On the surface, getting a settlement offer from the insurance company sounds good. You will get compensation for the damages you sustained in the accident. You can move forward with your life, taking care of the medical bills and other expenses often accompanying a serious accident.
Unfortunately, that settlement offer often will not provide the compensation you might hope for. You may find yourself fighting to get fair compensation for the damages you actually sustained. Frequently, the initial settlement offer from the insurance company will not include the compensation you really need or deserve. For more information reach out to a personal injury lawyer.
Key Reasons to Negotiate the Initial Insurance Settlement Offer
An early offer from the insurance company may feel incredibly tempting. Right after your accident, you may not know how much compensation you should expect for your injuries, so you may think the insurance company has provided you with a fair offer. However, for several key reasons, you may want to negotiate that initial settlement offer.
1. Insurance Companies Often Start With a Low Offer.
Many insurance companies will begin the negotiation process with a low settlement offer. That low settlement offer will often reflect just a portion of the compensation the company actually owes you for the damages you may have sustained. The insurance company may pressure you to accept that low offer or try to get you to accept it fast before you can go over the full damages you sustained or consult with a lawyer involving your rights.
2. You May Not Actually Know What Your Long-Term Medical Costs Will Look Like
Initial settlement offers often arrive shortly after the initial accident, especially if the insurance company has clear evidence showing a liability for the accident. In those early days, you may not know your long-term medical costs. In cases like traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury, your recovery can vary dramatically based on several factors beyond your control.
While your doctors may offer you an average of what you can expect to pay for your medical needs, they cannot provide you with a hard and fast estimate of how high those bills will grow over time. You may have complications and setbacks that those estimates do not account for, or you may need more care for some of your medical needs than the average individual.
Even if you suffer more minor injuries, including broken bones, in your accident, you may suffer setbacks and complications on the road to recovery that may increase your overall medical costs. If you accept a low settlement offer, you may not include those potential costs as part of your claim, which means that you will not recover compensation for that part of the damages.
3. You Need a Lawyer to Review the Terms of the Insurance Policy
Sometimes, the insurance company will try to convince you that an initial settlement offer provides you with the maximum compensation you can expect based on the insurance policy carried by the liable party. Some insurance policies, including auto insurance policies, may include strict limits on what compensation the injured party can expect as part of a claim. However, that does not mean that you have no further options.
In many cases, the injured victim can recover more compensation than anticipated due to extra riders on the policy or exceptions built into the policy.
An attorney can also ensure that the insurance policy follows the law for your state and your local area: for example, if an auto insurance policy does not meet state minimums.
A lawyer can also help give you a better idea of everything the policy covers so that you can take advantage of it. For example, that auto insurance policy might provide coverage for a rental car. In contrast, a property insurance policy might offer compensation for the extra miles you have to drive or any driving back and forth you must do because you cannot use a building.
4. You May Have the Right to Compensation in Areas an Initial Offer Does Not Cover
Most people may know they deserve compensation for the direct financial losses they can express because of an accident. For example, you might know that you can include compensation for any property damage sustained because of another party’s negligence, as in an auto accident, and compensation for any medical expenses. However, many people miss the other areas where they may have the right to claim compensation following an accident.
In addition to your medical costs, for example, you may have the right to claim compensation for any wages lost because of your injuries. You may also have the right to claim compensation for the suffering you had to face after your accident. While that suffering may not have a direct financial element, the compensation for pain and suffering can help you manage and rebuild your life following an accident.
By working with a lawyer, you can better understand what compensation elements you may need to include and how to best put them together as part of a comprehensive injury claim. However, that initial offer from the insurance company may fail to acknowledge those elements.
5. You Do Not Have to Settle for Less Compensation Than You Deserve
Many people feel that once the insurance company issues an offer, they have little choice but to accept it. They may feel that failing to accept a settlement offer could cause the insurance company to withdraw a portion of that offer or that the insurance company will not offer any further compensation than what it lays out in the initial settlement offer.
However, when you suffer injuries due to another party’s negligence, you do not have to settle for a low offer that does not reflect the real damages you sustained and the actual terms of the insurance policy. By working with a lawyer, you can better understand how much compensation you deserve and how you can fight for it.
1. Do Not Accept the Offer
You may feel tempted to accept that initial settlement offer. You may want to get through the claim process as quickly as possible, or you may simply want to get the funds you can in your hands as soon as possible to avoid any further difficulties.
However, when you receive an initial settlement offer from the insurance company, never make any statement that the company might perceive as accepting that offer. Instead, you should let the insurance adjuster know you need time to consider and review the offer. You may want to ask for a written offer so that you can carefully review it.
2. Talk to a Lawyer
Having a lawyer on your side can make a big difference in the settlement you ultimately receive as part of an accident claim. Ideally, you should get in touch with a lawyer as soon after your accident as possible. However, sometimes, you may not consult an attorney before the insurance company gets in touch with you.
You still have time! Have a lawyer look over the settlement offer. An attorney can compare that offer to the terms of the insurance policy and the damages you sustained to give you a better idea of whether you have received a fair settlement offer and, if you have not, what you should expect in compensation for your accident.
3. Review Your Damages
As you work with a lawyer, you can go over the full extent of the damages you sustained in the accident and the compensation you have the right to ask for. Your lawyer can tell you what damages the policy covers and what counts as damages when you look at your claim.
You may need to make sure that you gather:
- Employment records that show the hours you missed at work because of the accident. Those employment records can serve as essential evidence of exactly what damages you may have to contend with.
- Medical bills that lay out the full extent of your medical needs after your accident.
- Co-pays and deductibles paid for specific treatments as you recovered from your injuries.
Your lawyer can help ensure you include everything you lost because of the accident. Then, your lawyer will help you assemble a demand package that clearly defines all your damages, including the suffering you may have sustained because of the accident. Your lawyer may also closely examine the insurance policy that covers the liable party.
The insurance policy will provide key insight into what the insurance company can reasonably offer. In many cases, it will also look at exceptions to the policy that may increase the compensation you can recover. By working closely with a lawyer to review that policy, you can often increase the compensation you can recover.
4. Negotiate With the Insurance Company
Often, personal injury claims will involve a considerable negotiation process. If you have already received an initial settlement offer, your lawyer will put together a demand package in response to that offer. The demand package will include the full list of damages you put together with your lawyer and a request for that compensation based on the insurance policy’s terms.
The insurance company likely will not accept your initial demand package. Instead, the insurance company will come back with another offer. You can review that offer with your lawyer to determine whether it meets your needs and expectations, then decide whether you want to accept or continue negotiating. Often, you and the insurance company will go through several rounds of negotiation as you pursue fair compensation for an injury.
5. if You Cannot Negotiate an Agreement, You May Have the Right to Take Your Claim to Court
Most personal injury claims settle out of court. However, sometimes, you may struggle to reach a fair agreement with the insurance company. If you and the insurance company cannot negotiate a reasonable settlement agreement, you may have the right to take your claim to court.
A lawyer can help you decide when to take a claim to court to get a fair settlement offer. Your lawyer can represent you in court, where you will present your claim before a judge or a judge and jury. The court will then review your claim’s evidence and determine the compensation you deserve. Injury claims often do not go through an appeal process, meaning you should receive the compensation awarded by the court at trial.
A Lawyer Can Help You Determine the Compensation You May Deserve
When you receive an initial insurance claim, you may feel relieved and ready to accept the offer. However, in many cases, that offer will reflect only a small portion of the damages you sustained in your accident.
If you have accident injuries, do not settle for less compensation than you deserve. Instead, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to get a better idea of how the compensation the insurance company offered compares to the compensation you really deserve.