Following a car accident, your quest for compensation may be more complicated than you initially thought. Most people do not have car accidents all that often. Car accidents with serious injuries are even more uncommon. As a result, when an accident does occur, you might find yourself unsure about how to handle the aftermath of the accident. What steps should you take next?
Should you take that settlement offer?
What should you do if you do not accept that settlement, and how can it impact your future finances?
If you have questions about a car accident settlement particularly if you feel the insurance company may not have issued a settlement offer that fits your needs—working with a car accident lawyer can give you a better idea of how much compensation you deserve. Make sure you do not miss out on the full compensation the insurance company owes you.
Should I Take the First Car Accident Settlement Offer?
In most cases, you should not take the first settlement offer issued by the car insurance company. For several reasons, accepting that initial settlement offer may not work out in your best interest.
1. Insurance companies often start with a shallow offer.
Insurance companies often assign settlement offers based on an internal algorithm. Sometimes, the adjuster will have the opportunity to calculate that offer, often based on the information you submitted. Making a powerful argument for the compensation you deserve can go a long way toward helping you establish your full right to compensation.
That algorithm usually calculates an offer based on a relatively small percentage of the damages you suffered as a direct result of the accident.
Suppose, for example, that you broke your leg in a car accident and required surgery. You had surgery, which costs around $20,000. You submit a request for compensation through the car insurance company, which calculates that offer based on a percentage of those damages. Suppose the insurance company’s algorithm offers 60% of the financial losses you suffered in your car accident in compensation. In that case, you may find yourself with just $12,000 in compensation—$8,000 shy of the compensation you deserve for those injuries.
That low offer provides the insurance company with a starting point. A policy of issuing low settlement offers can put the insurance company in a better position to negotiate or, in many cases, alleviate the financial burden associated with a serious accident. Unfortunately, accepting that offer can also put you in a substantial financial bind. Often, insurance adjusters do not care about the losses you might face if you accept that offer, and you could end up bearing the weight of that financial loss.
2. If the insurance company makes an offer fast, you may not know what your future financial losses will look like.
When you seek compensation through the other driver’s insurance company after an accident, you aim to recover funds you have spent, or will have to spend, due to the other driver’s negligence. You may have considerable financial losses related to the accident: your medical costs, of course, in addition to the lost wages that may add up swiftly following your accident.
You may not know what the full extent of your losses will look like immediately after the accident, especially if you suffered severe injuries. For example, if you suffer an incomplete spinal cord injury in the accident, it may take as much as six months before your doctors can predict how much you will eventually recover or what your medical costs will look like while you recover.
#1. What will your medical care provider, or providers, actually charge?
In many complicated car accident injuries, you may find yourself working with various medical providers to handle your care. You may have physical therapy visits, occupational therapy visits, visits with a surgeon, and follow-ups with a specialist in the specific type of injury you suffered.
The cost of all those medical services may vary depending on who provides the treatment and the actual procedures you have to treat the injuries you sustained. Different medical practitioners may have vastly different prices for their treatments. Until you receive the treatment, you may not know what it will actually cost.
An early settlement offer may include primarily estimates, which simply serve as a good guess of what medical costs you may face. If you accept an early settlement offer, you may ultimately discover that your actual medical costs grow much higher than the settlement offered by the insurance company, which may leave you struggling to pay the remainder of your medical bills.
#2. Will complications increase your medical costs?
Some injuries have a higher risk of complication than others. Burns, for example, strip away the protective layer of skin around the body, which means that victims have an increased risk of infection. Other injuries, including broken bones, may heal more slowly than you anticipated, or you might end up needing additional procedures to treat your injuries.
The more your complications increase, the greater your medical bills may grow.
Complications, however, can be impossible to predict ahead of time. When you first break your leg in a car accident, you may not know that you will need two surgeries. When you suffer a spinal cord injury, you may not know whether you will eventually regain your ability to walk or if you will need to use mobility devices for the rest of your life.
Insurance companies may try to push you to accept an early settlement offer because the adjuster knows that as time goes by, your medical costs may increase more than initially anticipated. If you accept an early offer, you cannot later go back and let the insurance company know that you suffered higher costs than anticipated and that you expect to receive compensation for those losses.
