Bagen Law Firm | January 18, 2023 | Car Accidents
If you suffered injuries in an accident that resulted from someone else’s carelessness, recklessness, or negligence, you might be eligible to recover settlement compensation from the at-fault individual or entity’s insurance company.
Generally speaking, an accident victim can accept a settlement offer at any point up until their civil jury trial or binding arbitration proceeding. However, once the matter is in the jury or arbitrator’s hands, those individuals have the final decision-making power regarding the monetary compensation you receive for your accident-related injuries.
Although, in theory, an insurance company adjuster can take a settlement offer off the table if you don’t accept it, that usually does not happen. One circumstance where an adjuster can revoke or significantly lower a pending settlement offer is if they receive new information about your case, such as medical records that indicate that you had a pre-existing injury or that you were involved in a prior accident.
In those circumstances, the insurance company adjuster handling your claim can potentially revoke or lower their previous settlement offer. The same is true if an adjuster learns that someone other than the policyholder caused your accident.
The best way to avoid these potential pitfalls is to ensure that insurance companies and their adjusters have all of the necessary documentation as early in the claims-filing process as possible. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in your area can help you submit a proper claim that maximizes your chances of recovering the total monetary compensation you deserve for all of your accident-related injuries.
You should never hastily accept a settlement offer without proper legal advice. Take your time and consider whether the offer fully covers your losses before you sign anything.
Reasons You Might Seek a Settlement for Personal Injuries
When a person behaves negligently under the circumstances, accidents may occur that leave others severely injured. An individual is negligent when they do something that a hypothetical reasonable person should not have done under the same circumstances. Alternatively, negligence occurs when a person fails to do something that a hypothetical reasonable person should have done in the same situation.
Some of those everyday occurrences that result from other people’s negligent actions and inactions include:
- Motor vehicle accidents occur when another driver, passenger, pedestrian, motorcyclist, or bicyclist suffers injuries when someone violates a rule of the road, engages in distracted driving, or operates their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Commercial truck accidents, can cause particularly severe injuries and deaths because semi-trucks are so much larger and heavier than other vehicles on the road.
- Premises accidents, including slips and falls, occur when property owners fail to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition and correct or warn about on-site hazards within a reasonable timeframe.
- Medical malpractice and negligence, where a medical provider completely fails to diagnose a patient, misdiagnoses a patient, mistreats a patient, or makes an error when performing a medical procedure, causing further injuries, illnesses, or complications for a patient in their care.
In addition to injury victims, families who suffered the tragic loss of a loved one might seek a settlement for their wrongful death.
If you or someone you care about sustained injuries in one of these incidents that resulted from someone else’s negligence, you have legal rights and options. One of those options may be to file a personal injury claim with the responsible party’s insurance company. For example, if you suffered injuries in a motor vehicle crash that resulted from another driver’s negligence, you can file a personal injury claim directly with their insurance company.
A lawyer can meet with you to discuss the circumstances surrounding your incident and determine your eligibility for filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit in your case. Your attorney can then help you file the claim and initiate settlement negotiations with the handling insurance company adjuster.
Injuries That Accident Victims May Suffer Due to Someone Else’s Negligence
When other people behave negligently, accident victims may suffer debilitating injuries, depending upon the circumstances. An accident victim’s injuries will depend on the type of collision, the speed of the vehicles, the amount of force, and how the impact shocked their body when the crash happened.
For example, in a car accident scenario, the force of the collision may cause an accident victim’s body to move forwards and backward in their car or from side to side, causing them to sustain soft tissue neck and back contusions. Alternatively, a part of their body might strike something in their vehicles, such as the headrest, steering wheel, dashboard, or door frame, causing debilitating injuries.
Other common injuries that accident victims suffer include traumatic head and brain injuries, bone fractures, open cuts, bruises, road rash, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and death.
After an accident, you should follow up at a hospital emergency room or urgent care center as soon as possible. This is because untreated injuries may become much worse the longer you wait to seek medical treatment. Moreover, if you delay your medical treatment for too long, the at-fault party’s insurance company may become skeptical about your injuries and refuse to award you the compensation you deserve.
You want medical records showing your full injury diagnosis as soon as possible following your accident. You also want a detailed treatment plan that justifies all the medical care you undergo for your injuries.
A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can begin working on your case even while you continue your medical treatment. For instance, your lawyer can start building your case and gathering evidence. Your lawyer can put together a demand package to forward to the insurance company adjuster and begin negotiating a settlement for you.
What do Settlements Compensate Accident Victims For?
Accident victims who sustain injuries due to the negligence of others may be eligible for various damages. Every personal injury case is different, so the damages that some accident victims recover may be more or less than that another accident victim recovers.
