Should I Take the First Offer of a Car Accident Settlement?

Should I Take the First Offer of a Car Accident Settlement?

first accident settlement offer

It’s generally not a good idea to take the first car accident settlement offer. These cases can take several rounds of negotiations to settle. You should only accept an offer that covers your expenses and losses. If you are unsure about your damages, you should consider consulting with a car accident attorney. They can calculate your economic and non-economic damages.

Most personal injury firms provide free case reviews and can manage all insurance-related matters with no upfront cost. It is a good idea to discuss your case with an attorney before you agree to settle with an insurance company, regardless of how straightforward your case seems. They can learn about your case and explain your financial recovery options.

Questions to Ask When Evaluating the First Car Accident Settlement Offer

Many injured claimants are tempted to accept the insurance company’s first settlement offer. After all, they have bills piling up and want to move forward as quickly as possible. However, accepting the first settlement offer is not in many people’s best interest.

When evaluating a potential settlement, you should ask yourself:

  • Have I reached maximum medical improvement?
  • Will I continue to miss work for the foreseeable future?
  • Can I continue living alone, or do I need help with day-to-day tasks?
  • Did I lose a loved one in a crash?
  • What does the liable insurance policy say?
  • Do I want to pay for my losses out of pocket?

The answers to these questions can help you create a plan of action moving forward. A lawyer can help you answer these inquiries. They can also evaluate any offers and explain whether they meet your needs.

Beware Insurance Companies Are Not on Your Side

Insurance adjusters do not work for you. Their job is not to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve in a car accident case. Their job is to settle the case with as little money as possible to protect their employer’s bottom line. This means many collision claimants must aggressively negotiate to get a fair settlement offer.

The initial offer will rarely cover your current expenses, future costs, and recoverable losses. You might have to pay some expenses out of pocket if you settle your case too soon.

Insurance Companies Employ Strategies to Undervalue Claimants’ Losses

Insurance carrier representatives start with lowball offers. Then, if compelled, they offer higher sums.

Insurers attempt to settle cases for less than claimants need by:

  • Making early settlement offers. Insurers sometimes make early offers before victims realize the full range of their injuries, losses, and expenses in hopes they settle for what seems like a large lump sum. However, in reality, this will be much lower than the victim deserves.
  • Asking for a recorded statement: Insurance carriers often ask victims to give recorded statements. This is not recommended. A recorded statement cannot help your case, but it could hurt it. The insurer could use anything you share to reduce any offers.
  • Downplaying your collision-related injuries: The insurance adjuster could assert that your injuries are not as serious as you claim. You must have strong evidence to show your injuries and tie them to the accident to combat any unjust allegations.
  • Undervaluing your losses: The insurance company could contest the value of your damages. It could refuse to cover some expenses or only offer part of what you need.
  • Employing bad faith insurance practices. All insurance companies must follow certain rules when settling car accident cases. Yet, not all of them do. If the insurer tries to bully or pressure you into accepting a settlement offer, this is considered a bad faith insurance practice—or a strategy designed to prevent you from recovering fair compensation.

A good way to protect your right to appropriate compensation is to work with a personal injury attorney. You do not have to manage your insurance claim or deal with the claims adjuster. An attorney can handle both of these obligations.

Your lawyer understands your options, how to get a fair settlement, and the steps that could protect your rights. You do not have to try to handle your claim on your own. An attorney can help, and, as noted, most do not charge any upfront fees.

Your Options for Seeking Compensation After a Car Accident

The options you have following a car accident depend on the circumstances. Your state’s laws play a significant role. Some states require no-fault (“personal injury protection”) insurance and have rules about when you can file a fault-based claim. Most states let you hold the at-fault driver financially responsible for your losses. In any fault-based case, you must prove what (and who) caused the crash.

In general, your options could include:

Pursuing a No-Fault Claim

If you live in a state that requires no-fault insurance, you may turn to this policy first. It will likely compensate you for basic expenses and losses only. The law limits your options for pursuing a fault-based claim unless your injuries are serious or your expenses exceed your coverage.

For example, under New York law, no-fault insurance provides basic coverage after a crash. This includes medical treatment costs, a portion of your lost income, and some daily incidental expenses. You must meet certain criteria to recover compensation for other losses.

Your attorney can assess your options based on your case’s facts. They can determine your coverage options and explain what measures could secure a car accident settlement.

Filing a Third-Party Insurance Claim

Most states allow victims to file claims based on the at-fault driver’s auto liability policy. A payout from this insurer is the most common way victims recover compensation after a crash.

