After suffering an injury, seeking compensation can prove challenging. Soon after an accident, insurance adjusters may approach an injured party and propose a settlement. Usually, particularly in initial offers, these offers don’t reflect the true value of the financial losses that the victim has suffered. Rather than accepting the first settlement that an insurance company offers you, you should consider it a starting point for further negotiation.
Keep in mind that more than one insurance adjuster may attempt to contact you to discuss your accident. Your insurer, as well as the responsible party’s insurer, may each have an adjuster contact you. Additionally, each of these parties may have more than one adjuster, one to handle your medical claims and one to handle your property damage claim. This can make the entire process feel overwhelming, and the insurance company wants you to feel this way. Oftentimes, victims wonder how best to negotiate with an insurance claims adjuster. You should contact an accident injury attorney immediately to discuss your claim and legal options.
Below, we discuss some of the reasons why you should contact an attorney before accepting any settlement offer from the insurance company.
Varying Auto Insurance Minimums and Rules
Anyone involved in a car accident must understand the insurance rules that would apply in an accident injury case.
These rules affect who the victim should contact following an accident, and may also determine how much compensation the victim should pursue.
- New York Auto Insurance – New York law makes it a full, no-fault insurance state where victims may only seek additional compensation from the other driver in the event of a serious injury. Victims should expect to negotiate their settlement amounts because of limitations on the auto insurance policy, and if you sustained a serious injury, you may need a car accident attorney to help you seek compensation from the other driver.
- New Jersey Auto Insurance – New Jersey has choice no-fault insurance laws, which means that someone needs to know what coverage you have and what coverage the other driver has. Other limits may exist as well because, in some instances, your coverage may limit whether you can sue or not.
- Connecticut Auto Insurance – There is no option for no-fault insurance in Connecticut. An at-fault driver’s auto insurance company receives a notification any time an insured driver causes an accident that results in damages. Certain factors may make this option the easiest for victims, but that does not mean that the insurer will treat you more fairly.
As you can see, you will want a basic understanding of insurance rules if you suffer an injury in a roadway accident. When you work with a skilled personal injury attorney who knows the insurance rules in the state, it can make the negotiation process much easier and likely lead to a more successful final result.
Experience Working With Stubborn Insurance Companies
You may think that the insurance company and adjuster have your best interest in mind, but they don’t. They may seem helpful and compassionate when responding to your questions. However, make no mistake about it, they only care about their own best interests and bottom lines.
Insurance adjusters will contact you when you least expect it, like an old friend. They will likely ask how you feel and other similar types of questions to get a response from you. They may even ask about your day or other questions that make it seem as if they care about your well-being. They hope you will fall for this line of questions and that you may disclose something about your physical condition that the medical report doesn’t include.
Keep in mind, insurance adjusters receive specialized training to ask certain questions, appear personable, and protect their employers. Adjusters don’t particularly care about how you feel—especially if you continue to struggle in your recovery. They will use anything you might say in response to a question to lessen the value of your claim. This may sound wrong, but remember, insurers make money when customers pay premiums and lose money when they pay claims.
Understanding of Personal Injury Laws
Regardless of where you live, certain state-specific personal injury laws will apply to every accident case. While relatively similar across the country, the details of these laws vary by state. Let us assume for a moment that you sustain a brain injury in a preventable accident. These cases may prove complicated because your doctor will need to run numerous tests to determine the severity of the injury, determine your potential recovery time, and determine the long-term impact that the injury may have on your ability to return to work.
Personal injury cases often take time to resolve. The time limits on filing a personal injury lawsuit in New Jersey and Connecticut provide individuals with two years from the date of the injury to file a claim—except if the accident involves a government entity. In New York, you have three years from the date of your accident. This may seem like a long time, but remember, the clock starts ticking on the date of the accident.
Several things occur from the date the accident occurred until you begin negotiating a settlement, including:
- Police reports get filed – police officers don’t always file their reports immediately after an accident. Some departments provide officers with up to 10 business days following the accident to file the police report.
- Accident investigations – your attorney will likely use the results of these investigations to determine who caused your accident and better understand the circumstances surrounding it.
- Medical evaluation – while victims may receive an initial medical evaluation at the accident scene, they likely require further evaluation to determine the full extent of their injuries. The more severe an injury, the longer this process can take.
In some cases, an insurer may just want to resolve a case quickly and thus make an early initial offer. Never accept this offer, as it will almost always go up, particularly once you retain legal counsel. These initial offers rarely reflect a case’s true value.
Lawyers Understand That Insurers Play Hardball
You may receive your initial settlement offer from an insurer by telephone. The insurance company will contact you directly if you have not yet retained an attorney.
