How do I Know if I Have a Good Settlement Offer?
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident or another accident that was caused by the negligence of another person or entity, you will likely have to file a claim with the responsible party's insurance company or a personal injury lawsuit to try to recover compensation for your losses. While your claim will likely be settled outside of court, it might be difficult to evaluate an offer and determine whether it is reasonable. What might be considered to be a reasonable offer will offer differ from case to case and will depend on a variety of factors. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that the attorneys at the law firm of the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC receive about settlements and how to determine whether they are fair.1. What Factors Affect Settlement Offers?
Settlement offers are made by insurance companies to resolve claims and avoid trials. In many cases, insurance companies try to do whatever they can to minimize how much they will have to pay on personal injury claims, making it important for you to carefully evaluate any offer you might receive before accepting it.
A variety of factors can affect what a reasonable settlement offer might be, including the following:
- Whether the injured plaintiff is partially liable
- The extent and severity of the victim's injuries
- The past and future likely costs of treatment
- Whether the plaintiff is likely to fully recover or has fully recovered
- The insurance policy limits of the at-fault driver's policy
- The property losses
- The plaintiff's past and future income losses
- The plaintiff's noneconomic losses
When the insurance company makes an offer, you should have it reviewed by an experienced injury attorney before deciding whether or not to accept it. An attorney can value your claim based on the unique circumstances and facts of what occurred.2. How Do I Prove the Extent of My Injuries?
Following an injury accident, you should seek immediate medical care from a doctor. Getting promptly diagnosed and treated helps to document that your injuries were caused by your accident. Follow all of your doctor's recommendations for follow-up care. When you go to the hospital and other medical professionals' offices for care, medical records, lab reports, and diagnostic reports will be created. Make sure to get records of each of your hospital or doctor's visits, your prescription drug costs, income losses from having to take time off from work, medical bills, and others. These types of documents can show your past medical losses. Your attorney can work with a medical expert to determine your likelihood of recovering from your injuries and the future anticipated medical expenses you might have.
Income losses, including future losses of your ability to earn an income, past and future medical costs, and property losses are known as special damages. These are damages for your pecuniary losses and are fairly straightforward to quantify. Your attorney can then use your economic losses to calculate the pain and suffering damages that you might expect to receive by using one of several methods.3. How Are Future Medical Costs Calculated?
In most cases, you should be at a maximum recovery level before accepting a settlement offer. However, if that is not possible, you should at least have reached a stage in your treatment in which you are comfortable with your physical condition. You should not agree to settle your case until you feel comfortable with your medical treatment.
If you are still undergoing treatment for your injuries, it is important to calculate your potential future medical costs and your pain and suffering. Your attorney can work with your doctor and a medical expert to determine the likely costs your treatment will require in the future.4. How Do I Handle My Property Losses?
If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, you likely need to get your vehicle back quickly or to settle that portion of your claim before the injury portion. Fortunately, you can settle your property damage claim for your vehicle without having to wait for your other damages to settle.
Do not leave your vehicle sitting at the mechanic's shop or body shop because you will be charged storage fees. Instead, call the insurance company to have an adjuster assess your car's damages, and then bring it in. If the adjuster totals your vehicle, you can expect to receive the value of your vehicle under the National Automobile Dealer's Association for its make, model, year, and mileage. If you have custom parts on your car, tell the adjuster so that he or she can take them into account.5. What Happens if the Other Driver is Underinsured?
If the at-fault driver in your case is underinsured and does not have enough insurance to cover your losses, your settlement with his or her insurance company will be limited by his or her policy limits. For example, under Cal. Ins. Code § 11580.1(b) and Cal. Veh. Code 16056, the minimum liability insurance requirements in California are only $15,000 for one injured person, $30,000 for two or more injured people per accident, and $5,000 in property damage.
It is easy to see that these limits can quickly be reached if you are seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident. This is why it is important to get uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage on your own automobile policy. UM/UIM coverage provides coverage for your injuries when your losses exceed the policy limits of the other driver's policy. If the other motorist is uninsured, your UM/UIM policy will cover the costs of your medical care. You should not be afraid to submit a claim to your insurance company to access your UM/UIM coverage when the other motorist's insurance coverage is insufficient to cover your losses. Your attorney can help you submit a claim to your UM/UIM insurance provider if the other motorist's policy limits are exhausted.6. Why Is Continuing Treatment Important?
If you do not go to the doctor after being injured in an accident, it will be difficult to prove that you were injured and deserve compensation. You should also get medical care as soon as possible after your accident. This helps to show that your injuries were caused by your accident and not some other event.
It is also important to follow all of your treatment recommendations and continue seeing your doctor and other specialists that might be recommended. This helps to prove the extent and severity of your injuries. Keeping all of your appointments can help you to build a stronger case.7. Do You Have to Hire an Attorney to Settle Your Claim?
While you are not required to retain an attorney to represent you in your injury case, doing so will increase your chances of getting a fair settlement offer. Injury attorneys go through years of higher education and must pass the bar exam before they can practice law and are much likelier to be able to negotiate with the insurance company to secure a reasonable amount of compensation.
However, it is also important to research the attorneys you consider. While many attorneys advertise their services, you need to find a lawyer who is experienced and has a strong reputation both in the legal community and among his or her current and former clients. An experienced attorney with a strong record of success is more likely to be able to negotiate a higher settlement offer. When insurance companies know the reputation of an experienced attorney, they are likelier to decide to settle the attorney's clients' claims fairly than if the lawyer is inexperienced or has a poor reputation.
Your attorney can properly value your claim and provide a range of values to you within which you might expect a reasonable settlement offer to fall. He or she can then send a demand letter to the insurance company and negotiate with it to secure the best possible settlement offer for you.8. What if the Insurance Company Sent a Settlement Offer to Me Already?
A common tactic used by insurance companies to try to minimize how much they might be forced to pay to settle claims is to send an early settlement offer to an injured accident victim. If you receive an offer before you have retained a lawyer, you should not accept it until you have had it reviewed by an experienced injury attorney.
In many cases, the initial offer is unreasonably low and will not be enough to cover the losses of an accident victim. If you accept a low offer, you will not be able to ask for more money later when you discover that you did not receive enough.9. How Will My Settlement Be Paid?
If you reach a settlement agreement with the insurance company, it will send a lump-sum payment to your attorney. Some people ask for structured settlements through which they receive series of payments. However, you might not be able to change the terms. Once your case has reached a settlement agreement, it can take from one to six weeks before the company sends a check. Your attorney will then take his or her fees and pay any liens that might have been filed. You will then receive a check for the balance.Talk to an Experienced Injury Lawyer
If someone else caused your injury accident, you should speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC to schedule a free consultation at 866-966-5240.