Should I Accept the First Insurance Settlement?
The Insurance Company Offered a Settlement. Should I Take It?
After an automobile accident, you are likely to be experiencing a great deal of physical pain and emotional distress. You may be tempted to immediately accept the first offer from the other driver’s insurance company to put the car accident behind you as quickly as possible. However, this is almost never a good idea.
An insurance company is necessarily looking first and foremost to its own bottom line, and not to what would be fair compensation for you. The insurance company makes money by keeping its payouts as low as possible, and can take advantage of your desire for a speedy resolution to make you a low settlement offer that does not provide a fair settlement for your personal injury.
If you have questions about a car accident settlement, your first step is to contact an experienced car accident lawyer at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys. We can advise you on what your next steps should be and work with you to make sure you get the compensation that you deserve.
Why Would an Insurance Company Make a Low Offer?
After you experience a car accident, there is one simple reason that an insurance adjuster would make you a quick initial settlement offer: once you accept the settlement agreement, you release the insurance company from all liability.
That means that even if you later discover that your medical expenses or other bills are higher that you initially suspected, you will be unable to renegotiate the settlement or sue the insurance company for more money later.
An insurance adjuster might realize that you are under financial strain due to medical bills and other costs from a car accident case, making you more eager to settle and receive a check for any amount, even if the amount is less than what your claim is worth.
A claims adjuster also may hope that you will accept the insurance company’s first offer before you consult with a personal injury lawyer who would be able to enter into a settlement negotiation or file a personal injury claim that could dramatically increase your payout in the long run.
The Insurance Company Has an Unfair Advantage
An experienced insurance claims adjuster knows how much the medical bills and other expenses such as lost wages, vehicle repairs, and pain and suffering are likely to cost. However, it is in their best interest to keep its costs low by offering a settlement figure in the low end of that range, keeping costs down and giving them the ability to move up from the initial offer if need be in the future.
A private individual, on the other hand, likely has very little personal experience in calculating medical costs from car accidents, or what the proper settlement range for a car accident might be. For that reason, they are likely to underestimate a fair settlement amount, and err on the side of accepting a low settlement that is far less than the maximum compensation they might otherwise achieve.
They might also fear that rejecting an insurance company’s offer means that they won’t receive any money to pay for their medical bills and other expenses. This is not true, however. The other driver’s insurance company is legally required to provide fair compensation for physical injuries and other expenses sustained in an accident in which the other driver is at fault. If you are not able to negotiate a fair settlement offer, then you are entitled to take legal action.
How Difficult is it to Calculate How Much Your Car Accident Claim is Worth?
One of the pitfalls of accepting an insurance company’s settlement offer is the difficulty calculating the true cost of medical bills for physical injuries. If you accept a payout too quickly, you may not be aware of the full extent of future medical care that physical injuries from the car accident are likely to require.
What an insurance company makes its initial offer, you may have only started medical treatment, and have only received bills for the ambulance and initial hospital treatment. However, car accidents often cause severe medical injuries that take time to fully emerge and treat, making it difficult assess the full extent of the costs until much later.
Severe injuries from a car accident may require multiple surgeries, or ongoing physical therapy for months if not years. Other medical costs might include occupational therapy or rehabilitation costs, or even psychological treatments to recover from the trauma of the car accident.
These future expenses will significantly add to medical bills for which you should receive fair compensation; however, they may be difficult to predict at the time of the initial settlement offer for someone without experience estimating the cost of medical treatments. That is why a personal injury attorney can be crucial in taking into account the full extent of medical expenses.
Other Expenses That Might Not be Apparent
While vehicle repairs and medical costs may be the most obvious expenses associated with an accident, they are not the only expenses that a car accident settlement should take into account.
While you are recovering from the accident, you are likely to need to take time off from work for rest and recuperation, and to attend appointments for medical treatment. The insurance provider is legally required to provide compensation for the lost wages due to this time off from work.
