The answer to this question is to ask. A settlement offer from an insurance company is part of the negotiation process.
An initial offer is only the first step; when offered a financial settlement, ask for the offer in writing, and ask for:
- The period to accept or reject the offer once you receive it
- The dollar amount of the settlement offer
- The specifics of who will be released from liability once the offer is accepted
- Any conditions attached to the settlement offer
Before considering any settlement for an injury caused by someone's negligence, the injured party needs to know what it will take to recover. A first-time accident victim may not have a frame of reference.
Orson Welles said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop the story.” Don’t stop until you know the whole story. Working closely with a personal injury attorney is an accident victim’s best chance at a fair financial recovery.
The Question of Time
Most personal injury cases settle out of court, but it is a process that can take several rounds of back and forth negotiations. A final resolution for claims involving severe injuries will take time, resources, and well-thought-out decisions.
Nothing good will happen if things seem too simple or easy. It will, as it should, take some time to make an informed choice. In Virginia, you must file a personal injury claim within two years of the incident. Except in rare cases, this is a definitive deadline. Once the deadline passes, the claimant loses the right to compensation.
Insurance is a for-profit business. Insurance companies are more concerned with limiting what they pay out than they are about a victim’s financial and physical damages. Their tactics are often less than honorable, and they waste no time.
- Looks for ways to blame the victim
- Attempt to reduce the value of a claim
- Discredit a victim’s injuries
- Intimidate a family by saying, “This offer is the best you can expect.”
- Delay the proceedings
- Trick a victim into signing a statement or agreeing to a taped voice recording.
We cannot stress this enough. An accident victim is under no obligation to give a verbal or written statement to an insurance company.
Before you speak with an insurance adjuster, consult with an attorney who can:
- Evaluate a claim from a legal standpoint
- Give a knowledgeable estimate of sufficient compensation
- Use their corporate resources to investigate the accident
- Advocate in your best interests
- Take the burdens of the negotiation process off your shoulders
A settlement offer, once signed, is a binding legal contract. Things may not be as straightforward as they seem, and it is easy to make costly mistakes. The insurance companies have a legal team, placing corporate profits high on the priority list.
Physical Recovery Can Often Take Time
Do not settle for less than you need to be made whole after an accident. It makes no sense to request a financial settlement until the timeline for maximum physical recovery is determined.
At this point, an attorney can take stock of the monetary value of:
- Medical expenses, including anticipated future expenses
- Rehabilitation and therapy services
- Mental health services needed due to trauma
- Lost salary and benefits during recovery
- Anticipated future lost wages and benefits
- Potential job retraining
- Damaged personal property (vehicles, jewelry, clothing, electronics, etc.)
- Transportation costs
- Hired services for household responsibilities
Scientific medical research substantiates that road traffic accident victims experience anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These conditions are genuine and can disrupt personal relationships, inability to work, and abnormal fear of social situations.
A personal injury attorney frequently validates these mental health issues and justifies financial compensation by:
- Presenting testimony from medical and mental health professionals
- Utilizing a victim’s impact statement
- Interviewing family, friends, and co-workers
Having a legal advocate puts the insurance company on notice It shows the victim is steadfast and committed to a just and fair compensation package.
What You Can Expect From an Insurance Company?
The claims representative working on a case is on behalf of the defendant’s insurance company. They have a support system of lawyers, medical experts, investigators, and accident reconstructionists at their disposal. In some cases, the insurance adjuster will want a quick settlement to minimize the payout and avoid a costly trial.
They may try to capitalize on a victim's vulnerability, lack of legal expertise, and the likely need for immediate financial assistance. The defendant's insurance carrier's agenda will not have the plaintiff's priorities in mind. On the other hand, the adjuster may delay the proceedings hoping you will miss important deadlines.
You can expect:
- The insurance company will waste no time in attempting to discredit your claim
- The insurance company is monitoring your social media for information about you and anything they can use against you
- Unreasonable delays
- Deceptive practices
Level the playing field. Working with an experienced attorney ensures you have an advocate on your side with resources to negotiate the best possible financial settlement. A personal injury lawyer can help an accident victim make careful and informed decisions.
An injury causing an accident because of someone’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness, is always a devastating and often debilitating experience. Injuries can last a lifetime and can impact the entire family structure. Pursuing financial recovery is an accident victim’s legal right.
The Client Always Has the Final Say
Every accident is different, and each story is personal. When all is said and done, whether or not to accept an insurance settlement is always the accident victim’s decision.