Unless you are doing so on the advice of your car accident lawyer, the answer is no, you should not accept a settlement offer from an insurance company—especially not the first offer they make. We explain everything you need to know about settling a car accident claim in Missouri and offer some advice on when to accept an offer and when to allow your attorney to negotiate—or sue—for more money.
We understand that you might be desperate to resolve your car accident claim, so you might be willing to accept any amount of money in order to pay off some bills and support your family. But your case is probably worth much more than the insurance company is offering, and with the help of an experienced car crash lawyer from the Peterson Law Firm and a little patience, you might get enough money to pay for the medical care you need and take the necessary time off work to fully heal after a devastating crash.
What Is a Car Accident Settlement?
First things first. A settlement is an agreement between a car accident victim and the insurance company for the negligent driver who was found to be at fault in causing the crash. If the driver in your crash has admitted fault, or the insurer accepts that their policyholder is to blame, the adjuster might reach out to you fairly quickly and offer a check to settle the matter. Once you accept the check, the claim is considered to be closed, and you will not be able to seek more money later on, even if your condition worsens or you don’t recover as fully as you thought you would.
The adjuster might try to convince you that the offer they are making is fair and that it is the only offer you will get. However, it is possible to negotiate for more money. In fact, it is our job as car accident injury lawyers to negotiate on your behalf to get the maximum possible payout for the claim. We will gather medical records, diagnoses and prognoses from doctors and specialists, lost earnings calculations, and more to determine the full value of the claim and present this evidence in our negotiations with the insurance company. If the insurance company refuses to agree to a fair settlement, we can file a lawsuit, and a judge or jury will look at the evidence and determine what you are owed. The key to getting what you are owed after a catastrophic car crash is hiring a lawyer with the skill and tenacity necessary to take on an insurance company and win.
What Should Be Factored Into a Car Accident Settlement
Because you will not be able to go back to the insurance company for the negligent driver for more money after you have agreed to a settlement, it is important that the amount you accept will cover all of your current and potential costs. These might include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning potential
- Pain and suffering damages
- Medical devices and assistive equipment
- Home care and assistance
- Future medical expenses
- Legal fees and court costs
As your lawyer, we might advise you to wait until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) before agreeing to a settlement. Knowing what your potential long-term medical problems will be gives us a much better idea of the total value of your claim. In the meantime, we will help you deal with your ongoing expenses.
Tricks Insurance Companies Will Use to Force You to Accept Less Than You Deserve
Car insurance companies have a vested interest in minimizing payouts for claims, and sometimes, they employ various tactics to deny or reduce compensation to injured victims when their policyholders are at fault in accidents. Tricks to watch out for include the following.
Lowballing Settlement Offers
As we’ve already discussed, insurance companies may offer a settlement amount significantly lower than the actual cost of damages, hoping the victim will accept the quick payout and forgo further negotiation. With the help of a lawyer, victims can seek fair compensation based on the extent of their losses.
Insurers may argue that their policyholder was not entirely at fault for the accident, even when evidence suggests otherwise. This tactic can delay the claims process and potentially reduce the payout. Lawyers for the victim will fight this tact with evidence from the crash.
Claiming Preexisting Conditions
Insurers may contend that the victim is seeking compensation for an old injury or medical condition and refuse to cover treatment related to it. To prevent this kind of tactic, car crash victims should never release their medical records to an insurance company without advice from their own attorney.
Insurers may intentionally delay claim investigations, hoping that accident victims will grow impatient and settle for less. Victims—or better yet, their lawyers—should maintain communication with the insurer and be persistent in pursuing a timely resolution.
Challenging Medical Necessity
Insurers may dispute the medical necessity of treatments or procedures, making it harder for accident victims to obtain compensation for medical bills. A lawyer will ensure that their client gets all of the medical treatment they require after a crash.
Seeking Recorded Statements
Insurance adjusters may request recorded statements from victims soon after an accident when they may not have a full understanding of the situation. Accident victims should never consent to a recorded statement and should consult with an attorney before talking to an insurance adjuster at all to ensure their rights are protected.
Underestimating Future Damages
In cases of long-term injuries or ongoing medical treatments, insurers may underestimate future costs, resulting in insufficient compensation for future expenses. Victims should work with their lawyers and health care professionals to provide accurate estimates for future damages.
It's essential for Missouri car accident victims to be aware of these potential tactics and to consult with an attorney before dealing with an insurance company.