In addition, there other expenses associated with your medical care that the insurance company must also compensate you for. These might include nursing care, help with household chores that you are unable to do because your medical condition, and travel expenses to and from medical appointments.
There are also a range of intangible benefits to which you might be entitled, but not actual pay out of pocket for, including pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life if you have sustained severe injuries from the accident that continue to negatively affect you on an ongoing basis.
Can You Negotiate With the Other Driver’s Insurance Company?
When you receive the insurance company’s first offer to settle the damages from an accident, you must treat it as exactly that: a first offer. Oftentimes an insurance adjuster will offer a low amount, expecting you to make a counter offer that will increase the ultimate settlement amount.
The insurance provider may even tell you that they do not have any authority to negotiate a higher settlement offer, or imply that you must accept the settlement offer or lose the ability to receive fair compensation in the future. These claims are misleading. You are legally entitled to receive whether it comes from a settlement agreement or a personal injury suit you pursue in court.
In some cases, the insurance provider may even send you a check in the mail based on the insurance company’s first offer. If that happens, do not deposit the check, or else it will seem that you accept the first offer, and will not be able to negotiate a better offer in the future.
Instead, the wise response to the initial offer from an insurance company is to immediately reject it, and instead send a counter offer that is much higher than the company’s initial offer–indeed, one that is even higher than the maximum compensation that you expect to receive.
This will provide the basis for settlement negotiations, in which you and the insurance company make successive offers until the company offers an insurance settlement that is high enough for you to accept.
A Car Accident Lawyer Can Negotiate a Higher Settlement Offer?
While you could negotiate an insurance settlement on your own through a series of offers and counter-offers, it is difficult for a private individual to truly achieve just compensation through settlement negotiations, due to a lack of information on what truly constitutes fair compensation, and a lack of experience in hardball negotiations with an insurance company.
It is in the best interest of a car accident victim to hire a trained personal injury attorney can be key to closing those gaps of knowledge and experience so that you can achieve maximum compensation in the long run. A personal injury lawyer will almost never accept the first offer made by an insurance company. Instead, a team of car accident lawyers will carefully assess the true settlement amount to which you are entitled.
They will calculate costs for vehicle repairs, medical bills, other out-of-pocket expenses, and intangible benefits, and then issue a demand letter to the insurance company containing a counter-offer well over what they expect to receive. In the ensuing settlement negotiations, a personal injury attorney is likely to achieve a larger settlement offer than an individual would be able to achieve on his or her own.
Do I Need to Go to Court?
If on the other hand, the insurance company refuses to negotiate a fair offer, then a personal injury lawyer can ensure that they provide fair compensation by taking legal action in a court of law. Sometimes merely filing a personal injury claim can bring the insurance company back to the table to make a settlement offer that is much fairer.
If on the other hand, a case does enter into a litigation process, a personal injury attorney can best argue the case before a judge or jury, by providing a police report, expert witnesses, and other evidence to establish fault of the other driver, and often obtaining a jury verdict that is much higher than the insurance settlement offer.
Contact Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys Today for a Free Consultation
If you have been injured in a car accident, then before you accept the insurance company’s offer, contact Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys to find out what kind of compensation you might truly be entitled to receive. For over 60 years, Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys has represented hundreds of thousands of accident victims throughout Pennsylvania to get the compensation needed to get them back on their feet.
Our personal injury lawyers have consistently been named among the Best Lawyers in America, selected to Pennsylvania Super Lawyers, and are board certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. And, we get results – our lawyers have achieved numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts.
The personal injury lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys care very deeply about our clients. Our compassionate attorneys and our entire staff will do everything in our power to help you during this time of need. You can count on our team—we have decades of success and satisfied clients, and we will devote all of the time and resources necessary for you to win your case.
We know you have questions but may be nervous to contact a lawyer. That’s why our law firm offers FREE, no-obligation case evaluations to all accident victims. You can reach someone from our staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter how complicated or difficult your case may be, we will review the facts and explain what legal options are available to you. Chat live, email us, or call today.
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