Things to Consider Before Accepting a Settlement Offer for Your Injuries
Insurance claims processes can be very complicated. Claims adjusters can be rude and intimidating and the whole process is often overwhelming for someone who is still recovering from a traumatic event. This might make you tempted to accept a settlement offer from an insurance company shortly after being injured. In fact, we have many clients who were approached to settle their claims within a couple days or even a few hours after they were injured. You may feel like you don’t have options or you might be worried that time will run out and you just need to get the matter resolved. Insurance companies know that they have an advantage in these situations and many individuals enter settlements prematurely for dollar amounts that don’t account for all their damages. Under most circumstances, once you sign the settlement release and accept money, your claim is closed and you have no recourse.
You can’t un-settle once you agree to the offer, in most cases. If you accept a settlement offer and then discover your damages are much more than you initially thought, you don’t have the option to re-negotiate. Here are 6 things you need to consider before you settle:
Is the offer reasonable?
The first offer from the insurance company rarely reflects the true value of a case. Some insurance companies intentionally make low-ball offers to avoid paying you what you deserve. They are hopeful that you don’t understand, or that you are a nice, agreeable person and will just go along with whatever is proposed. The liability adjuster’s job is not to advise you of all your legal rights and make sure you are accounted for. Their duty is to the at fault party, so they would rather have you sign a release in exchange for a small chunk of money to protect their customer. At the same time, the insurance adjusters have a huge financial incentive to minimize what is paid out from their pockets.
Do you know what damages you are entitled to? It is very difficult to understand what a reasonable value is if you don’t know what you are allowed to claim. Will you require future medical care? Did you miss out on activities and recreation that you enjoy because you were injured? Maybe you are being told your claim is worth less because “you had a bad back” already. Or maybe you already have a VA disability and you are worried that might work against you. Is that even relevant? How and why? What about wage loss impacts? Did you miss work or use up sick leave? Will you need to miss work or take sick leave for medical appointments? Would it help to get an opinion from a specialized medical expert? Are there specific financial records that might be useful?
We are experienced personal injury attorneys who are familiar with the challenges of negotiating with insurance adjusters and can help you maximize your recovery. In order to effectively negotiate, you have to know what you are entitled to be compensated for. We discuss these issues at length during our free consultations.
Are you certain of what the future holds?
Settling too early can get you in trouble if you end up with unexpected medical bills later. If you settle only a couple of days or even weeks after the incident, you might not realize that your injuries are more severe than you initially thought. Something that seems like mild back pain after a car accident can turn into multiple surgeries down the line. Never settle before you are certain what future medical care you’ll need. Settling in a hurry is a common mistake with severe consequences.
Remember, the insurance companies don’t control the clock. We’ve had clients who were told that if they did not respond to a settlement offer in XYZ number of days their “claim would be closed.” The timeframe for bringing your claims is governed by the law, never by the insurance company. We can help make sure you stay on track and in the right timeframe.
Have you looked into all sources of compensation?
Sometimes, there are multiple sources from which you can recover damages. Depending on the unique details of your case and insurance, you may have different possibilities for which insurance companies or coverages can pay for your treatment and expenses. There may be substantial problems that can arise if you settle with one party without properly analyzing each party’s liability. Maybe you were rear ended and injured in two separate incidents in a short period of time, maybe you were injured by someone who was intoxicated, or struck by a motor vehicle while crossing a poorly lit crosswalk, or maybe you slipped on a wet floor in a commercial building and sustained a fracture. It may not seem like it to someone without experience, but these are just some of the situations where there may be multiple “at fault” parties.
We evaluate the unique circumstances of your situation and help you figure out what options are available to you.
Does your settlement include expenses other than medical treatment?
Many injured claimants don’t know that they may be entitled to compensation for costs other than just their medical bills. With the help of an attorney, you may be able to recover lost wages or be compensated for mileage travelled to get to appointments. An initial settlement offer might not account for these costs, which can have a significant effect on the amount you recover. Furthermore, a settlement often requires reimbursement to your own health insurance or auto insurance that paid medical bills under principles known as “subrogation”. So your personal health insurance paid for your emergency room visit after you were hit by a driver who ran a red light. Your health insurance generally has a right to be reimbursed for what they paid if you recovered that from the at fault party. However, this is an arena that requires a comprehensive understanding of the law in order to maximize the benefit to the injured party. Understanding subrogation can dramatically effect the bottom line net recovery for an injured person. Many people just assume that they have to pay back what is requested of them with no questions asked.
Does your settlement account for non-economic damages?
How do you value things like mental distress, loss of enjoyment of life, physical pain, emotional pain, disfigurement, or loss of consortium? These values vary widely depending on the nuances of each unique case, and initial offers may not fully account for them. This is one of the many reasons why you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you figure out the right number.
Have you met with an attorney?
Meeting with an attorney gives you the opportunity to ask questions and understand your options. We at Becker Franklin Rovang enjoy talking to those that need our help and providing our advice as to the best way forward. We keep it casual and comfortable and work with you to meet at a convenient time. We are happy to answer your questions and let you know how we think we can help. A consultation with an attorney at Becker Franklin Rovang is at no cost to you; schedule one by calling us at (360) 876-4800 or CLICK HERE WEBSITE.