When you sustain serious injuries in a car accident, your life can turn upside down in a hurry. You may face a lengthy hospital stay followed by an even lengthier period of physical and occupational therapy. You likely have to remain off work for a significant period of time while recuperating. Consequently, your bills and expenses mount at exactly the same time as your income decreases.
Naturally, you want to receive the maximum possible compensation from the person responsible for the accident, and therefore your injuries. Nevertheless, you may be hesitant to hire a lawyer and file a personal injury lawsuit against that negligent party because you fear having to go to court.
It may surprise you to learn that nationwide, only a mere 4% of personal injury lawsuits, including those arising from a car accident, ever go to trial. The other 96% settle out of court ahead of time.
Settling a car accident claim is in the best interests of everyone involved:
You, because you get your money sooner
Your lawyer, because he or she avoids the time and expense involved in a full-blown trial as well as receives the attorney’s fee sooner
The defendant’s insurance company, because it avoids the uncertainties inherent in any trial and the possibility that the jury will award you a larger judgment amount than any settlement amount it’s prepared to pay
Settlement Negotiation Factors
Keep in mind, however, that “sooner” is a relative term when it comes to settlement negotiations. It is not unlikely that settlement negotiations between your attorney and the insurance company could easily take six months or longer before they reach an agreement on the amount of the settlement and you agree to accept it. Many factors come into play with regard to how long the settlement process will take.
These ongoing issues play a key role:
The type of injuries you sustain
The seriousness of those injuries
The length of time you require hospitalization
The length of time you require physical and occupational therapy
The length of time you’re required to be off work
A settlement should also take into account any damages that affect your future:
Whether your injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury, leave you partially or totally disabled
Whether your injuries leave you with permanent scars, especially on your face
Whether they necessitate you using a wheelchair or prosthesis for the rest of your life
Whether they necessitate in-home care for you
Whether they result in your loss of enjoyment of life
These factors impact the negotiation process itself:
The negotiating skill and aggressiveness of your attorney
The willingness of the insurance company to pay reasonable compensation
The area of the country in which you live
Initial Settlement Offer
Believe it or not, you may get a phone call from the other driver’s insurance company before you’re even out of the hospital. While the adjuster likely will sound friendly and empathetic, keep in mind that this person is not your friend. Despite the “feel good” commercials you see on TV, insurance companies are not in the business of paying claims. Rather, they’re in the business of making a profit. The lower the claims amount they pay, the better the company’s bottom financial line.
Consequently, the adjuster’s real purpose in making this call is threefold:
To get you to make a recorded statement about the accident and your injuries that the company can use against you later if you decide to sue its policyholder
To get you to accept a quick, lowball settlement amount
To get you to sign a release absolving the insurance company from any further responsibility to pay you
Reasons To Decline
Considering that you may well not yet know the extent of your injuries or their possible long-lasting consequences, you would do well to refrain from talking to the adjuster any longer than absolutely necessary. You might want to consider telling him or her something to the effect that it’s too soon for you to be thinking about settlements, that you’re considering talking with an attorney, and that, if the adjuster will give you his or her name and contact information, you or your attorney will get back to the company in the future.
Remember, accepting an initial settlement offer almost invariably means that you could have insufficient funds with which to pay for needed future medical treatment and therapies. This could result in your having to max out your credit cards or even sell your house in order to raise the necessary funds.
To protect your best interests, follow through and hire a local personal injury attorney who has a good track record of obtaining substantial car accident settlements and jury awards for injured clients. Once you hire a lawyer, the other driver’s insurance company must deal with that legal professional, not you. This fact alone relieves you of substantial stress and worry since you’re no longer subject to more strenuous attempts on the part of the adjuster to get you to accept a low settlement amount.
In addition, an experienced personal injury attorney knows how to effectively negotiate with insurance companies, giving you peace of mind knowing that you have a strong advocate in your corner.
Additional Ways an Attorney Can Help You
In addition to negotiating with the insurance company, your attorney can likewise help you:
Conduct a full accident investigation to determine who, if anyone, you can sue in addition to the driver who caused the accident, such as the auto manufacturer, the auto repair shop, or the company tasked with keeping the road in good condition
Consult with medical experts knowledgeable in the type and severity of your injuries and, if necessary, hire them as your expert witnesses at trial
Determine your likely ongoing expenses and loss of income so as to arrive at a just compensation amount that adequately covers everything
If necessary, take your case all the way to trial if your attorney believes the insurance company is stalling and you would do better presenting your case to a jury
Need For Patience
All in all, obtaining a favorable settlement requires patience, not only on your part but also on the part of your lawyer. Nevertheless, if staying out of court is one of your primary objectives, exhibiting patience and instructing your attorney to continue negotiating with the insurance company may well accomplish your goal.
Even in the unlikely event that your case ultimately must go to trial, keep in mind that a settlement can still occur any time during the court case, even while the jury is deliberating.
Call Fielding Law today. It costs you nothing to see how we can help you. At your initial consultation, we will listen to you, answer your questions and advise you of your options going forward. We are fully prepared to give you the aggressive legal representation you seek and deserve. Finally, we will always keep you advised of the status and progress of your case. Each time the insurance company increases its settlement offer, we will inform you of the amount and advise you of whether we think this is a final offer or if we think negotiations should continue.