What to Do on Your First Offer From the Insurance Company After a Truck Accident
A report issued by the U.S. Highway Department shows that during the first nine months of a recent year, more than 116,000 accidents involved trucks across the United States. These accidents resulted in more than 3,300 fatalities and 57,330 injuries. This means each accident resulted in an adjuster beginning an investigation into the cause of the accident, determining who was at fault for the accident, and considering what dollar amounts an insurance company should offer for a settlement.
You’ll need a truck accident lawyer to make sure that you receive a fair offer—and if it’s not, to fight for a better outcome for your truck accident case.
Insurance Adjuster Roles Following Your Truck Accident
In some states, an insurance adjuster needs a license. Typically, an insurance adjuster investigates all roadway accidents. The adjuster’s role is to retrieve all relevant information including police reports. Additionally, they will determine who is at fault by reviewing not only the reports issued, but by speaking to witnesses, reviewing photos obtained at the scene and using other investigative techniques.
Once an investigation has been completed, the insurance adjuster reports back to the insurer and provides them with specific information pertaining to fault, damage caused during the accident, and information about any victims involved in the accident. The insurance company, working with the adjuster, determines what monetary damages are relevant and will then prepare an offer for the adjuster to provide to the victim.
No Fault Insurance and Insurance Adjusters
No-fault statutes govern some states, like Florida. However, all commercial vehicles are required to carry minimum levels of liability insurance. Commercial trucks that may travel to other states, even when registered in Florida must carry a minimum of $750,000 in liability coverage per incident. However, drivers of an automobile are only required to maintain coverage that includes Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability (PDL).
PIP coverage reimburses the injured person for 80 percent of their “all necessary and reasonable medical expenses up to $10,000.” Unfortunately, if you are a victim of a truck accident, this amount is meaningless depending on both the extent of your injuries, and the time it will take you to recover from those injuries.
Insurance adjusters in Florida hope most victims are unaware they have the right to file a truck accident lawsuit in the event their injuries are severe. Even though you may have to file a claim with your own insurer, there is a significant chance you will not recover the full monetary loss associated with your medical bills. Additionally, no-fault insurance claims do not make any allowances for time lost from work, or other expenses you may incur as a result of a truck accident.
Devastation From Accidents Involving Trucks
The weight differences between a car and a truck are startling. A larger empty car weighs, on average, approximately 6,000 pounds; an empty 18-wheeler weighs an average of 80,000 pounds. It is therefore understandable when the two are involved in an accident, drivers and passengers in a standard car are far more vulnerable to serious injury than the driver of a truck. While this does not mean truckers are not at risk for injury, the more likely victims are in automobiles.
Consider what happens if a car traveling 60 miles per hour is struck from the rear by a truck traveling 65 miles per hour. Your body will be thrown forward at a very high speed that could result in head and neck injuries, damage to your internal organs from striking the steering wheel, and should the truck roll over and land on your car, the potential crushing injuries could be fatal. No one should ever doubt the severity of damages and injuries caused by truck accidents.
Financial Repercussions Following Truck Accidents
The financial devastation following a truck accident can be serious. In addition to the damage to your vehicle, you could be facing weeks or months of medical bills and time lost from work.
Victims of a truck accident often suffer serious injuries that may include:
- Head and brain injuries
- Back and neck soft tissue injuries
- Broken bones
- Rib and torso injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
The problem is many of these injuries can take weeks or months to recover from. In some cases, victims may never recover to the level of health they enjoyed before the accident resulting in a loss of capability to care for themselves or the inability to return to their original jobs—if they are capable of returning to work at all.
This is when an insurance adjuster steps in and may make an offer from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. They are aware of the devastation your family is facing with a loss of income, mounting medical bills, and other expenses including rehabilitation therapy, prescription drugs, and part-time or full-time home help.
Oftentimes, this results in an adjuster working with the insurance company to make an offer to the victim. While it may be tempting to accept the initial offer an insurer makes, it is generally a better idea to contact an experienced truck accident attorney who understands truck accidents and discuss the offer (as well as the strings attached to the offer).
Why Accepting First Offers is a Bad Idea
Insurance companies know you are concerned about your finances while you are recovering from an accident. They also know this may cause you to make rash decisions in an attempt to avoid financial devastation.
Some reasons you should consider refusing a first offer include:
- Extent of medical bills – Chances are you will not know the full scope of your medical expenses for several weeks or months following an accident. The more serious the injury you are recovering from, the more likely you are to face ongoing medical bills for tests, pain medications, specialist visits, and more.
- Wage losses over time – Until you have a firm idea of how soon you will return to work. As part of the compensation you may recover following a truck accident, you may negotiate lost income as well as losses to your company retirement plans and other benefits.