First, accident victims can recover monetary damages for all their accident-related medical expenses in the past and future. They can also pursue their lost earnings if they have to miss time from work to attend their medical appointments and physical therapy sessions.
Moreover, if their injuries prevented them from continuing in their former employment, and they had to switch jobs and take a pay cut, they may be eligible to assert a claim for loss of earning capacity.
Moreover, accident victims can recover monetary damages for their past and future pain and suffering. Past pain and suffering damages compensate accident victims for the pain, suffering, and inconvenience they experienced, starting on their accident date and ending at the present time. On the other hand, future pain and suffering damages compensate accident victims for their anticipated symptoms going forward.
Accident victims can also pursue monetary damages for their mental distress, emotional anguish, permanent disfigurement, loss of life enjoyment, loss of the ability to use a body part, and loss of spousal companionship connected to their injuries. These intangible damages are severe yet difficult to measure. Never take the insurance company’s word for what you should receive for non-economic damages. Have your lawyer conduct these calculations.
If you sustained injuries in an accident because of someone else’s negligence, your lawyer can determine your eligibility for these damages and will aggressively fight for your right to recover the total compensation you deserve.
Filing a Claim and Negotiating Favorable Settlement Compensation
The first step to pursuing monetary compensation for your injuries is to file a claim with the appropriate insurance company. In most instances, your lawyer can file this claim with the insurance company for the at-fault entity or individual. Your attorney can then help you negotiate with the insurance company adjuster handling your claim in pursuit of a fair settlement offer.
During settlement negotiations, most personal injury lawyers will gradually decrease their initial settlement demand amount as the adjuster continually increases their settlement offer amount. This back-and-forth process usually continues until the parties either resolve their case or reach an impasse.
During settlement negotiations, an accident victim can accept a settlement offer at any time. Insurance companies and their adjusters must make a good faith effort to resolve all personal injury claims in which they accept fault for the occurrence in question. Therefore, it is unusual for them to revoke a settlement offer altogether prior to an accident victim accepting it.
A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in your case can help you decide whether a particular settlement offer is a good offer under the circumstances. Your lawyer can then help you determine whether you should continue settlement negotiations or accept a pending settlement offer. Finally, if the insurance company refuses to compensate you fairly, your lawyer can help you decide if litigation may be suitable for your case.
Litigating a Personal Injury Case in the Court System
In some personal injury cases, litigation may become necessary. This typically happens when an insurance company disputes fault for the accident or when the adjuster simply fails to offer the accident victim sufficient monetary compensation for their injuries.
Filing a lawsuit in the court system formally begins the litigation process. However, settlement negotiations may still continue during this time. When a court becomes involved in the case, it will typically issue a scheduling order that establishes various deadlines for the case, including a discovery deadline, settlement conference date, and trial date(s). During litigation, the parties will work towards those deadlines in an efficient manner.
During the discovery phase of a personal injury lawsuit, the parties will answer one another’s written questions, called interrogatories, and may take one another’s depositions to learn more about their respective allegations and views regarding the accident, claimed injuries, and damages. At the end of litigation, the parties will typically convene for a settlement conference. At this time, a judge may help facilitate settlement discussions between the parties and bring them closer to a resolution.
If the case does not settle by the time of trial, the parties will present evidence in front of a jury. At that time, the jury will decide what, if any, damages to award the accident victim. Once a jury decides on a case, any pre-trial settlement offers are off the table. In other words, the jury cannot come back with an award that the accident victim doesn’t like, and the accident victim then decides to accept the insurance company’s most recent settlement offer at that time. By then, it will be too late.
As an alternative to a jury trial, the parties may consider several options, including mediation and binding arbitration. At mediation, a neutral, independent mediator meets with the parties and goes back and forth, facilitating settlement discussions. Some cases resolve at mediation, while other cases remain unsettled. If the case does not settle at mediation, the parties still have until trial to resolve the case amicably.
At a binding arbitration hearing, the arbitrator listens to the evidence that the parties present and decides the issue of damages. Once a case goes to an arbitrator, it can no longer settle for the most recent insurance company offer. Likewise, when the arbitrator issues their award, it becomes binding and is not subject to any appeal, unlike a jury verdict where a limited right of appeal may exist.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you suffered injuries in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you should retain a skilled personal injury lawyer to represent you right away. A lawyer will have the knowledge necessary to file a persuasive personal injury claim on your behalf and assist you during settlement negotiations.
Your lawyer can also help you decide whether you should accept a particular settlement offer and continue negotiating or litigate your case to a conclusion in the court system. In any event, your lawyer will work hard to pursue the maximum amount of compensation available to you in your personal injury claim or lawsuit.