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April 7, 2020
Never accept a settlement offer before at least having a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Immediately following an accident that caused you to be seriously injured, you’ll be forgiven if you are more focused on healing from your injury than on making a claim against the party or parties responsible for the accident. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind, even at the earliest stages of your injury.
Keep in mind one thing. No matter what they tell you when they offer you a settlement, no insurance company will do anything for your benefit, whether they represent the negligent person who caused your accident or they represent you. Any insurance company that is reviewing your case is interested in one thing: paying you as little as possible to settle your case. The negligent driver’s insurance company will surely contact you, in order to ostensibly take a statement and discuss the details of the accident. At that time, it is very possible that the insurance adjuster will try to hand you a check. Always be careful, because, even if they don’t say so, that check is considered a settlement check for your injuries and damages. It’s likely to be an amount they feel is appealing, but it won’t be enough to get you back to where you were before the accident. And the problem is, if you accept the check, it will preclude filing suit and getting one more dime from that insurance company for your injuries and damages.
What to do About a Settlement Offer
When you are recovering from any type of accident that caused you a serious injury, whether it is a motor vehicle crash, or a slip and fall, or even a workplace accident or an encounter with a defective machine or other product, it is not unusual for you to feel financially vulnerable. The growing debt caused by rising medical bills combined with an inability to work and pay down those debts is causing you stress and it’s hard to envision a way out. This is what the insurance company counts on; they know you’re stressed out and that you need funds badly, so they make a fast settlement offer that they know is far too low, but which they hope you will take.
You should know that you never have to accept a settlement offer from an insurance company, and you should know that the entire rationale behind any settlement offer that comes from the insurance company is to pay you as little as they can get away with. Therefore, you can expect their first settlement offer to be lacking in many ways. The first offer, and perhaps a few more, can be counted on to be unfair, leaving a lot of your expenses on the table.
It can be expected that their first settlement offer will not cover your expenses and damages, so it’s worth your while to reject the offer. Never cash that check because doing so may be seen by the courts as acceptance of that amount as the settlement. That means by accepting that check you will usually forfeit any ability to file a claim in your case and seek any further damages. If you are impressed by a check for, say, $2,000, and you accept it, be advised that the $2,000 you keep and deposit into your account will likely represent all the money you will ever receive for your injuries and damages, even if your medical bills are already at $5,000 and climbing.
When Should I Accept a Settlement?
At the very least, experts suggest never accepting any settlement until all of your injuries have been healed. If your injuries are severe, you may require a series of surgeries and other ongoing medical care. In some very severe cases, you may also need rehabilitation and physical therapy that hasn’t even been considered in the settlement offer.
Such costs can be astronomical, and if you look at the bird in your hand, you may find yourself responsible for all of the bills, should you accept a settlement that is far less than your medical expenses will eventually cost. Among the most common mistakes made by injured accident victims is taking an inadequate settlement too quickly.
Insurance companies use standards to determine how much it should pay in accident cases, but those standards often don’t take unto account the nature of the injuries in a particular case. As an accident victim, your injuries may be somewhat atypical, which means they may be more severe than those suggested by the standards.
In other words, while you may deserve full compensation for the injuries caused by the accident, if you’re impatient and don’t follow the advice of your personal injury attorney, you could very well miss out on your chance to receive money for your actual injuries.
A Quick Settlement Likely Won’t Be Worth it
For example, if your injury is disabling, you might not receive the money you are owed for losing enjoyment of life or other similar severe damages. An experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney can protect your rights and work to get you the compensation you are owed after an accident, but you have to allow them to do their job to its fullest. Before you sign a release and accept a settlement check, you have to understand that you are signing away your right to sue for the amount of compensation you may deserve for the injuries received in your accident.
If the settlement you’re accepting won’t cover all medical bills and lost wages, you have to ask yourself why it would make sense to accept such a low-ball offer in the first place, particularly if one of the downsides of a quick settlement is that it leaves you under-compensated. Even if you were not injured, are the costs of such damages as vehicle repair, towing, etc. covered? And if you were injured, what is the worst thing that could happen if you wait a while longer?
If you wait longer, you could realize that those nagging headaches and that stiffness are actually a concussion and that your difficulty walking is the result of a spinal cord injury, for example. Generally speaking, you should probably not accept any settlement offer at least until a doctor has decided that you no longer need medical treatment.
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