After an accident, receiving a settlement offer should feel like a relief. You need those funds to help you cover the cost of medical treatments, make up for the wages you may have missed due to your injuries, and, in many cases, help you rebuild your life while you deal with (sometimes permanent) limitations related to the accident.
Unfortunately, that first settlement offer may not offer the peace of mind you want. Should you take it? Do insurance companies provide fair offers in an initial settlement?
Generally, do not accept the first settlement offer issued by a car insurance company without consulting a lawyer.
Why You Should Not Accept the First Settlement Offer From a Car Insurance Company
The initial settlement offer serves as a starting point for the negotiations. Auto insurance companies take advantage of your vulnerabilities and provide inadequate offers with the hopes that you will accept it before consulting a personal injury attorney.
1. Many insurance companies use AI to calculate initial settlement offers.
Without the human element involved in the equation, you may find it difficult to get a settlement offer that reflects the compensation you really deserve for your injuries. Settlement offers made by AI often involve only a percentage of the damages you have suffered: frequently a small percentage, compared to the real damages you have faced.
The insurance adjuster who initially handles your car accident claim may have little room to negotiate with you. However, when you work with an attorney, you may discover that you can recover considerably more compensation for your accident and injuries.
2. You may not even know what your medical bills will look like immediately after your accident.
Sometimes, insurance companies will offer that initial settlement quickly: within days or weeks of the accident. You may not even know what your recovery will look like yet, or even fully understand what injuries you may have sustained. Suppose, for example, that you suffered a spinal cord injury in the accident. You may not even know for as much as six months how much strength and mobility you will recover, much less what your eventual medical bills will look like.
Not only that, many injuries can involve severe complications that can increase the cost of your medical treatment. If you suffered severe burns, you might have a high risk of infection, which could further complicate your recovery. Not only that, you may have procedures in the future that need to be included in any settlement offer. .
Your recovery may involve setbacks and uncertainty. Meanwhile, as you continue to receive medical treatment for your injuries, the cost of that medical care may continue to mount.
An initial settlement offer from the insurance company cannot include that full amount because even your doctors may not know what complications and challenges you may face as you recover from your injuries. While the insurance company may try to include anticipated medical expenses as part of the claim, your settlement offer may not fully incorporate all the medical expenses you will face.
3. You cannot go back and add additional medical expenses after you accept a settlement offer.
Some people assume that if they suffer more severe injuries or need more medical treatment than initially anticipated, they can file a further claim with the insurance company. When you sign a settlement offer; however, not only do you lock yourself into accepting that specific amount, you also prevent yourself from pursuing future compensation from the insurance company.
Even if you discover significant complications in your recovery or that you underestimated your medical bills substantially, you will not have the ability to pursue additional compensation. You may find yourself struggling to pay your medical bills, especially if you have more serious injuries than you initially thought.
4. You may deserve more compensation than you think.
The insurance adjuster may try to convince you to accept an initial settlement offer because it “reflects the most the company can offer.” The adjuster may even throw out terms like “policy limits” or just “company policy.” Not only that, immediately after your accident, you may not know how much compensation you deserve. How much should you expect? How do you know if the insurance company has issued a fair offer?
An attorney can help you identify the compensation you deserve after a car accident and give you a better idea of how much you should expect from a fair settlement offer. In some cases, an attorney may uncover compensation that you did not know you deserved.
Did you have to miss work to deal with the aftermath of the accident, including a potentially long-term recovery from serious injuries? You may deserve compensation for your lost wages. Did your injuries stop you from going back to work for a long time? Did you have to miss work regularly, even once you could go back, so that you could attend physical therapy sessions or follow-up appointments with your doctor? Did you have to undergo further procedures, even once you initially returned to work, that kept you out of work for days or weeks at a time?
Soon after your accident, you may not know just how much time you will lose at work or what your eventual bills will look like. Furthermore, many people do not realize that they have the right to claim compensation for lost wages at all. Accepting a settlement based on your medical bills alone could prevent you from getting the total compensation you deserve.
