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

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

Accident victims are under the impression the insurance company is working to offer a fair settlement. Victims will accept an initial settlement offer assuming there is no better resolution. Many individuals fear declining this offer will result in a lower ultimate payment.

Other times a victim will accept an offer because they do not want to wait months or years for the legal process to resolve. All of these are myths. The answer to whether you should take the first offer is no!

The first offer is the lowest offer the insurance company is willing to give, but it is not the final offer. The first offer does not cover all of your expenses or future expenses; you will incur more costs in the long term than if you wait and work for a higher settlement.

A car accident attorney knows how the process works and the worries accident victims have and will work aggressively to get you a higher settlement offer.


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Dealing with insurance claims adjusters

One party you will become familiar with is the insurance claims adjuster. Their role is to settle car accident claims quickly and with minimal costs to the insurance company. Behind the scenes, the insurance adjuster will have a range of compensation to work with.

They will attempt to stay below the limit, offering the lowest possible settlement. The insurance adjuster’s goal is to save the insurance company money by lowering your claim. They also do not expect there to be pushback from accident victims.

The adjuster banks on your ignorance and gets praise from their employer for pulling one over on you. When negotiating with the insurance adjuster, keep these facts in mind. Trust in your car accident attorney and focus on healing. You do not need to negotiate or communicate with the insurance company; the attorney will handle the entire legal process.

You must also remember this is not the first or only car accident the insurance adjuster is handling. Many insurance adjusters are not familiar with all aspects of the legal system and base decisions on a computer program. Over their career, they have built the experience and knowledge to negotiate lower offers. They also have experience working with attorneys and know which ones will drive a hard bargain and which will not.

In contrast, car accident lawyers also have years of experience negotiating with insurance adjusters. When the insurance adjuster gets push back from a car accident attorney, they are intimidated and can yield in your favor. Negotiating between an insurance adjuster and a car accident attorney garners better results than negotiating between the insurance adjuster and the accident victim.

When working on your car accident claim alone, you need to be extremely cautious of what you tell the insurance adjuster. If the insurance adjuster works for the other party’s insurance company, they will ask extensive questions hoping that you will say something that hurts your claim. Even the slightest inconsistency is enough for an insurance company to lower or deny a claim.

While you will need to inform your insurance company of the car accident, you should have your attorney handle this notification. You do not need to speak with the opposing insurance company, but they might attempt to intimidate you into making a recorded statement. Instead of agreeing to the interview, steer them to your car accident attorney. Your attorney should handle all communications as anything you say is used against you in a claim.

There are two insurance companies you will deal with after a car accident: yours and the other drivers. While your insurance company is contractually obligated to take care of you to an extent after an accident, the other party’s insurance company is not.

The rival insurance company will not treat you fairly and will look for a minor reason to deny a claim. The insurance company will offer the lowest settlement possible and will not budge without ample evidence and a car accident attorney who has the ambition to fight for your rights.

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How adjusters determine the first settlement offer?

Understanding how an insurance adjuster determines an initial settlement offer is vital to your claim. Working with the rival insurance company means they are looking out for their best interests and not yours. The first step in determining a settlement offer is speaking with the at-fault party. But don’t do that alone—you will need a lawyer to do that.

The insurance adjusters are looking for details that can help deny your claim. Even if the at-fault party is not honest about their role in the accident, the insurance adjuster will base their case on this anecdote unless proven otherwise.

The next step an insurance adjuster will take is to investigate you. They will attempt to get you to make a recorded statement and will do some investigating on your driving history and prior claims. Your social media accounts are now a goldmine for the insurance adjuster. They are looking for posts that can help show you have a preexisting condition or substantial injury. Even a small event like going to dinner is used against you to attempt to lower your claim.

The third step in an insurance claim is documentation relating to the lawsuit.

The insurance adjuster will request copies of:

Your local car accident attorney will advise you on whether you should provide these documents. Typically these are reasonable requests, but insurance adjusters can request more than is necessary if you are not cautious.

Initial claim offer

Whether you are working with a personal injury attorney or have received an initial offer without representation, you need to review the proposal. You need to consider costs for your damages and injuries. You must also have compensation for future medical expenses.

Since determining the proper compensation for your case is complex, you must consult with a car accident attorney who knows how to calculate a fair settlement. An attorney can review the initial offer, your medical records, and damages to determine how much the insurance company should send you.

