Don’t Take the First Offer the Insurance Company Gives You
After most people are injured in a car accident, they watch the medical bills pile up while their paycheck stops showing up. Then, the insurance company for the negligent driver who caused the crash makes you an offer to settle your car accident claim. It might sound like a lot of money to you, and a way to pay some of those bills. You are tempted to take the offer, and the insurance company is counting on it.
Dangling money in front of desperate injury victims is just one of the ways insurance companies try to pay as little as possible for the damages caused by their insureds. However, there are many reasons why you should not take the first offer the insurance company gives you. At Tormey & McConnell, we can tell you why.
At Tormey & McConnell, we use our combined 70 years of experience as personal injury attorneys for every client we represent in Amarillo, Borger, Canyon, Childress, Dumas, Hereford, and Pampa, Texas. Unlike most of our clients, we have been around the liability insurance company block many, many times. Our job is to help you get the settlement you deserve, not the one the insurance adjuster offers right out of the gate.
How Will the Insurance Company Respond to My Personal Injury Claim?
When you file an insurance claim against the liability policy of the driver who caused the accident that injured you, many companies generally respond in one or both extremes:
The adjuster may try to avoid you. They may or may not even acknowledge you asserted a claim. They may acknowledge receipt of your claim with a nice letter that includes a claim number. Then, you may never hear back from them again. You call and leave messages or emails and don’t get a response. The adjuster may hope you will give up until the two-year statute of limitations on your injury claim expires.
Alternatively, the adjuster may shoot you a settlement offer right away, and it might look like a lot of money. They are hoping you accept the offer because if you do, you forfeit any right to ask for more money from the insurer or to sue the driver in court.
Whatever the tactic, don’t give up, and don’t accept the initial offer. Your best option is to get the support of a skilled personal injury attorney.
Why Should I Refuse the First Offer?
No matter how tempting that offer looks to you, there is one thing you can count on. It is likely far too low. Your damages will exceed that lowball offer which leaves you with more bills to pay, more income lost due to your injuries, and no compensation for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. The insurance company wins by saving money. The insured person wins by avoiding a personal injury lawsuit. Despite a small influx of cash, you lose.
That initial offer is being extended before you even know what your accumulated medical expenses after a car accident will be. You may incur vastly greater expenses for treatment, be unable to work for much longer than you imagined and suffer long-term effects from the accident. You need to give yourself time to recover and time to reach the point where your doctor says you have reached maximum medical improvement.
Even if, by chance, the insurance company offers you what it tells you is a “policy limits offer,” you still should not accept it before you consult with a personal injury attorney. Your attorney knows what proof the insurer should proffer to prove what the policy limits are. Your attorney will also explore options for additional compensation, including umbrella liability policies and the ability of the at-fault driver to pay a higher judgment if you prevail in a personal injury lawsuit.
What Is Maximum Medical Improvement?
Maximum medical improvement, referred to as “MMI,” is the greatest extent to which you can recover from your injuries. MMI does not necessarily mean you have returned to the health and ability you had prior to the car crash. It means you cannot get any better; there is no other treatment that will make you any better than the point you have reached.
For example, your rotator cuff is torn in a car accident. You undergo surgery to repair it and complete physical therapy but you continue to have pain and limited movement in that shoulder. Your doctor may order additional physical therapy but still, the pain and limitation linger. Your doctor may determine that more physical therapy will not help, and there are no other surgical options. You are as healed as you are going to get, which means you have reached MMI.
The reason this is important is that while you may not incur additional medical expenses because there is no further effective treatment, the fact that you face a lifetime of ongoing pain and limitation of movement adds value to your claim. Had the negligent driver not caused the accident that injured you, you would not suffer these consequences.
What Happens Next If I Don’t Accept the Initial Offer
Your attorney will fully investigate liability and review your medical records, evidence of lost income, and other issues that add value to your claim.
Your attorney will also explore all liability coverage and confirm those coverages.
Then, your attorney will draft a settlement demand letter to send to the insurance company. The letter does not just ask for a certain amount of money to settle your claim. It makes a case for the value of the damages wrought by the insured’s negligence.
Just as you should not accept the insurance company’s first offer, the insurance company is unlikely to agree to your first settlement demand. Your attorney will then attempt to negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company. All decisions about accepting or refusing an offer and lowering the demand sum rest with you, not your attorney.
If you cannot reach a settlement agreement with the insurer, you have the option of having your attorney litigate your claim in court.
Understand Your Rights
You have a right to be compensated fairly for the injuries and damages you suffer when someone else is negligent. Insurance companies believe in paying as little to settle a claim as possible, regardless of the damages their insureds cause. The best way to protect your rights is to understand them and to have an experienced personal injury attorney protect them.
If you have been injured in Orlando or the surrounding communities in Florida, reach out to Tormey & McConnell. We will discuss your case for free, so call our office now.
If the insurance company calls you with an offer in the meantime, just say “no."