After a car accident or another serious personal injury accident that was not your fault, the at-fault party’s insurance company will likely quickly offer you a settlement to cover the costs of your injuries. However, you do not have to accept the first settlement they offer you. Sometimes, these insurance companies offer the lowest settlement possible to get things over with. But you can hold off until you get a higher settlement.
Whether you accept a settlement is your choice. No one can make this decision for you, including the insurance company. You should seek advice from a personal injury attorney on whether an offer is fair, but the attorney cannot decide for you. Accepting a settlement should involve many considerations, and the right injury lawyer can walk you through them.
If you refuse the first settlement offer, the insurance company will have to negotiate with you until you come up with a settlement amount that works for both sides. Again, you want your personal injury lawyer to handle all negotiations for you. Insurance companies negotiate settlements daily, and you do not. A professional advocate for you can often lead to a favorable outcome. If you cannot agree with the insurance company, your case may have to go to court.
If you are hoping to negotiate a better settlement for yourself after an accident, you should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible for help. Lawyers are skilled negotiators, which means they can work to get you the best settlement possible to cover your injuries. They will also ensure you do not unknowingly accept an offer far less than you need to cover your losses.
How A Personal Injury Settlement Negotiation Works?: Seven Steps
To start, let’s look at the process of personal injury negotiations. Of course, every negotiation starts with a personal injury accident.
The common personal injury accidents you will run into include:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Bicycle or pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Wrongful death accidents
In most cases, these accidents will not be your fault. However, proving who was at fault in the accident can be challenging. You will need to hire a personal injury lawyer to help you make your case so that you can get the settlement you deserve after suffering from someone else’s careless actions.
Once you hire a lawyer, they may take these steps to pursue your case:
- Lawyers will gather evidence, including medical records and bills, police reports (if available), witness statements, photos of the accident scene and your injuries, and documentation of lost income or other personal and financial losses.
- Lawyers will file a claim against the responsible party and/or their insurance company, seeking compensation for all the damages you have suffered since your accident.
- The responsible party will respond to the claim, either denying it or making a settlement offer.
- Both sides of the case will gather more evidence, including sharing what they have, seeking help from medical experts, performing Depositions (verbal questionings such as you might see in court), and sending Interrogatories (written questionnaires for each party and witness).
- Lawyers will enter into negotiations, seeking to get a compensation amount that will make you happy and get you what you deserve.
- If no settlement agreement is possible, lawyers will take the case to court to fight it.
- A judge and jury will hear your case and decide the final settlement you will receive from the responsible party.
As you can see, there are many steps to a personal injury case. Gathering evidence and negotiating a settlement can take a long time, from months to years. You must file your claim as soon as you can so that you can reach the appropriate settlement amount as soon as possible.
Accepting Initial Settlement Offers From Insurance Companies
Typically, you will get a settlement offer from the insurance company pretty quickly after your accident. The problem is, this offer will likely be pretty low because insurance companies are for-profit organizations they have to make money to survive. But they shouldn’t take advantage of you to do that.
They mainly make money through underwriting and investments. By underwriting, they must make more from the premiums their policyholders pay them than they spend by paying for claims.
Insurance companies will often start with a low offer to keep as much money as possible. Many victims of personal injury accidents jump to take the first settlement offered, as they are desperate to get help paying their medical bills. However, this is not wise because you can almost always get a higher settlement if you decide to negotiate.
If you accept the first offer made, you might end up without enough money to help you with your bills. In many cases, you will end up seeing infections, complications, or long-lasting treatment needs resulting from injuries you receive in an accident. If you accept the first settlement offer that crosses your path, you will not recover any compensation to cover the future costs that resulted from the accident but manifested later.
Personal injury lawyers can help you make sure you get what you need. Most lawyers will take time to gather medical records and other evidence to make sure they get you everything you need. They can also hire medical experts who can estimate how much you will suffer and spend throughout your recovery, no matter how long it lasts.
Refusing Initial Settlement Offers From Insurance Companies
You may not want to accept the initial settlement offer from the insurance company. Unlike the insurance company, your goal in this settlement is to get as much money as you deserve to pay for medical bills and other expenses.