Turning down the initial offer

The insurance adjuster is working to settle the case quickly, and when they present you with an initial offer, they will also pressure you to make a quick decision. Do not fall for these tactics. Inform the insurance adjuster you need time to consider the offer. Next, you will contact a car accident lawyer to discuss the offer if you do not already have one on your team.

A knowledgeable attorney will break down your damages and how much compensation you require for your accident. Once damages are established, you will then need to work together to make a counteroffer to the insurance company. The counteroffer will come through a demand package discussed later in this article.

Consider all costs

A common mistake accident victims make is only considering costs accrued and not future costs. An initial offer can come before you have reached maximum medical improvement. You will require further medical treatment or have a flare-up a year down the line. If you do not wait for a higher offer, you will be left to pay for these future medical costs. Injuries can worsen over time or show symptoms that were not there initially.

While you think that a couple of weeks of physical therapy will suffice, the reality is that you will need further treatment and even surgery. The costs for further treatment and surgery are extensive. It is unlikely the initial offer will include compensation for these treatments, especially if the offer comes before you feel better.

Future costs to consider are:

  • Hospital expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Surgery
  • Physical therapy
  • Disability
  • Pain and suffering

Never take the initial offer without the experience and knowledge of a car accident attorney. Understandably, you want to get the process over and move on with your life. The aftermath of an accident is chaotic and causes a physical, emotional, and financial strain on accident victims. It is tempting to take the insurance adjuster’s first offer and deal with the repercussions later.

Accepting the offer is a grave mistake that results in you suffering more. An initial offer is often higher when a car accident attorney is involved. Even if the first offer is insufficient, your attorney will continue to negotiate for a higher amount and take other legal steps to secure adequate compensation.

Aside from medical costs, there is also property damage to consider. After a car accident, you will likely have damage to your vehicle. The insurance company will need to repair the damage to the car for you to get back on the road. While your insurance company can pay for the damage to your vehicle, the other insurance company can also pay for the damage. You will need to read through your insurance policy to determine how to address property damage adequately.

Your insurance policy can require you to use a specific repair shop or give you the option to choose your own. The rival insurance company will require you to use their repair shop. You must consult with your car accident attorney to ensure the necessary repairs are complete. Some insurance companies will do minimal repairs just to get the vehicle back on the road.

Demand letters

When you hire a car accident lawyer, they will begin collecting documentation to form a demand letter. This letter outlines your damages and the amount of compensation you are seeking.

Your demand letter will include:

  • How the car accident occurred
  • The responsibility of the insured
  • Details on your costs and damages
  • An itemized list of other expenses
  • Non-economic damages sustained
  • How much compensation you will need to cover all of the above

When the insurance company receives a demand letter, they can accept the offer or file a counter. In some cases, they will deny the demand entirely, which results in further legal action. However, if you are content with the offer, you can choose to settle. Your attorney will advise you on your options and outcome, but the decision lies in your hands.

You cannot sue after you settle.

Remember that you will sign a release that relieves the other party of any further legal action once you settle. Car accident victims forfeit their right to sue when they accept a settlement offer. When you take a low offer and realize your injuries and condition are much worse, you can no longer do anything about it. Any expenses that go beyond the settlement are your responsibility. Insurance companies benefit from settlement release forms.

They know that if they settle with you, they do not worry about a possible lawsuit. You must work with your car accident attorney to determine if a settlement or a lawsuit is the best option for your case. Many times a settlement offer will suffice. However, a settlement offer is often nowhere near enough to cover all your damages and expenses in serious accidents.

Filing a lawsuit with the help of a car accident attorney

Your case does not immediately go to trial when you file a lawsuit. Negotiations will continue even after you file a lawsuit. You and the insurance company can settle before ever going to trial. The first step in the litigation process is discovery. The process entails both attorneys exchanging evidence and looking for valuable pieces of evidence. Once each side has sufficient evidence, negotiation can continue.

When evidence is highly favorable to your case, the insurance company is willing to offer a fair settlement offer instead of taking their chances in front of a jury who will side with you.

The insurance company is unlikely to settle and will opt for a trial instead if:

  • Their insured was not liable
  • Injuries are not as severe as you claim
  • The demand is unreasonable, and no one will budge

Going to trial is a risk, and you need a personal injury attorney that knows how to handle the litigation process. When you are in a car accident, legal representation is vital to get you through the process.

May 3, 2022

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