The other driver’s insurance company has offered me a settlement. Should I accept it? Will they negotiate?
We commonly hear from people who’ve been offered a settlement from the insurance company shortly after being injured in an auto accident. People often believe that they have to make this decision very quickly, but that’s exactly what the insurance company wants. Don’t let them take advantage of you!
Make no mistake about it; Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. They will always try to pay as little as possible, and they are not looking out for your best interests (quite the opposite, in fact). If they’ve given you a settlement offer, it’s likely because they would owe you much more should your case make it in front of a judge.
Should you accept their settlement offer? The decision is ultimately up to you, but there are many factors you should consider before making a final decision.
Things to consider before accepting a settlement from the insurance company.
Following a car accident, accepting a settlement offer may seem like the easiest way to resolve your case. While this may be true, it is not always to your advantage. For one thing, once you accept a settlement, there is no turning back. If, for example, your medical bills are higher than you thought they would be (or you require rehabilitative treatment), you cannot come back and request more money from the insurance company.
It’s important to keep in mind that the ONLY reason the insurance company is offering a settlement now is an attempt to avoid paying more money later. By law, you’re owed monetary compensation for ALL of your related losses, including 100% of your past and future medical expenses, any lost income, pain and suffering, and more. In all honesty, you shouldn’t even entertain a settlement offer until you have fully completed treatment. Doing so will only work against you.
The majority of people have no idea how much they can actually collect in a personal injury case. When you’re attempting to handle your claim without the help of an attorney, the insurance company knows they hold the upper hand. They handle claims every single day and know every trick in the book. This is why so many people now hire an attorney to handle their claim, and why those who do tend to recover considerably more money than those who don’t.
Knowing when a settlement offer is too low.
It’s important to keep in mind that any settlement offers you receive will always be on the low end. The adjuster will never offer you anywhere close to what they’re willing to pay out unless you have some sort of leverage (i.e., you—or more-likely—your attorney has shown that they can beat the insurance company in court).
Before you even think about accepting a settlement offer, it’s essential to assess the potential value of your claim. This is something your attorney will generally handle, but involves several different factors, including:
- Property damage to all vehicles.
- The total cost of your medical bills (including expected future treatment and rehab)
- And permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Any type of disability, chronic pain, etc.
- Time lost from work
- Your ability to return to work in the same capacity
- Any other expenses that are related to your car accident
Due to the fact that many of the above factors can significantly increase the value of your claim, you want to be certain you know the FULL extent of your damages before you even consider accepting a settlement offer.
Can I negotiate a better settlement?
You absolutely have the right to negotiate a settlement offer, but doing so without leverage (and a full understanding of your damages) is almost never going to result in a substantial increase. Many insurance companies will offer a low-ball settlement in HOPES of getting you to throw out a number. Let’s say they offer you $3,000. You then counter by demanding $10,000. They say no, and a few weeks later, you learn you will need surgery. Even though your case is now worth closer to $50,000, they have you on tape saying you’d accept $10,000.
We know that most people in your situation are in a tough spot financially, do not have the time to deal with the insurance company, and just want to resolve the claim and return to normalcy. Unfortunately, the insurance company knows this as well. When a victim is attempting to handle their own injury claim without an attorney, it’s a clear sign to insurance adjusters that they hold all the cards.
Most people mistakenly believe that a car accident injury claim is handled the same way as a non-injury car accident claim (which we’ve all handled ourselves), but they couldn’t be more mistaken. While there’s really no reason to hire a lawyer to handle a property-damage-only claim, if you were injured in the accident, you owe it to yourself to at least discuss your options with an attorney. The call is free, the advice is free, and these attorneys only earn a fee if they actually put money in your pocket.
Do I need an attorney?
If you have an injury claim (in addition to a property damage claim), it’s likely in your best interests to find an attorney willing to handle your claim on a no-win, no-fee basis. This type of contingency agreement is beneficial for a few reasons. The biggest reason is obviously so that you never risk a penny of your own money, but another benefit is that for an attorney to accept your case, they must believe they stand a very good chance at winning you more compensation. If they don’t believe they can help, they will simply decline to take your case. There’s no risk to you.
Once hired, your attorney will handle all communication with the insurance company, and begin building your case. Before even entertaining a settlement offer, your attorney will prove up your damages and prepare a formal demand letter. In the event they refuse the demand offer, the adjuster will likely submit a counter offer, and this is where the negotiation phase begins. You are still in the driver’s seat, as your attorney will not accept anything without your approval.
If you’re unable to reach an agreeable settlement, the next step will be to file a lawsuit with the court and enter the “discovery” phase of your claim. This does not necessarily mean the case is going to court, but gives both sides the opportunity to share evidence, testimony, and more while the case proceeds. Most claims are settled during this phase, but if no settlement is reached, the case then proceeds to court.
You only get one shot. Be prepared!
Take your claim very seriously. You only get one chance to bring your case before a court, and a simple omission or failure to follow procedures could result in your case being thrown out before you even get the chance to argue your side.
There are a variety of factors to keep in mind before you decide whether you should accept a settlement offer. While only the victim is in a position to make that choice, a personal injury attorney would be happy to advise you of your options moving forward at absolutely no cost. For a free consultation, call our Dallas accident attorneys today at 1-855-405-4313.
Speak With a Dallas Car Accident Attorney For Free
The attorneys at Rasansky Law Firm are happy to speak to you about your potential case free of charge. If we can help with your claim, we’ll do so for no out-of-pocket cost to you. Call us 24/7 at (214) 651-6100, or toll-free at 1-877-405-4313.