In general, you should avoid taking the first offer of a car accident settlement. Frequently, the first settlement offer is much lower than what you deserve. In fact, it could take multiple rounds of negotiations before the insurance company provides an offer that measures up to what you should rightly receive.
It is only a good idea to take an offer that covers your economic and non-economic damages resulting from the crash. If you don’t know what that amount is, you should contact a car accident lawyer. A lawyer could help you determine the amount of money you should receive after your car accident.
Why You Shouldn’t Accept the First Car Accident Settlement Offer
There are several reasons why you’d want to avoid accepting the first settlement offer the insurance company makes. To protect your right to fair compensation, you should be aware that:
Early Offers Are Usually Lowball Settlements
Not all insurers behave the same way, but many insurance companies choose to offer a low settlement offer at the outset of your case. They may even approach you before you’ve had a chance to file a claim. Any early settlement is a strategy to close your case quickly. When insurance adjusters do this it’s because they hope that you will accept whatever money you can get and move on from the accident.
Insurers use tricky tactics to try to save their company money. If an adjuster can get you to accept a lowball offer, they can keep money in their pockets and successfully close your claim without a fight. Often, the first settlement offer is far below what injury victims actually deserve for their losses.
You Haven’t Accounted for All of Your Losses
If you’re considering an offer that the insurance company makes soon after your accident, stop and think about what the settlement is based on. Has the insurance company included all of your car accident losses? Do you know the value of your medical bills and car damage?
You may have other costs that resulted from the collision, such as lost income, ongoing medical treatment costs, pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and lost enjoyment of life. Your settlement should include those expenses as well.
Additionally, if it’s too soon after the crash, you may not know what the total cost of your medical bills will be. You won’t know if your settlement covers all your treatment-related expenses in the immediate aftermath of an accident. Accepting a settlement offer prematurely could result in you having to pay for future medical expenses out of pocket when you shouldn’t need to.
You Can’t Go Back for More Money Later
Once your car accident case is settled, you cannot ask for a greater settlement. If you are offered a settlement from the insurance company a few days after the crash, and you accept that offer, your case is closed. However, it is not likely that you will be aware of all the losses you suffered that quickly after a car accident.
For example, you may suffer a head injury in a car accident but are not showing any symptoms. Perhaps you feel okay in the first two days after an accident, but soon begin to show symptoms of a head injury.
If you had accepted a settlement offer right after the car accident, it may not have accounted for the money you will need to treat your head injury. It may be best to speak with an attorney before you accept a settlement, as they can advise you as to whether the offer is fair and accounts for all the losses you suffered.
How Insurers Will Pay You Less Money for Your Car Accident Claim?
Offering you a lowball settlement is just one of the tactics insurers use to avoid giving you all the money you deserve.
In some cases, insurers may:
- Offer preemptive settlements. Insurers want to offer you money before you’ve had a chance to get your bearings, hire an attorney, or realize the full extent of the damages you are entitled to claim for the car accident. If you are hurt and unable to think clearly, you should hold off on accepting a settlement offer.
- Diminish your injuries. The insurer may try to downplay your injuries, making them seem less severe or questioning their existence in the first place. One technique is to claim your injuries were pre-existing and were not actually caused by the car crash. This would make the insurance company exempt from paying for them. You’ll need compelling evidence to substantiate your injuries.
- Undervalue your losses. If you have other types of losses besides injuries, like property damage, the insurance adjuster may try to undervalue this loss. They may claim that your property damage does not cost as much as you say it does in an effort to offer you less money.
- Blame you for the collision. Another tactic insurers may use in order to save money is placing the fault for the car accident on you. If they can successfully pin even a portion of the fault on you, they could get away with paying you less money for your claim or, depending on the state, pay you nothing. Your state’s shared fault laws will determine how much compensation you can receive from a car accident.
- Delay in processing your claim. Sometimes insurance adjusters will engage in less-than-ethical practices to pay you less money than you deserve. They may try to take an unreasonably long time to evaluate your claim or send a response. If you have a lawyer on your side, they can communicate with the insurance company for you and make sure you understand your rights.
- Denying your claim altogether. In some cases, the insurance company may deny your claim outright. If this happens in your case, you could hire an attorney to help you appeal the denied claim or file a lawsuit to recover the full amount of compensation you deserve.