Pain and Suffering
You may face a lot of losses as a direct result of your car accident. Many injuries can permanently change the shape of your life, whether you suffered a traumatic brain injury that challenges your memory and emotional regulation or sustained burns that permanently alter your appearance. Not only that, you may face a great deal of physical pain, a long recovery, and significant emotional implications. All of those things can take their toll.
Many personal injury claims, including car accident claims, include compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering after the accident. However, some people may not realize that they can include those non-financial losses as part of their claim. Many car insurance companies will not automatically include them as part of a settlement offer. When you accept an initial settlement offer that does not include compensation for pain and suffering, you may ultimately miss out on vital funds that you need to help rebuild your life following your accident.
Increased or Unexpected Medical Costs
When you first file a car accident claim, you may not realize what counts as “medical expenses” under the terms of the insurance policy.
You may have several unexpected medical costs that accompany your injuries, or it may surprise you just what counts as a medical bill.
- Did you require durable medical equipment, including crutches, braces, or a wheelchair, to help you get around?
- Did you need medical equipment in your home to enable you to return from the hospital?
- Did you have to make significant modifications to your home or vehicle to make your home habitable after your accident?
- Did you need psychological therapy and/or medication to deal with the implications of the accident and the losses you faced?
- Did you have to attend physical or occupational therapy to help you improve your recovery?
- Did you need in-home care after your accident to help you get around or receive much-needed assistance with basic activities of daily living?
All of those expenses fall under the category of medical expenses, and you may need to include them as part of your car accident claim.
Unfortunately, many people do not realize those extra expenses count as medical expenses—or they may not know, immediately after the accident, that they will face those expenses along with the other expenses associated with recovery.
It may surprise you to realize just how high your medical bills grow throughout the course of your treatment. You may even receive more than one bill for the same procedure. If you have surgery, for example, you might have a facility bill, a doctor’s bill, and a bill from the anesthesiologist. All those bills can add up faster than anticipated, and you need to pay them, as unfair as that seems. A car accident lawyer, however, can recover the compensation you need to do that.
5. The insurance company often acts to protect its best interests, not yours, in that initial offer.
As the injured victim of a serious car accident, you might think that insurance exists to help provide the compensation you need. However, insurance companies often want to minimize the amount they have to pay out as much as possible. An initial settlement offer may not consider the victim’s needs. Instead, it may focus on the insurance company’s potential losses and desire to mitigate that loss as much as possible.
What Should You Do When You Get a Settlement Offer?
The insurance company called. You got a verbal settlement offer. You might know that you should not accept it, or feel that it does not fit your needs. What should you do about it?
1. Do not issue even verbal acceptance of an offer.
Do not accept the first offer. Ask, instead, for time to think about the offer before you accept it. Let the insurance adjuster know that you need to consider how that offer compares to the financial losses you have sustained as a direct result of the accident.
The insurance adjuster may verbally pressure you to accept an offer fast, even trying to tell you that the company may take the offer off the table if you do not accept within a specific time frame—sometimes, a matter of hours or a handful of days. In reality, however, you deserve the compensation you deserve, and accepting a settlement offer that does not reflect that amount means that you have given up those funds.
2. Discuss the offer with your attorney.
Any time you suffer injuries in a car accident, you need to work with an attorney to better understand the compensation you might deserve for those injuries. On your own, you might assume that the insurance company has issued you as much compensation as you deserve, especially if you have been through car accident claims in the past that involved only property damage, where the insurance company may come through with a fair settlement offer soon after the accident.
An attorney can help break down the financial losses you sustained in the accident and give you a better idea of how much you should expect. Furthermore, an attorney can identify areas of compensation you may not have considered while determining what you might deserve after your accident.
3. Issue a counteroffer.
A counteroffer can allow you to spell out the actual financial losses you have experienced due to your accident and the compensation you need or expect from the insurance company.
A lawyer can pull together an effective counteroffer, including one that fully expresses the losses you have faced from your accident and the compensation you can expect. A lawyer can also help look through the insurance policy terms to identify compensation the insurance company should provide but may avoid spelling out outright.
Contact an Attorney to Navigate Your Car Accident Claim for You
If you suffered injuries in a car accident, a car accident lawyer could provide more information about the compensation you deserve and how to deal with the insurance company following your accident. Contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about the compensation you deserve.