Under the law, you may seek compensation for:
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Medical expenses (present and future)
- Lost earnings
- Lost time
- Lost earning capacity
- Loss of consortium (relationships)
- Property damage
All these damages will add up to a lot of money. If you feel that the first settlement offer made does not cover all those damages, you can refuse the settlement offer and try to get a better one.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Will Help You Refuse an Unfair Settlement Offer?
If you want to refuse a settlement offer and seek a better one, you will need help from a personal injury lawyer. Not only will they negotiate and gather evidence, but they will also make sure you know everything you need to know about your case.
When you start negotiations with a lawyer, this is how it works. First, the lawyer will let the other party know that you reject their initial offer and want a better one. They will likely write a letter, with your help, detailing why you believe you deserve a better offer and how much you are looking for. Your attorney will send this response to the other party.
The insurance company will now bring another offer to the table. Your lawyer will probably get the offer by letter or email, then bring it to you. They will let you know if they think it is a good offer and if they think you can get a higher offer if you keep fighting. They will then allow you to decide whether you want to take that offer or try again.
If you decide to keep negotiating, this process will repeat until you finally get to a settlement amount you are willing to accept. If the insurance company refuses to give you the offer you feel you deserve and need, you can take them to court.
It is important to note that your final settlement is totally up to you. You get to decide what offers you do and do not take. Your lawyers will provide guidance based on their previous experiences to help you make the best decision, but they will not force you to do anything. You can choose how much of a settlement offer you will accept.
Should a Personal Injury Case Go to Court?
It may seem like personal injury cases always go to court, especially if you pay attention to TV shows or movies that show these cases regularly playing out in the courtroom. While it makes for great drama, not all personal injury cases must go to court for a satisfactory resolution. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, so many personal injury trials settle out of court.
Should you go to court with your trial? While, in some cases, you might receive higher compensation, there are reasons to hope you can get a good settlement before going to court.
The main reasons are:
- Trials take longer. Most trials will take many months or even years to complete. That is a long time to wait while you are trying to recover from your injuries and also seeking to keep up on medical bills without going into debt.
- Trials give you less control. In settlement negotiations, you can decide how much you are willing to take. If your trial goes to court, you will not have ultimate control over the damages you receive. Instead, the judge or jury will be responsible for making the decision and awarding you what they think you deserve.
- Trials are more expensive. You do not have to pay anything out of pocket for a case that goes to court. However, you might pay additional contingency fees from your award following a trial than if you settled through negotiations in advance.
Of course, going to trial is the right decision in some cases. Sometimes, it is fully worth waiting longer to obtain a better outcome. You can earn more in court in many cases. It is also nice to see justice done when the court forces the person who caused your injury to pay what they owe you.
Can I Use Other Options Besides Settlement or Trial?
If you do not want to go to trial, but negotiations are not going well, you might still get a favorable settlement by trying another legal option
With a lawyer’s help, you can try:
- Arbitration. Arbitration is common because it provides a balanced alternative to going to trial. The arbitration process has some similarities to court but is less formal. Usually, a single third-party arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators will view the evidence in your case and decide how much you deserve. The decision of the arbitrator or arbitrators is binding on all parties.
- Mediation. Mediation is a much simpler process than arbitration. In mediation, a single neutral party will act as the go-between for the parties seeking resolution. The mediator has no official authority over proceedings. They might make suggestions for a resolution based on their knowledge of the case, but the parties involved are not required to accept those suggestions. Instead, the mediator will stand over negotiations and ensure things proceed smoothly.
- Settlement Conference. A settlement conference is usually a much quicker way of settling negotiations. It has elements of both arbitration and mediation. In a settlement conference, the parties will meet before a judge and discuss settlement options. The judge may make suggestions, but no party is required to follow those suggestions. In the end, the judge will mediate an appropriate and final settlement agreement between the parties involved.
If you were recently in a serious accident and suffered severe personal injuries, do not go through the recovery process alone. You want to ensure you get all the money you deserve and need from your settlement.
Do not rush to accept the first settlement offer you receive just so you can pay your bills. Instead, get in touch with a personal injury lawyer. A good lawyer will help you find alternatives to going into debt while you await a favorable outcome in your personal injury claim. They will help you fight for the best possible settlement so that you do not leave empty-handed or still have to pay a stack of bills because you didn’t get the money you needed from the person who injured you.
For help negotiating your settlement, reach out to an attorney for a free consultation and answers to any questions.