best interests to reach out to an experienced West Virginia car accident attorney immediately.
How Much Is My Erie Insurance Car Accident Claim Worth?
The value of a car accident case is based on a number of factors, such as how badly you were hurt, the limits of the insurance policies, and whether you are expected to make a full recovery. Generally, if you suffered a serious or catastrophic injury, your case will likely be worth more than if you had relatively minor injuries, like a broken bone or bruising.
However, personal injury cases can be complicated. An experienced West Virginia auto accident attorney can give you an idea of the value of your case. They will then fight to make sure that Erie Insurance Co. pays you a fair settlement – or they will take the case to a jury. Reach out to Johnstone & Gabhart today for a free consultation.
Can I Really Afford to Hire a Lawyer?
Personal injury law firms typically handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that you don’t pay anything upfront, and only pay a fee if you get money through a settlement or verdict at trial. The attorney’s fees will be based on a percentage of your total recovery.
Contingency fee arrangements allow you to hire a lawyer even if you don’t have tons of extra cash to pay an hourly fee. This can help you level the playing field with major corporations like Erie Insurance. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free consultation about your claim.
Can I File a Claim with Erie If I Was Hit By an Uninsured Driver?
In West Virginia, drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage on their insurance policies. If you are hit by a driver who doesn’t have insurance – or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your losses – then you can file a separate claim on your UM/UIM policy with Erie Insurance.
Insurance companies often try to minimize the amount that they have to pay on uninsured motorist claims. Our law firm will advocate for you to help you get maximum compensation for your UM/UIM case. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.
Filing a Claim Against Erie Insurance? We Can Help.
While Erie Insurance Co. is more reasonable than many other major insurers when it comes to settling car accident claims, they are still a for-profit business. They will always try to pay you less than what your claim is truly worth. The best way to make sure that you get every dime that you are entitled to under the law is to hire a seasoned personal injury lawyer.
At Johnstone & Gabhart, our attorneys are dedicated to the practice of West Virginia personal injury law. For each case, we work hard to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a WV injury lawyer, call our law office at 304-343-7100 or fill out our online contact form.