The Insurance Company Wants Me to Settle. Should I?

insurance company

Should I Accept An Offer From The Insurance Company

Following a serious injury, you will likely find yourself with a number of difficult tasks on your plate. Not only do you need to focus on your recovery, including necessary appointments with your doctor as well as physical therapy sessions, you may need to deal with the insurance company that covers the party responsible for your accident. Shortly after your accident, the insurance company may provide you with a settlement offer.

Should you accept it? Many victims of serious injuries find themselves unsure about whether they should accept a settlement from the insurance company and even what it could mean for them if they do.  For any case that involves injuries, medical treatment or the prospect of future medical needs, the answer is NO.

What is a Settlement Offer?

Following your accident, the insurance company may issue a settlement offer. The settlement offer is a specific offer that details how much the insurance company will offer you in compensation for your injuries. When you sign the settlement offer, you release the at fault driver and the owner of the vehicle, and relieve the insurance company of all responsibility for future all bills and the pain and suffering associated with your injuries.  Personal injury settlements are a one-time lump sum that must compensate you for past and future pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and any other expenses associated with the accident.

Should You Accept?

If the offer is made before you know what the future pain and suffering and future medical expense will be the answer is NO.  Trying to settle a case before you know what the future holds is like betting on your poker hand when you only have two cards.  First, consider these key elements:

The Insurance Company’s Goal

Ultimately, the insurance adjuster’s goal is to save as much money for the company as possible, not to pay you as much as possible.  If you accept a settlement offer, you will sign a release and relieve the driver, owner and insurance company of all future financial liability. This can prevent the company from having to, for example, pay out for expensive future medical bills.  In many cases, the insurance company’s initial settlement offer is significantly lower than the compensation you actually deserve for your injuries.

Have You Consulted with a Lawyer?

If the insurance company has offered a fast settlement, or if you feel that the settlement may not be adequate to your financial needs, it’s important to talk to a lawyer before accepting.

A lawyer can help you better understand the full compensation you deserve for your injuries. They will help you better calculate your medical bills, including future anticipated medical expenses; provide you with a better idea of what you should expect for your pain and suffering; and detail any other expenses you should consider in your claim. Many attorneys offer a free initial consultation to help you better understand what you should expect from your personal injury claim.

How Long Has It Been Since Your Accident?

Often, the insurance company will come back with a fast settlement offer in the immediate aftermath of an accident. That settlement is often a much lower number than you really deserve for your injuries. In this case, the insurance company may be hoping that you will accept the offer to get money in your hands fast, rather than taking the time to consider your real expenses.

Immediately after the accident, for example, you might not know exactly what your medical bills will look like in the months and years following your accident. As your recovery progresses, you will get a better idea of the full extent of your injuries, what modifications you will need to make to your home or vehicle in order to ensure your comfort and improve your ability to function, and what pain and suffering you will experience during your recovery.

Waiting until you have that information in hand can help you develop a better understanding of the funds you really deserve for your injuries.

How Much Will You Get After Paying Back Your Insurers?

If a health insurance company (or a government plan like Medicare or medical assistance) pays any of your bills, and you get paid money for your injuries, you will need to negotiate a repayment of those bills with the health insurer.   This is called “subrogation” and it applies to any bills, even for the treatment you haven’t had yet.  The importance of handling this issue properly cannot be overstated… if you don’t pay back your insurer when you get money they can sue you or treat your recovery as a future credit, which means they may not pay for future treatment.  Endangering your health insurance or government benefits for a quick settlement is not worth it.   An experienced personal injury attorney can negotiate not only the amount you get from the at fault driver’s insurance, but also negotiate with your health insurer to make sure your net recovery is maximized.

What If the Insurance Company is Offering Me the Policy Limit

Sometimes the insurance company wants to pay you the “policy limit” to settle.  You still need to slow down and make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed.  You may have additional layers of insurance available that would be lost by signing a settlement.  Often there will be more than one liability insurance policy, but settling one would probably settle them all.  Also, you may have coverage of your own on top of the at fault driver’s insurance, and if you don’t give them notice of your settlement you could lose the right to make that claim.  Finally, full accounting of the health insurance interest must be handled correctly to avoid loss of future benefits.  In short, even a policy limit offer is not always the whole story, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you sort it out.

The Importance of Consulting with a Lawyer

If you suffered serious injuries in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, having a personal injury attorney on your side can help with many of the details following your injury. Before accepting a settlement, however, it is especially critical that you contact a personal injury attorney. An attorney can:

Collect vital evidence that helps prove who caused your accident. This can put you in a better position to negotiate for the funds you really deserve for your injuries.

Provide you with a better assessment of the funds you deserve. Did the company’s settlement offer take into account pain and suffering? What about lost wages as a result of the accident? By working with a personal injury attorney, you may receive a better idea of what funds you really deserve.

Streamline the claims process. Often, by working with an attorney, you can more easily convince the insurance company to raise your settlement offer. Many insurance companies raise that offer–even when the lawyer’s fees are added in–simply because they know there is a lawyer on your side of the case.

Have you already received a settlement offer from the insurance company following your accident? Are you unsure about whether you should accept the offer? Contact us today to receive advice from an experienced personal injury attorney that will help you better determine whether the settlement offer reflects the funds you deserve for your injuries.