After a traffic accident, your first point of contact is frequently either your insurance company or, if the other driver is clearly at fault, the other driver’s insurance agency. Whether you simply claim damage to your vehicle or injuries as well as property damage, insurance companies frequently offer less in damage payments than seems fair. What should you do when faced with a low-ball settlement offer?
If you suffered an injury in a traffic accident in the Philadelphia area, consult an attorney to protect your rights and explore your compensation options. The Levin Firm can help. Take advantage of a free consultation. Contact us at (215) 825-5183 or through our online contact form.
What Should You Do When an Insurance Company Makes You a Low Offer?
Whether the insurance company is yours or the other driver’s, expect a low first offer. Insurance payouts, after all, are losses for insurance companies, and they try to minimize those. Insurance adjusters, for your company or the other driver’s company, are given a range within which they can make a settlement offer, and they will always pick the low end of the range to give themselves room to negotiate. Naturally, that means you should never accept the first offer, regardless of how much money it is, because the insurance adjuster typically has the authorization to offer more. The adjuster’s goal is to settle for as little as possible.
Don’t let them. Review the offer, and if the offer does not seem sufficient to pay for your damages and injuries, reject it. The insurance company is hoping you will accept it. Disappoint them, because you and they both know the offer is too low.
In general, if fault is clear you won’t get a letter or a phone call from your insurance company—or the other driver’s insurance company—with a settlement offer. You probably will receive a check in the mail. If you cash the check, you accept the offer.
Don’t cash the check, especially if the offer leaves you with uncovered damages from the accident. Once again, remember that the insurance adjuster will low-ball you simply because that’s the adjuster’s job—the insurance company wants to pay you as little as possible, strictly for business reasons.
Knowing whether the insurance company offered you a sufficient settlement, though, requires you to calculate the full cost of your damages. You need to counter with hard facts that demonstrate that the insurance adjuster’s first offer is too low and will not properly compensate you for your damages and injuries. The best way to show that this is to demonstrate the extent of your true damages and injuries. To do this requires that you:
- Know what your car insurance policy covers. Do you have medical coverage, and what are the limits? Do you have comprehensive coverage that will cover damage to your vehicle? To claim damages, your insurance policy must cover those damages.
- Document all of your medical bills, property damage, and any other expenses that the accident cause. This includes lost time from work, prescriptions issued because of the accident, mileage for trips to the doctor, and any other expenses related to the accident. All of these constitute your damages, and the adjuster might not include them in the settlement offer or even know about them.
- Take into account the amount required to restore your vehicle to the state it was in before your accident. Get estimates and include those estimates in your calculation of damages.
- Beyond dollars and cents, consider any treatments or physical therapy that your accident-related injuries required. Don’t forget to include missed work time, and whether your injuries interfered with your ability to perform your usual tasks at home or at work.
- Try to determine if you will incur future costs, such as the likelihood of further missed work time, further necessary medical treatments or therapies, or even the possibility of permanent injury.
If you receive a low settlement offer, whether in the form of a letter, an oral offer, or a check, respond to the offer accordingly:
- If the insurance company makes its offer via a check, return it with a letter stating the amount you want
- State the reasons supporting the amount you want
- Provide documentation of your accident-related expenses
Hire a Lawyer to Help With a Low-Ball Insurance Settlement
Even if you do everything right, the insurance company may not come forward with a fair offer. If an insurance company continues to resist a fair settlement, even in the face of documentation of your damages, experts say that the insurance company hopes to least partially blame the accident on you. At that point, this is no longer a negotiation, it is litigation, and the time has come to hire a lawyer—if you haven’t already. Even when dealing with your own insurance company, you are negotiating with someone whose interests are adverse to your own. This is particularly true if you have suffered serious injuries and huge expenses. The insurance company will try to limit its exposure to payouts for your damages.
If You Received a Low Settlement Offer in the Philadelphia Area, Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers of the Levin Firm
If an insurance company has given you a low-ball settlement offer after a traffic accident in the Philadelphia area, protect your rights. Your other compensation options could exceed the insurance company’s settlement offer. The Levin Firm can help. You can contact us at (215) 825-5183 or through our online contact form.