- Property losses after an accident – While this loss will be immediately determined, the cost of replacement may depend on various factors. For example, if you need specialized equipment in your vehicle following an injury, a replacement vehicle could be more expensive than anticipated.
Strings Attached to Initial Settlements
One of the primary reasons you should consider involving a truck accident attorney before responding to an initial offer from an insurer is to protect your interests. When an insurance company makes an offer, there are almost always caveats attached to the offer. Whether the insurer has you sign documents, or they simply put caveats printed below the signature line on a check, you need to be aware of what you are sacrificing.
Generally, a first offer will have terms attached to it that states that following your acceptance of the offer, the insurance company has no further liability and therefore is exempt from being required to continue paying your medical expenses, and has no responsibility to pay you for any further loss of wages. Waivers like this can be devastating when your treatments end up pricier or your recovery takes longer than anticipated, complications develop, or returning to profitable work proves more challenging than expected.
These are a few of the reasons why you need to contact an experienced insurance dispute lawyer before you speak with the adjuster about any offer an insurance company makes, especially the first offer.
Understanding Insurance Company Motives
Victims of a truck accident should remember insurance companies make their money when you pay your insurance premium. They lose money when they pay legitimate claims. Therefore, it is clear that the fewer claims an insurance company pays, the higher their profit margins. Every business owner is in business to make money—insurers are no different. Therefore, while their business model may put them at odds with your understanding of insurers, the thoughts they have pertaining to protecting their profit margins are understandable.
When you pay an insurance premium you expect your insurance company to work for you. While this is a reasonable expectation, the fact remains, protecting your interests is not in their best interest. This is another reason why you need to work with a skilled truck accident lawyer.
Deciding to Involve a Truck Accident Lawyer
Some people are hesitant to work with a legal representative following an accident because they believe doing so may make it more challenging negotiating with an insurance company. They may also believe given the financial losses they are suffering as a result of a truck accident that hiring a truck accident lawyer is not financially feasible.
Both of these thoughts are misguided, and here is why:
- Knowledge about insurers – An attorney who has experience working with insurance companies has the skills necessary to negotiate successfully. Combine that with their knowledge of injuries based on their experience, and there is little doubt you will have a skilled negotiator working on your behalf.
- Financial concerns – Most p truck accident lawyers offer a free initial consultation for victims. Additionally, many truck accident attorneys will also work on a contingency fee basis, which means until they obtain a settlement on your behalf, they will not collect any attorney’s fees.
Finding the Right Truck Accident Attorney
When you need a lawyer, regardless of the reason, you want competence and experience. However, you also want to hire an attorney who is experienced in dealing with the situation you are facing. After all, you would not seek legal advice from a family lawyer if you were suing someone for medical malpractice. Therefore, the first thing you want to ensure is that the attorney you contact has experience with truck accidents.
Some of the other factors you should consider when you are looking for the right truck accident attorney include:
- Who will handle your case – Oftentimes, victims of truck accidents seek legal help from a skilled legal representative at a big-name law firm. They believe this is the best way to get the experience and skills they need to protect their interests when going up against insurance companies. However, what ends up happening, is these victims become just another case and they may get bounced from attorney to attorney. When you work with a knowledgeable Orlando truck accident attorney, you are more likely to have the same lawyer handling your case from start to finish.
- Communication is important – Do not be afraid to ask an attorney about how they handle communications during your case. There are few things more frustrating than having questions or concerns while your truck accident case is proceeding than having no communication from the legal team handling your claim. You want an attorney who will be available to answer your questions, address your concerns, and keep you updated on everything pertaining to your case.
- Protecting your interests – You want to hire a lawyer with a track record of protecting victims and their families. A kind, compassionate attorney who has previously worked with truck accident victims and is going to be pursuing what is right for you is important in truck accident cases.
- Track record of success – While it is true that the past successes of a law firm are not indicative of whether they will be as successful in the future, a track record of success can demonstrate that you have chosen the right lawyer for your case. Most experienced attorneys find they get a lot of their work by getting referrals from former clients.
After a truck accident, it is not unusual for you to be facing various challenges, including physical, emotional, and financial issues. You want to ensure your family’s financial future while still taking the time you need to fully recover from the injuries you suffered in a truck accident.
This is why you need to work closely with an attorney who will protect your rights—this will allow you to focus on your physical and emotional recovery while leaving the financial concerns associated with an insurance company offer to someone who has the experience to obtain the best offer possible.
When you have questions after a truck accident, or if you have received the first offer for a settlement following a truck accident, contact a truck accident attorney for a free case evaluation to learn what options are available to you.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814