When you’ve been injured in a traffic accident and your car has been damaged or even totaled, money is usually tight. So it might seem like a lucky break when the other side’s insurance company calls you to offer you a settlement. The question is whether you should trust the offer.
The short answer is no, you should not trust or accept that offer. Read on to find out why.
Of course, the insurance company is aware of your financially stressed situation. They know you are in a tight spot, which is exactly why they are making that offer, hoping you’ll take them up on it.
But think about it. The insurance company is not your friend. They are in the business of making money, and the less they pay out, the more money they make. Clearly, it’s not in their best interest to give you a fair settlement. So let’s take a look at your options.
What Should You Do When the Insurance Company Makes You a Settlement Offer?
First of all, don’t say yes when they first call you, even if you may ultimately decide to take them up on a settlement offer. That first call is not your only chance. There is plenty of room for negotiation.
Keep in mind that this is about business, their business, and be sure to get some help from an experienced personal injury lawyer to get the kind of outcome that’s best for you.
While you may need money right now, you likely won’t have the facts about just how much you need to pay for all your expenses, including medical treatment, lost wages, and other losses. The insurance company will try to get you to agree to a modest amount before you have even had a chance to understand the full scope of your injuries.
So don’t accept any offers until you have that information, including a firm medical prognosis. That’s because once you have accepted that offer, there is no way to get more even if it turns out that you require more expensive care and treatments later. Once you have signed the agreement and received the money, you cannot change your mind.
If the insurance company tries to pressure you, just tell them that you don’t have all the information you need to make an informed decision, and that you or your attorney will get in touch once you do. And then talk to your skilled car accident lawyer.
How Should You Handle a Settlement Offer?
You should know that you won’t lose your right to get compensated if you reject a settlement offer. But you should also do it properly, by submitting a letter that tells the insurer that you do not accept the offer, why you deserve a higher amount and how much that would be.
Ideally, you should get help from your lawyer when drafting this letter. Making a counteroffer will lead to proper settlement negotiations, preferably done by your lawyer. And if the negotiations are not successful, your lawyer can take the case to trial and fight for you in court.
How the Insurance Companies Try to Trick You
The first trick is, of course, the lowball offer. Don’t fall for it. The person sent to make that offer will also be a skilled negotiator and try to make you feel like they are your friend and have your best interest at heart. Be very careful what you say because every word you say can (and will) be used against you.
The insurance company will also try to argue that the injuries in your claim are due to preexisting conditions and refuse to cover them. Your attorney can help you handle this situation with the appropriate medical records.
In addition, the insurance adjuster may also accuse you of lying about your injuries, arguing that you did not seek out medical attention right away, and perhaps not even for a couple of weeks after the accident. The fact is that certain soft tissue injuries don’t always become apparent until days or weeks later.
As you’re plagued by other challenges that go along with the accident, such as coping with life while injured and without having a car, going to a doctor for what at the time seems like mild discomfort may not be a priority.
This is why it is so important to seek out medical care right after the accident in spite of the challenges even if it doesn’t seem all that urgent at the time. You need proof that you were injured, sought medical care, and followed the doctor’s orders. This includes following up with all treatments, prescriptions, and any referrals to specialists.
The insurance adjuster may also deny your claim based on incomplete information, such as a brief interview, a police report, or a medical exam performed before the full extent of your injuries were discovered. It’s your lawyer who will focus on finding all the needed information to make sure your claim is fairly presented.
Moreover, the insurance adjuster will likely downplay or disregard non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, which includes your inability to pursue your hobbies. There is also the loss of consortium, which includes the companionship of family members. Your lawyer will ensure that they are properly presented and compensated.
Don’t Forget About the Statute of Limitations
As you may negotiate with the insurance adjusters, one issue that won’t usually come up is the statute of limitations. But it’s there and it’s relentless. In Ohio, it is two years, and if you miss your deadline, you lose any right to pursue the case in court. And the insurance company knows that.
So what should you do? Talk to an experienced personal injury or car accident attorney. Even if you ultimately accept a settlement offer, their advice can be priceless. And studies have shown that most accident victims get far bigger rewards if they are represented by a lawyer. Call or email us for a free consultation and we will be happy to help you.