​Should I Take the First Offer of a Car Accident Settlement?

If you want the lowest possible offer for your car accident injuries, then the first offer from the insurance offer is excellent for you. But if you want a fair settlement that covers all your losses, do not take the first offer.

Many victims accept the first offer out of fear or uncertainty. They believe the insurance company is treating them fairly or fear they will not get a higher offer. Other times, car accident victims take these offers because they don’t want to wait longer for a resolution. However, a local car accident lawyer can help you get the settlement you deserve as efficiently as possible.

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Insurance claims adjusters are sneaky

The insurance adjuster sounds understanding when you speak to them, and you might believe they are trying to help you. However, their job is to settle a claim as quickly as possible with the least cost to the insurance company.

Adjusters have a dollar range where they can settle your claim based on the facts of your case. They want to look good and save money for their employer, so they start on the lower end of the range and hope you accept it. When you receive the first offer, remember it is the lowest offer you will see, and you can negotiate for a higher settlement.

Insurance adjusters have worked on thousands of car accident claims and know how to manipulate innocent victims into taking less and believing it is the best they can do. First, they might try to find justification to deny your claim outright. If they cannot do that, they will find ways to reduce your compensation and delay your payments. They have the upper hand when you do not have legal representation.

Their insurance company doesn’t trust you

You will likely be working with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, and they do not trust you. When working with your insurance company, they have a contractual obligation to help you to a degree.

However, the defendant’s insurance company doesn’t owe you the same. Their alliance is to the at-fault driver, regardless of the driver’s wrongdoing. They don’t trust anything you say and will feign remorse so they can defend their client and best interests. They will nitpick every detail in your medical documents, the account of the events, and out-of-pocket expenses.

Your words can be weapons against you

When an insurance adjuster asks a question, they are trying to get information from you and hope you will provide details they can use against your claim. This happens more often than you likely imagine.

While you must inform your insurance company of a car accident, you are not obligated to speak to the opposing insurance company. They want you to give a recorded statement so they can analyze every response and every word. When the insurance adjuster continues to hound you for a statement, politely ask them to contact your law firm.

Anything you say is a weapon for the insurance company, so avoid speaking to them as much as possible. Instead, let your attorney handle the communications. They will likely request past medical documents to find preexisting conditions and injuries they can use to reduce your settlement. Your lawyer acts as a buffer in these instances and will review any requests for information from the adjusters.

How do they determine your offer?

Some initial offers seem generous, and it is tempting for victims to accept these without thinking of the future. Once you accept an offer, you cannot pursue further compensation. You have few resources to calculate your expenses and are likely unaware of your future, but the insurance company does. They have the formula to calculate your settlement and they will start by offering much less than you deserve.

Hearing their insured’s story

The first part of their investigation involves speaking with their insured. They will get the at-fault party’s description of the events, even if the driver falsely denies liability. The insurer might take the policyholder’s story and run with it until you provide evidence to the contrary. Depending on the at-fault parties’ story, the insurance company might determine that they owe you nothing for your losses.

Investigating you

After the initial communications, they will begin to investigate you. They want to know everything about you but not for a good reason. They will look for prior car accident claims to blame your injuries on those incidents. They will begin to sift through your online presence with a particular focus on social media. Avoid social media during the claims process. Even a seemingly harmless photo or post can lead to questions about your injuries.

Request documentation

Your damages depend on the severity of your injuries, and the insurance company wants medical records and more to calculate your settlement. They might request tax returns, proof of earnings, and evidence of property damage. They can also request a detailed outline of the accident in writing, among many other things.

Your lawyer can advise you when to provide these documents or not. Insurance companies regularly request irrelevant documents they have no business seeking.

Reviewing your claim offer

Take the time to review your first offer with your car accident attorney to see if it is a fair amount. While rare, some people find that an initial offer covers their financial needs. This is common with relatively minor injury claims.

Your lawyer should review the amount to ensure it covers past medical bills, other damages, and future losses. You must also consider the timing of the offer. If you have yet to find out the prognosis of your injuries and do not have all of your medical bills, it is a red flag that the insurance company knows they should pay you more.

Send a demand letter

A demand letter outlines the liability for the accident, how much you want from the insurance company, and other legal details relevant to your claim. Your lawyer will draft a demand letter when the time is right, before or after your first settlement offer.