How To Pursue a Fair Settlement Offer?
To avoid accepting a lowball offer from the insurance company, there are certain actions you should take. The insurer may say words that make you feel like they’re out to help you, but their true design is to help their employer. As a claimant, the actions you take should focus on protecting your right to fair compensation.
Instead of accepting the first settlement offer the insurance company sends your way, you may want to:
Hire a Car Accident Lawyer to Take on Your Case
If you want to protect your rights after a car accident, a lawyer can help you. Their number one job is to protect the rights and interests of their clients. To do that, your attorney will take on the responsibility of building a car accident case for you and filing your claim with the liable insurance company.
Your auto accident lawyer can help you investigate the car accident, inform you of your rights and the laws that apply to your case, communicate with the insurance company on your behalf, and help you navigate all the other important steps you need to take in order to obtain just compensation.
There’s also the added benefit that the mere presence of a lawyer provides. Having a legal advocate suggests to insurance adjusters that you won’t be easily bullied or taken advantage of. They may be more likely to deal fairly with you.
Understand Your Car Accident Damages
You need to know the range of damages you suffered in order to understand whether or not the insurer is properly compensating you for your losses. You will want to take the economic and non-economic losses you suffered into account. If the insurance company is not able to offer you compensation for the range of your losses, you may decide to file a lawsuit against the liable party.
Your accident lawyer can help you identify your losses, keep track of them, and calculate the cost of your economic and non-economic losses.
They will add up:
- Lost income and work benefits
- Current and future medical expenses
- Physical therapy costs
- Occupational therapy costs
- Chiropractic services
- Property damage such as vehicle repairs or replacement
- Travel costs
- Reduced earning capacity
- Replacement household services
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Reduced quality of life
- Lost enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Wrongful death damages
Once the total costs of these damages are calculated, you can demand a fair settlement offer.
Complete Necessary Healthcare Treatment
You cannot arrive at an adequate monetary award without knowing the full extent of your medical expenses. You must take your present and future medical costs into consideration. Your lawyer can derive an accurate calculation of your medical expenses once you’ve visited a doctor and discussed a treatment plan.
Once treatment has concluded, your doctors can recommend any further care you should receive to help you heal, such as physical or occupational therapy. Your car accident lawyer will include these future medical costs in your case for compensation.
Negotiate a Better Settlement
When you know what your case is worth, you can demand that amount and you can reject the offers that don’t reflect it. Your compensation should cover your damages. If it doesn’t, your lawyer can negotiate on your behalf, making counteroffers for anything you deem unacceptable.
You should look for a lawyer that has experience standing up to big insurance companies. Your lawyer should be comfortable negotiating for the compensation you need.
Avoid Giving a Recorded Statement
A recorded statement is a tool insurance companies use to invalidate claims. If the insurer in your case asks you to give one, don’t. You have no legal obligation to provide a recorded statement.
Moreover, the insurance company is likely only seeking information it can use against you later. Any admission of guilt or fault, indication of previous medical conditions, or incorrectly remembered event may result in the insurance company devaluing or denying your claim. The right lawyer for personal injury can help you prepare for any recorded statement by reviewing the information you should provide or avoid giving. They can also speak to the insurer for you or help you draft a written statement you can submit instead.
File a Lawsuit
If you and your lawyer have done everything to seek a proper settlement offer but the insurance company won’t budge, you may need to file a lawsuit. Insurance companies have a tendency to change their tune when faced with legal opposition. A lawsuit can encourage them to adjust your claim fairly and provide the settlement you deserve. The insurer likely will not want to go to court and face any of the legal fees associated with a trial.
You should not accept the first settlement offer from a car accident claim unless it adequately accounts for your damages. A lawyer is equipped to vet each settlement offer you receive from the insurance company, negotiate what’s fair, and ultimately protect your rights.
You May Decide to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer for Help Reaching a Fair Settlement
You may not want to accept the first offer of a car accident settlement, as it likely will not reflect the full value of your case. You deserve compensation for all the losses you suffered. One way to ensure your case is accurately valued is to work with a car accident lawyer.
A personal injury lawyer in Augusta can calculate the value of your case, negotiate with the insurance company, and make sure you do not fall victim to any bad-faith insurance practices. Your attorney may also explain your other options for pursuing compensation if you receive an unfair settlement offer after a car accident.