The insurance representative will likely attempt to convince you that:
- This offer constitutes the insurance company’s best offer, so you should accept it as soon as possible – This is likely false. More commonly, the insurance company makes the lowest possible offer to settle your case as quickly as possible for as little as possible.
- If you contact a lawyer, you will not have any say in your final settlement – This is demonstrably false. If you hire a lawyer, you never lose the ability to accept a settlement offer.
- Telling you that you have no right to sue if you don’t accept the initial settlement offer – Never accept this information from an insurance adjuster. Only an attorney can help you determine whether you have the right to sue.
Insurance company adjusters know that you likely feel vulnerable in the immediate aftermath of your accident. You continue to recover from an injury, you’ve likely missed work for what seems like forever, and you feel worried about the financial impacts of an accident and the resulting consequences for you and your family. Insurance companies know this and will likely do whatever they can to take advantage of you.
Remember, a personal injury lawyer with a proven track record of effectively negotiating settlements for past clients will understand the various methods used by insurers in an attempt to get victims to accept a low settlement offer. No attorney can ever guarantee a successful outcome. A history of success also does not guarantee future success. Even so, if you know the lawyer has the necessary knowledge and experience, you know your claim stands a better chance of a good settlement when the attorney goes up against an insurance adjuster.
Insurance Company Protected by Lawyers
You may think that adjusters receive their information from superiors at the insurance company. Make no mistake about it, insurance companies have an army of attorneys protecting them. An attorney will first review any claim headed toward a settlement. The attorney will have evaluated the situation and advised the adjuster of what to offer as a settlement.
An attorney will also draft the language that goes into the agreement you must sign when accepting a settlement. These agreements contain language designed to minimize the insurance company’s risk of incurring any future liability. When an insurance company presents your offer, you will receive the agreement, and should you sign it without having an experienced personal injury lawyer review it, you may find out too late what you gave up. Buried somewhere in the complex legal language of that document, you will find a statement that releases the insurance company of any future liability once you accept the settlement.
As a result, you may face:
- Future medical bills – You will have to pay any future medical bills that pertain to your injury. This means you have to figure out how to pay for follow-up visits, any tests that doctors may need to run, and any necessary follow-up visits to specialists. This will also apply to any future surgical procedures that your injuries may require.
- Estimated lost wages – Part of the settlement will include the wages you lost to date and estimate your future lost wages. If you receive a settlement offer before you determine your future earning capacity following your recovery, the amount may fail to include estimated future lost wages. By signing the settlement, you accept the amount offered and agree not to seek additional compensation.
- Property damage claims – If you owed money on your vehicle and the settlement does not include that full amount, you will bear the burden of covering that cost.
These outcomes could ultimately prove financially devastating to your family. You likely want to wrap up the negotiation process as quickly as possible and end your communication with the insurance company. To resist the urge of accepting a low-ball settlement offer just to resolve your claim, you should retain an attorney as soon as possible after an accident.
Victims Often Cite the Costs of Hiring a Lawyer
Insurance company adjusters will often advise victims that they likely can’t afford the cost of hiring an attorney. Insurers hope that this discourages people from hiring a lawyer to represent them in settlement negotiations. Don’t let an insurance company convince you not to hire an attorney.
Below, we discuss a few things that you should know about contacting a personal injury lawyer following an accident in which you have suffered an injury:
- Free consultation – An accident injury attorney will likely offer you a no-strings-attached free consultation. This allows you to ask questions about your case, and you face no obligation to hire that attorney. A consultation with an attorney will provide you an opportunity to interview the attorney and find out what he or she thinks about your case.
- Evaluation of your case – Lawyers who handle simple and complicated personal injury cases know how to evaluate a case. They can explain your legal options and explain your rights as they pertain to your case. Importantly, this helps you determine the path forward that works best for you and your family.
- Most attorneys accept cases on contingency – In most situations, an attorney who accepts your case will work on a contingency fee basis, which means that you do not have to pay any legal fees out of pocket or upfront. In fact, you will not owe the law firm any legal fees unless it succeeds in getting you a settlement.
As you can see, you should retain an attorney to increase your chances of successfully negotiating with an insurer and to make sure that you stand a fighting chance of receiving sufficient compensation for your injuries. Do not attempt to handle these negotiations on your own. Unless you have specific experience working with insurers that have an army of lawyers behind them, you could wind up feeling re-victimized by the entire process of reaching a settlement agreement.
If you suffered an injury in any type of accident, and you now have an insurance company asking you to consider a settlement, stop. Before you accept any offer, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today for a free consultation. A lawyer can ensure that you understand the settlement’s terms and whether it will cover the full cost of your injuries.