After getting in an accident, you are likely to be contacted by the insurance provider so they can obtain information from you about the accident. Insurance companies are quick to make a settlement offer but accepting the first offer could mean you lose the opportunity to secure the maximum compensation for your damages. Car accidents can be stressful and confusing. Hiring a personal injury attorney can offer you peace of mind, as they can guide you through the settlement process.
Why Do Insurance Companies Like to Settle Early?
Generally, insurance companies are quick to offer a settlement as they try to minimize their payout by reducing their liability or pressuring accident victims to accept an unreasonably low offer. The costs of a car accident can be extremely high; accepting the first settlement offer may seem like a good idea to cover the upfront costs, but the offer is likely undervalued. It will not cover the total costs of your injuries and additional expenses in the long run. Car accident victims who have never dealt with an insurance company for compensation might accept the offer, fearing they will not receive another settlement offer if they reject the first one.
First Settlement Offers Rarely Account for Long-Term Care
First settlement offers can typically be lower than the total costs of the accident as they may not account for any future expenses due to the accident. If you accept the first offer, your case can get closed, and you could lose your chance to recover compensation for any potential costs that arise.
For instance, some injuries might not be immediately apparent in many car accidents. Many serious injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries and neck or spinal cord damage, can have delayed symptoms, appearing a couple of days to weeks after the accident. If you accept a settlement offer before these injuries are fully treated or healed, you could make out-of-pocket expenses for the hospitalization for prolonged rehabilitation, medication, and any required surgical treatments.
You could also face a financial burden by missing work due to these additional medical costs. In addition, you would not receive any compensation for these expenses and lost wages after accepting the first settlement. For example, pain and suffering damages and all out-of-pocket expenses may not be included in first settlement offers made by insurance providers. Pain and suffering include the emotional and mental anguish suffered by the car accident victim.
You may find it challenging to determine the future costs of an accident, and that is where an attorney can be beneficial. They have dealt with similar cases and will be able to guide you on what to expect in the future.
The Insurance Adjuster Has the Authority to Go Higher
A tactic the insurance adjuster can use if you dispute the first settlement offer is to tell that they do not have the authority to go higher and are offering what they think your claim is worth.
Typically insurance companies do this to pressure victims into accepting devalued settlements so they can avoid paying the full amount. The insurance adjuster has much more authority than they claim, and they can go higher until the total costs of your accident are covered.
You should have your attorney negotiate with the insurance company. Attorneys are well-informed about the tactics used by insurance companies and can ensure you get a fair settlement.
Settlement Agreements are Final
Typically, you must sign a settlement agreement; however, even verbally agreeing to the settlement offer can be legally binding. So be careful to only accept a settlement if you have finalized your decision. Once you agree to a low settlement, you cannot be compensated for additional expenses.
As much as your insurance adjuster would like to settle the claim early and have you accept their undervalued settlement, you should know that negotiations are not a one-day process. It can take weeks until you agree to settle with the insurance company. Sometimes you have to go through multiple settlement rejections before your insurance company offers you a fair settlement that covers the costs of the accident. You should always wait until you have the repair estimates and the complete medical prognosis from your doctor before you accept a settlement offer.
Get Guidance from an Attorney On the Settlement Offer
A fair settlement is based on several factors, including the accident’s severity, the extent of injuries sustained, the total financial value of damages, the evidence of your case, and other factors. According to the Wattel & York personal injury law firm, hiring a personal injury attorney can help you determine whether the insurance company’s first settlement offer is fair or whether you should ask for more. Your attorney can provide a reasonable estimate of your damages and help you draft a demand letter to your insurance company requesting a higher settlement for your losses.
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