Steven A. Bagen | April 10, 2023 | Car Accidents
In most cases, no, you should not take the insurance company’s first offer of a car accident settlement. The first offer will suffice in rare instances, but you should never assume this is true in your case. Never accept anything without discussing your options with a local car accident lawyer.
Insurance companies take advantage of claimants navigating the chaotic aftermath of a car accident and experiencing financial strain. The financial pressure often leads injury victims to accept any offer the insurer makes, which is often a low settlement.
It is understandable to want to receive payment for your losses as soon as possible, but taking an early settlement can hurt you later.
Insurance Companies Will Contact You
The insurance company handles claims daily, and they know the best time to offer a settlement is before the injured victim can get legal assistance. If the insurance company contacts you directly with an offer, it is a bad sign, and you should steer them to contact your lawyer immediately.
The settlement offer can sound significant, but only a few days after your accident, you are likely unsure of the severity or extent of your injuries. That seemingly large offer is often lackluster at best. Your best chance at a fair or higher settlement is to work with a car accident lawyer who can negotiate on your behalf.
Adjusters Are Trained Negotiators
Insurance adjusters are trained negotiators and know what to say and do to lower your settlement offer. Their job is to protect the company’s bottom line and not care for your well-being or do what is right.
Insurance adjusters see thousands of accident claims cross their desks and must decide whether to pay for any losses or deny the claim outright. The adjuster will investigate the collision independently to find reasons to deny your claim. If they have insufficient evidence to deny your claim, they will try to lower the final settlement instead.
The adjusters have the upper hand when negotiating directly with accident victims – but not with a lawyer. They know you do not have insurance negotiation experience or that your negotiation skills are likely insufficient to get a higher settlement.
However, the adjuster knows that car accident attorneys in the area have the negotiation skills and experience necessary to fight for a higher amount. Attorneys know the insurance company’s tactics, making it more challenging for the insurance company to succeed with insufficient offers.
The Insurance Company Has No Incentive to Play Fair
After a crash, you will likely have to file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer. You might also need to file a claim with your own coverage. In either case, you want a lawyer handling the negotiations.
When you work with your insurance company, they have some contractual duties to help you, but they will still find ways to minimize liability. You cannot assume that any insurer will treat you fairly.
One tactic the insurance company will use is to act compassionate toward injury victims upon their first communication with you. Under this pretense, they hope to get details from you that can hurt your claim. They will coax you into talking about other things irrelevant to the accident. They might even ask what you were doing that day to see if you were running late, and they can pin speeding or another negligent driving action on you.
Remember, when you speak to an adjuster, they have no incentive to pay you, so tread carefully. Instead of speaking with them, direct all communications to your attorney.
Watch What You Say to Adjusters
Insurance adjusters will ask many questions. They ask questions so they can use every word you say against you. The moment you answer a question in a way that benefits them, it can lead them to deny your claim. Many injury victims are unaware that small talk can hurt them.
You are also under no obligation to make a recorded statement to the opposing insurance company, but they will make it seem as if you do. The insurance company will hound you for a recorded statement, and you should politely refer them to your attorney. Do not agree to or give a recorded statement and refrain from offering any documentation like medical records to the adjuster. Any requests should go through your lawyer.
Your Car Needs Repairs
The negligent driver’s insurance policy should cover vehicle repairs, and they will likely refer you to an auto shop. It is advisable to refrain from taking your vehicle to their repair shop because their mechanics might quote minimal repairs that barely get you on the road.
While most people focus on injury-related compensation, you want to ensure you receive enough to properly repair your vehicle, as well. You also want to ensure you get photos and other documentation of the damage in case you need it as evidence of liability for your crash.
Your car accident lawyer can help you find a trusted body shop and obtain all evidence of your vehicle damage to use in your claim.
Considering All Your Losses
The insurance company is trying to save money, and their first line of defense is to offer a payment quickly before you have time to fully treat your injuries or get legal representation. The first offer is typically the lowest and much less than your case is worth. If you don’t have a lawyer when the first offer comes in, you can take down the adjuster’s name and phone number and give the information to your lawyer when you hire one.
The first offer might seem high, but it likely doesn’t account for many of your losses. It might cover your current medical bills, but there is much more to consider. If you accept the first offer, it might seem adequate at first if you can pay your bills. However, months go by, and you realize your injuries are worse than you initially thought, but you have no legal remedies available because you have already accepted a settlement.
Your lawyer will consider your current, future, and intangible losses to ensure you never accept less than you deserve.