Once you accept a settlement offer, you cannot pursue additional compensation, even if your injuries turn out more complicated than initially thought. By waiting to accept a settlement offer, you may have a better idea of what your eventual medical costs will look like, which can make it easier to get a settlement that really reflects your medical needs.
#3. How long will you have to stay out of work?
Sometimes, your injuries may prevent you from going back to work as soon as you might like. However, immediately after the accident, you may not know what that will look like or how much work you will have to miss.
Suppose, for example, that you suffer a traumatic brain injury in the accident. Immediately after the accident, you must miss work because your injuries leave you confused and disoriented. You may assume that you will get back to work within a few days or a couple of weeks after the accident, especially if you have an employer who offers to work with you to get you back to work as soon as possible.
Then you start living with the aftermath of your traumatic brain injury.
You may find that as initial symptoms like vertigo and dizziness subside or you have fewer struggles with nausea, other problems become more apparent. You might realize, for example, that you cannot focus well enough to complete even relatively simple work tasks quickly and easily. You might have a hard time keeping your attention on the task at hand, or constantly jump between tasks without ever really getting anything done.
That disruption might last far longer than you initially anticipated. Sometimes, your employer might work with you to get you back to work at least part-time. Other times, however, your employer may require you to remain out of work until you have more of a chance to recover from your injuries and can perform your job duties normally again.
You cannot know how long your injuries will force you to stay out of work or how well your employer will work with you. You cannot know how many days at work you will lose because of follow-up appointments or additional procedures. While you can estimate those losses early on after your accident, you may not know exactly what they will look like for weeks or even months. As a result, an early settlement offer cannot necessarily reflect the actual lost wages you may face.
What Should You Do When Receiving a Low Settlement Offer From the Insurance Company?
You do not have to accept a low settlement offer, nor should you. The insurance adjuster may put a lot of pressure on you, trying to convince you to accept that settlement offer. However, you do not have to respond immediately to an offer.
1. Indicate that you need time to consider the offer.
Do not let the insurance adjuster tell you that the offer will no longer remain on the table if you take time to think. Often, those low settlement offers reflect just a fraction of the compensation you deserve for your injuries, which means that the insurance company could ultimately offer considerably more. You may simply have to work through the process to get the settlement offer you really deserve.
Keep in mind that the offer will not just disappear and that the insurance company cannot fail to provide you with compensation for an accident caused by the driver covered by that policy. While it may take time for you to receive that settlement money, you should not feel pressured into accepting an offer too soon.
2. Talk to a lawyer about the settlement offer.
If you have questions about the settlement offer provided, a car accident attorney can help you work through those questions and better understand what to expect next as you work through the process.
#I. A lawyer can break down your actual costs (and your future anticipated costs).
Sometimes, just seeing the numbers in black and white can make it easier to see how little the insurance company really offered you. You may, for example, discover that the insurance company has issued an offer that does not even reflect your current medical bills, much less the medical bills that may pile up in the future as you continue to pursue treatment.
A lawyer can help break down both your current, immediate costs and the costs that you can anticipate in the future and compare them to the offer issued by the insurance company.
#II. A lawyer can help you put together a counter-proposal.
Following a car accident, negotiation involves each side putting together a proposal, which the other side can then either accept or refute. A lawyer can help put together a demand package that reflects the actual losses you faced in your car accident and the settlement you expect as a result. The insurance company will have the chance to look over that offer and either accept it or continue to negotiate.
#III. A lawyer can intercept communications from the insurance company on your behalf.
Often, dealing with the insurance company can cause a lot of stress. On the other hand, a lawyer can help alleviate that stress by taking over dealing with the insurance company. Instead of negotiating yourself, you can rely on your attorney to manage those discussions with the insurance adjuster and fight for your best interests. A lawyer can also determine when you have received a settlement offer that you might want to consider, based on the conditions that led to the accident and the extent of your injuries.
Do You Have Questions About a Car Accident Settlement?
If you suffer injuries in a car accident, you may have many questions about the compensation you deserve and when to accept a settlement offer. Contact a car accident lawyer to go over your rights or discuss a settlement offer and what it might mean for you.