The steps in this process include:

  • Gathering evidence and documenting damages
  • Demanding appropriate compensation from the insurer
  • Negotiating a fair settlement
  • Signing a waiver of liability
  • Receiving your compensation check

Your attorney can handle each of these steps if you choose to work with one. They fight for the compensation you need to account for your injury-related losses. This is an invaluable service. After all, once you sign a waiver of liability, you free the insurer from its obligation. Then, you cannot ask for more money, even if new case-related damages arise.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Sometimes, it is necessary to sue the at-fault driver following a crash. This does not mean the case will actually go to trial. Many victims still settle with the insurance company after filing a lawsuit. However, there are sometimes reasons why a lawsuit is necessary. If your attorney recommends suing, they can explain why, and you should follow their advice.

You Should Understand Your Damages’ Cost Before Accepting a Settlement Offer

Determining how much you should demand from the insurance company is essential in getting a fair payout. This helps you vet potential settlement offers and determine whether they meet your needs. Remember: accepting compensation from the insurer ends your case, and settling too soon could leave you with out-of-pocket expenses.

Recoverable damages in your collision claim could constitute:

  • Medical bills and all related expenses
  • Future care and support costs for long-term injuries
  • Income losses from any source while you could not work
  • Diminished earning capacity if you cannot return to your previous job
  • Miscellaneous-related expenses with receipts
  • Pain and suffering
  • Other intangible losses, such as scarring

You Could Recover Wrongful Death Damages

Many states allow surviving relatives (and personal representatives) to file wrongful death losses following fatal car accidents. Here, the claimant asserts that their loved one passed away because of another party’s negligence, and they deserve compensation for said losses.

Depending on where you live, wrongful death-related expenses may account for funeral and burial costs, final healthcare expenses, and other related damages. Insurance companies don’t always treat grieving families with respect. Some claims adjusters even take advantage of vulnerable claimants, hoping to settle claims for significantly less than they’re worth.

This is just another reason to consider legal assistance. If you want to file a wrongful death action, entrusting your case to an attorney can give you ample time to grieve.

An Injury Lawyer Can Determine Your Damages’ Cost

Calculating your injury-related damages may seem simple at first. You first add your financial losses: $32,000 in medical bills, $10,000 in lost income, and $350 in parking and travel expenses to see a specialist.

However, this figure only accounts for your current medical bills, lost income, and other economic expenses.

It is missing two large categories:

  • Your future expenses
  • Non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering

These are much more difficult to calculate. Yet, an attorney knows how to put a price on these damages.

They often have large networks of experts who can offer information about:

  • Your prognosis
  • Your ongoing care needs
  • Any future medical care
  • The costs of this care and support

These experts also know how to determine a fair settlement value for your pain and suffering. This is not straightforward since some damages are intangible. However, there are acceptable ways to calculate a value within the insurance industry based on what courts often assign during a trial. A lawyer knows how to value your case appropriately and fight for that sum during negotiations and in court.

How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help With Your Case

Hiring an attorney early after your collision can protect your rights and ensure someone fights for your best interests. Having a lawyer on your side can prevent you from taking the first offer of a car accident settlement. They can calculate a fair settlement value for your case and demand fair compensation from the liable party.

Your attorney can handle the entire process for you. They can investigate what happened, document your damages, work with experts, and build the strongest case possible. Only then can they demand compensation and negotiate with the insurance company.

Many Car Accident Firms Don’t Charge Retainers

Most car accident law firms represent clients based on contingency. They do not charge upfront fees. They instead receive a percentage of the settlement they recover for their clients. This means, when considering your legal options, it may cost you nothing to retain an attorney. A contingency-fee-based arrangement could limit your financial concerns during this challenging period.

You May Need to Sue a Driver After Your Car Crash to Get Compensation

Most insurance claims settle out of court. Still, there are some circumstances when a crash victim needs to sue the at-fault driver.

You may file a lawsuit if:

  • The insurance company denies your claim.
  • The insurer will not offer a fair settlement.
  • Time is running out based on the state’s deadline to sue, known as the statute of limitations.
  • There are other factors the attorney identifies that require a lawsuit.

When filing a lawsuit, your lawyer can prepare and file your lawsuit’s paperwork. This is the“complaint. Once they file the complaint, the at-fault driver will have time to respond. Then, both sides have a chance to gather additional evidence and take steps to build their cases.

Negotiations generally continue throughout this process, and settlements are common. If both sides do not reach a settlement as the trial date approaches, many courts require mediation. This is when both sides sit down with a trained mediator who guides both parties toward a fair agreement. Mediation is often effective.

If there is no agreement, your case proceeds to trial. There, the judge or a jury will decide if there will be a monetary award and how much.

Discussing Your Options for Fair Compensation With a Personal Injury Law Firm

Having a lawyer on your side lets you focus on your recovery. Your lawyer can handle your claim or lawsuit while you recover from your injuries. They can also protect your right to an appropriate payout and manage all communications your case entails.

Contact an attorney to learn more about your options after your car accident. Most provide free consultations, and, as mentioned, many work based on contingency fees. You should not have to pay any upfront fees to secure a law firm’s help.

Filed Under: Car Accidents

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