Insurance Companies Investigate Claims
The insurance company has a system for investigating claims and calculating a first offer, which does not work in your favor. They will first get the story of the accident from the policyholder. They want to know what their policyholder says and if there is any information they can use to their advantage. If the policyholder does not admit fault, the insurance company might fight the claim entirely.
Next, the adjuster will begin investigating you. They will look for evidence of previous accidents and pre-existing conditions. They can check your online presence to see if you are active.
If possible, avoid posting on social media and keep your online presence minimal. Refrain from informing friends and family of the collision through social media and instead reach out to them in person. Your online presence is significant if you are seeking compensation. A harmless picture or video of you grabbing dinner can be twisted and used against you to lower your claim. Live your life but don’t post about it.
Requesting Documents for Your Claim
Insurance adjusters will also use documentation when assessing your claim. They will request a slew of documents, including your history of medical records, which you might agree to release. This is a mistake.
Some examples of documents the adjuster might request are:
- Tax returns
- Proof of earnings
- Proof of property damage
- Medical records
You might find it harmless to share these documents, but insurers can use them to minimize your settlement. Your lawyer will advise you on what you should provide and when. There is no need for insurance companies to have your entire financial and medical history to settle a claim, and it can hurt your chances of a full recovery.
Negotiating With Insurance Adjusters
Your car accident lawyer will take over your claim and negotiate with the insurance company. There will be a lot of back and forth, which frustrates some victims. However, waiting longer for a higher offer is usually the best decision.
Your car accident lawyer must inform you of any settlement offers. The choice is yours whether you accept something or not. Your attorney should advise you of the benefits and downsides of taking a particular offer and your future options. If you accept an offer, your claim will end, but if you say no, you have other legal options.
Negotiations are vital to getting a fair settlement. Since local car accident lawyers work with insurance companies regularly, they know when an insurer is willing to negotiate and how to get them to meet in the middle whenever possible.
Negotiations can take some time, and you might not hear much from your law firm during this period. When they have reached what they believe is a final offer, they will inform you. At this point, the option is usually to accept the offer or file an injury lawsuit in civil court.
Your lawyer can communicate to the insurer that you plan to file a lawsuit if they do not make a fair offer.
A demand letter can involve:
- Description of the car accident
- Explanation of the insurance company coverage for the crash
- Summary of medical treatment and costs
- An itemized list of losses
- Details about how the collision impacted your life
- The amount you demand from the insurance company
The demand can establish that you will not hesitate to initiate litigation if the insurance company continues to be unfair. It can also result in further negotiations with the insurance company. The insurer does not usually want to go to trial, and a demand letter can be sufficient to push them to settle. In other cases, the insurance company will take a firm stance against you and completely dismiss your attorney’s demand.
Deciding to Settle
When to settle is your decision. The insurance company will send various offers that your lawyer will review. Attorneys can only advise you when there is a good offer and when you should consider holding out for more. You get to ultimately make the choice of what to accept.
Sometimes, an insurance company might come to its senses and offer the full amount you deserve. If an offer covers all your past and future losses, settling is wise.
Some car accident victims might think a settlement offer is close enough, and they want to avoid prolonging the matter with litigation. This is something you should always weigh with your attorney.
Tips for Getting the Best Settlement
You can take some actions to increase your chances of a higher payment. The best step is to immediately contact an experienced car accident attorney to discuss your claim. They can advise you on your case worth and merit. They will use their resources to fight for you and help you seek the maximum compensation possible.
To support their efforts, you should provide all possible evidence and documentation regarding the collision so they can build your claims. While the lawyer will conduct an independent investigation, anything you can provide will make the process easier.
Seeking medical attention and following through on your care is also essential. These treatments and documents are critical to proving your injuries and calculating your losses. Failure to seek care or follow doctor’s orders often allows insurers to reduce settlement offers.
You should also be patient. These processes can take time, and you should never settle too early for too little.
Have a Settlement Offer? Call a Car Accident Lawyer Immediately
Avoid making the mistake of taking the first settlement offer, and you should avoid engaging with the insurance company before a lawyer represents you. Any time you communicate with the insurance company, they keep a record of it, and you need to protect yourself by having a Gainesville personal injury lawyer on your side.
Car accident lawyers have the motivation to fight for injury victims like you. Speaking with a lawyer costs you nothing, but not consulting an attorney can cost you thousands. Call trusted car accident lawyers for a free consultation.