In particular, the demand letter will include:

  • Description of the car accident
  • Explanation of how the driver caused the crash
  • Summary of medical treatment and expenses
  • An itemized list of all economic losses
  • Information on how the accident affects your life in a non-economic manner
  • The total you demand your losses

The demand letter establishes where you stand regarding your compensation and views of the accident. When the insurance company receives the demand letter, they will begin negotiating with your lawyer. They will often come back with an offer close to what is in your demand package and is fair for you to take. Other times, the insurance company will dismiss your demand letter entirely, leading you and your attorney to opt for litigation proceedings.

Settling too soon is dangerous

As a car accident victim, settling can be in your best interest because you can control the outcome of the case, unlike at trial. You can also get your money faster when you settle before the trial. Unfortunately, settling too soon can also be dangerous for your future.

The first danger is that your injuries have yet to heal, and it can take longer to calculate your expenses if you do not know how your injury will impact your life. You want to wait to settle until your injuries get to a point where doctors can inform you of your future.

Another danger of settling too soon is you lose the right to sue. Once you sign the settlement agreement, a waiver clause prohibits you from taking further legal action. That means you can’t return for more money once you receive your settlement check, even if you need it to cover your losses.

Tips for obtaining higher offers

Now that you know the first settlement is usually far too low, you might wonder how to get higher compensation. Here are some tips for getting a fair settlement for your car accident claim.

Hire a lawyer

First and foremost, hiring a local car accident lawyer is the best way to get higher settlements. Attorneys know how to negotiate with insurance companies. They can also advise you when you should settle (or not) and protect your best interest throughout the process. They will also look for evidence to further increase your chances of a fair settlement. The faster you contact a lawyer, the better.

Provide evidence and documents

When you work with your car accident lawyer, they need evidence and documentation for your car accident. As a victim, you might have been incapacitated at the crash scene, but your lawyer can find evidence in other ways. Provide what you have, and your lawyer will find different ways to recover evidence, like witness statements, videos, and photos.

As you go through your medical recovery, you should provide receipts, medical records, and insurance statements to the law firm so they can add them to your file and demand letter. Keep everything because you never know what will help.

Follow doctor’s orders

Failure to seek medical attention indicates to the insurance company that you did not suffer injuries. When you have no medical treatment to back up your claims, they will use this against you to lower or deny your claim. Following doctor’s orders and your treatment plan helps your health and allows you to seek a higher settlement offer.

Consider your future

Wait until you know the extent of your injury and how it will affect your future. You might believe that your recovery will be a few weeks, and you won’t need further treatment, but without giving yourself the appropriate time to heal, you can find later that your injuries are worse than expected. It can take months for some injuries to show their full extent, and by then, you might have already accepted the initial offer and have no other options.

Consider future treatment costs, like hospitalization, surgeries, medications, and time away from work. These all lead to exponential losses in the future that you will have to pay for because you took the first inadequate offer.

Be patient

After a car accident, the financial and emotional strain might become unbearable, which can lead you to take a lower settlement. The insurance company is aware of your burden and counting on it so that you will accept a lower offer. However, if you want a favorable outcome, you must be patient. You should not take any offers until you have legal representation and a future medical prognosis. Timing is also imperative to your outcome because you want to wait until the insurance adjuster is under the most pressure to settle.

Accepting a good settlement

Whenever you receive an offer, you decide whether to settle. Your attorney works for you and can advise you on the pros and cons of every offer, but the decision is yours. Through their legal experience, they will weigh out the strengths and weaknesses of accepting or rejecting an offer. You can continue to reject offers and move to trial if you want, but your lawyer will let you know when a good offer comes in.

Litigation and trial proceedings

You can move into litigation when the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement. However, negotiations will continue throughout litigation as both sides move through discovery and work to avoid trial. If your case goes to trial, the jury can award you damages, and your fate is in their hands, not yours.

Speak with a local car accident lawyer

Tatiana Boohoff, Lawyer for Car Accident Injury cases near seattle 
Tatiana Boohoff, Car Accident Injury Attorney in Seattle

The insurance company will try to get you on the phone immediately following an accident for nefarious reasons. They will offer lower settlements before you have the chance to get legal representation. Do not take any offers, especially the first one, without discussing your options with a car accident lawyer near you.

Refrain from making a statement to the adjuster until you speak to car accident attorneys who can review your case. Experienced lawyers will review your injuries, treatment, and future losses to calculate an appropriate settlement and negotiate with the insurance company.

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Boohoff Law P.A. – Tampa Office

829 W Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd,
Tampa, FL 33603
Phone: (813) 725-5606

March 17, 2023
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