If you are a recently injured car accident victim and someone else was at fault, you will likely try to hold the liable party responsible for any injuries you sustained, medical expenses you paid, or other damages you have suffered. After you file a car accident claim, the liable party’s insurance company will likely offer you a settlement amount. There are some things you should be aware of before you decide to accept that settlement amount to ensure that you receive the best possible settlement. This article will provide information regarding how an injured party can obtain better car accident insurance claim settlements.
What is the Settlement Process?
A settlement is an agreement to resolve a legal claim for injuries or damages. In a typical car accident insurance claim settlement, the injured victim agrees not to sue for damages, or to end any lawsuit that has already been filed, in exchange for a payment from the liable party. Most of these cases are resolved via settlements rather than with a trial. In most of these car accident cases, the settlement process proceeds in the following manner:
- An attorney representing an injured victim will request a compensation amount from the at fault party’s own insurance company. The auto insurance company will then propose another, lower amount, and the parties will go back and forth trying to convince each other that their amount is the right one until they reach a fair and reasonable settlement amount. During this back and forth, the attorney will communicate with the client to determine whether or not the client is willing to accept any of the insurer’s settlement offers.
- Once the attorney and the other driver’s insurance company agree to a settlement amount, the client and the at fault driver party will sign a written settlement agreement. The terms of the settlement agreement will specifically state the amount and timing of the payment; the legal rights the victim gives up by agreeing to the payment; and any other actions the parties agree to take to resolve the legal claim.
- After the parties have signed the settlement agreement, the case has been officially resolved. It is important to note that once the parties sign the agreement, the settlement is final and binding and as such, neither party can revise the terms of the agreement.
Are There Any Tips for a Successful Settlement?
If you plan negotiate your car accident insurance claim settlement on your own, there are a few tips you should follow, which include:
- Have a settlement amount in mind. When you draft your demand letter, you should determine what you believe is a proper settlement range (for example, $10,000 to $15,000). Then, prior to speaking to a claims adjuster, you should decide on a minimum settlement amount that you will accept. Keep in mind that this is not a figure that you should ever share with the adjuster. Also keep in mind that this amount of money can change, especially if the adjuster points out some facts you had not considered that clearly make your claim weaker. Additionally, if the adjuster starts with an offer at or near your minimum figure, you may want to increase the amount.
- Do not be tempted to jump at the first offer. It may be tempting but try not to accept the first offer, especially if you have a serious injury that required extensive medical care. For the most part, an adjuster’s first offer will be very low, with the hope that you will accept it right away. If the offer is way below what you believe the settlement is worth, make a counteroffer of a slightly higher amount. It may take some bargaining, but the two of you should eventually be able to come to an amount that is reasonable and fair.
- Require the insurance company to justify a low offer. If an adjuster makes an extremely low first offer, you should ask the adjuster to give you specific reasons why the offer is so low and make note of these reasons. Then, you should write a brief letter responding to each of the individual factors the adjuster has noted. Depending on the strength of any of the adjuster’s reasons, you may choose to lower your demand slightly (though before you decide to lower the amount too much, you should wait to see whether the adjuster will budge after receiving your letter).
- Make sure that you emphasize emotional points. During the negotiation process, make sure that you emphasize the strongest emotional points of your case. This could include evidence of a specifically painful injury, permanent physical effects or disfigurement, relevant details of medical treatment, and other evidence of pain and suffering or emotional distress. This type of emotional evidence is very persuasive in these kinds of negotiations.
- Make sure that the settlement is in writing. When you and the insurance adjuster finally reach a settlement agreement, make sure that the relevant terms are in writing. It may be helpful to immediately confirm the terms in a letter to the adjuster. These terms should include the amount for which you settled, what injuries or damages the settlement covers, and the date by which you expect to receive settlement documents from the insurance company.
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help Me Obtain a Better Settlement?
Though it is true that you could negotiate your own car accident insurance claim settlement, a personal injury attorney can likely help you obtain a better settlement than you would be able to obtain on your own. This is because of the following:
- An attorney will know the market. Similar to a realtor, one of the most important assets your attorney brings to the table is understanding what the fair market value of your case is. Seasoned attorneys will study jury verdicts in the county where your case will be tried to know the outcomes of similar cases. You should expect your attorney to also have extensive personal experience negotiating cases similar to yours to know whether an offer is fair and reasonable. Perhaps more than anything else, this knowledge is what you are paying for. Outcomes vary from county to county. Cook County’s jury pool is different from DuPage county’s jury pool. To further illustrate the realtor analogy, the same exact house can have a significantly different value depending on location.
- An attorney will have good negotiation skills. It is important to note that if you choose to negotiate your own settlement, you will be stuck with that amount once you accept it. You cannot later go back and try to renegotiate for a better amount. As such, it makes sense to use a personal injury lawyer, whose job is to ensure that you receive the best possible settlement to compensate you for the full extent of your injuries and other damages you may have suffered.
- An attorney is able to conduct a more extensive investigation. Experienced car accident injury lawyers conduct thorough investigations in order to identify every party that may have a legal liability to their client. In fact, in some cases, parties may have more of a liability to the victim than the victim originally anticipated.
- An attorney can help maximize your recovery. An attorney can help you “think outside the box” when it comes to recovery. For example, they may be able to seek certain damages from the liable party that you were completely unaware of. An experienced attorney will let you know of all of the damages you are entitled to and will attempt to obtain compensation for these damages during the settlement negotiations process.
- An attorney can help draft a better legal argument. If this is your first time negotiating a settlement, you may not know where to begin. An car accident lawyer will create a legal argument that will make it clear that you are entitled to compensation.
- An attorney has experience communicating with insurance companies. If you are dealing with a car insurance company, you may run into an issue where the communication is lacking or altogether nonexistent. Attorneys have experience communicating with these companies and they can reach out to check on the status of your settlement if you have been unsuccessful.
What Can I Expect From My Settlement?
It is important to note that even though you may be entitled to receive compensation for auto accident injuries, you should not automatically assume that you will be compensated for the entire amount of those damages. Specifically, the following factors can influence whether you obtain full compensation for your injuries:
- The number of parties with a legal liability for the victim’s injuries: As a general rule, the more parties whose actions caused the victim’s injuries, the better the victim’s chances are of recovering full damages.
- The financial resources available to pay damages to the victim: The amount of insurance the liable party carries (in addition to the amount of assets that party has) can affect the amount of compensation a victim can expect to recover. For example, a victim has a much better chance of obtaining full compensation from a corporate party with liability insurance that carries millions of dollars in insurance coverage than from a single motorist who only carries a bare minimum insurance policy.
- The number of victims involved: If there are multiple victims involved in any accident and the liable party has limited financial resources, then those victims may have a harder time receiving full compensation for their injuries.
- The degree of dispute about liability and damages: If there is a dispute regarding which parties are liable and as to the extent of damages, victims may not be able to receive full compensation.
- The victim’s personal priorities: Injury victims who expect to receive a quick payout are more likely to receive less compensation than those victims who are patient and allow their attorneys to negotiate a fair settlement.
If You Were Recently Injured and You Do Not Know Whether You Should Settle, Contact Our Firm
If you were offered a settlement for a personal injury claim and you are not sure whether you should accept it, please contact the Palermo Law Group. Our Oak Brook personal injury law firm consists of knowledgeable attorneys with over 25 years of experience handling personal injury cases and obtaining successful car accident insurance claim settlements. Car accident attorney Mario Palermo will do his best to ensure that any settlement you accept will provide fair compensation for your injuries and medical bills. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation appointment.