Car accidents can cause horrific injuries and substantial financial damages. If another party caused your car accident, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries. However, you must pursue a personal injury claim to recover money for your losses and damages.
Most car accident claims settle with the liability insurance company for the other driver. All drivers in Illinois must have minimum liability insurance coverage for bodily injury and property damage.
However, a victim can choose to pursue a lawsuit instead of dealing with the insurance company. If so, the insurance company is still involved because insurance companies generally hire an attorney to defend the lawsuit.
If you are injured in a car accident in Chicago, you will likely be contacted by the other driver’s insurance company. An insurance adjuster might offer to settle your claim. Before you sign a car accident settlement agreement, here are five things you need to know to protect your legal rights.
Car Accident Settlement Agreements Are Final
Car accident settlement agreements are legal contracts. They represent the final settlement for your car accident claim.
You give up your right to file a lawsuit and pursue a claim in court when you sign a settlement agreement. Therefore, you should always have legal advice from a Chicago car accident lawyer before signing the agreement. Once you sign the agreement, it cannot be undone.
You Do Not Have To Accept an Initial Settlement Offer
You are not legally required to accept a settlement offer from the insurance company. You have the right to refuse the offer and seek legal advice. It can be in your best interest to turn down the first offer because these offers tend to be for an amount lower than the value of your car accident claim.
Insurance companies understand that when you contact a lawyer, you will learn how much your claim is actually worth. Therefore, the insurance company may pressure you to accept a settlement offer. The adjuster might tell you that this is the best offer you will receive and that hiring a lawyer will only reduce the amount you receive for your claim.
Don’t fall for insurance company tricks. The company is looking out for its best interest, not yours.
Settlement Agreements Cover Claims and Injuries You Might Not Know You Have
You are responsible for understanding all terms and conditions of a settlement agreement. The agreement may be very long and contain many legal phrases and language that are difficult to understand.
Many people do not realize the language in a car accident settlement restricts their legal rights. When you sign a car accident settlement agreement, you release all parties from any further liability for your claim, including parties you might not be aware of at this time. You also give up your right to bring additional claims, even if you do not know about them at the time.
Car accident settlement agreements also waive your right to file a claim for unknown injuries. If you accept a settlement offer before you complete medical care, you give up your right to demand more money. Therefore, if you discover your car accident injuries resulted in a life-long impairment, you cannot demand more money for future damages.
Your Car Accident Claim Could Be Worth More Money Than You Think
The insurance company will not tell you if you could receive additional compensation by working with a Chicago car accident lawyer. It will not explain that the settlement offer is lower than the value of your damages. Instead, the insurance company will try to pay as little as possible for your claim.
Many accident victims understand they can receive reimbursement for economic damages, such as lost wages and medical bills. However, they might not realize they can also seek reimbursement for other financial losses, including out-of-pocket expenses. These expenses can include:
- Travel and mileage costs to and from doctor’s appointments
- Paying someone to help with household chores
- Hiring a babysitter to help with the children
- Paying for medications and medical supplies
Accident victims can also recover compensation for non-economic damages. These damages represent the pain and suffering a car accident victim experiences. You could receive compensation for emotional distress, mental anguish, and physical pain.
Insurance companies undervalue non-economic damages. An accident victim might not realize these damages are worth two, three, or four times as much as the insurance company is offering, depending on the facts of the case.
Additionally, victims can recover future damages if they sustain permanent impairments or disabilities. Future lost wages, diminished quality of life, and reduced earning capacity could total millions of dollars over a person’s lifetime.
A settlement offer might be fair, but you should always check with an attorney to verify how much your car accident case is worth before signing a settlement agreement.
You Can Settle a Car Accident Lawsuit Before Trial
Some accident victims do not want to go through a trial. They might be nervous about appearing in court or may be concerned about the risk of losing the case. However, you can settle a car accident lawsuit before the case goes to trial.
Your attorney might file a lawsuit to pressure the insurance company into settling the case. This strategy might be necessary if the insurance company disputes liability for your claim or the amount of your damages.
After a lawsuit is filed, the parties engage in discovery. Discovery allows each party to obtain information and evidence from the other party that helps them evaluate the strength of their case. This information helps you and your attorney evaluate whether to accept a settlement offer or proceed to trial.
What Should I Do if the Insurance Company Wants Me To Sign a Car Accident Settlement Agreement?
If you have not contacted a lawyer, now is a good time to do so. Tell the insurance company you must consider the offer and then take it to an attorney for review. An experienced Chicago personal injury attorney can tell you if the offer is fair based on the facts of your case.
Some car accident cases might be settled without legal counsel. However, situations that indicate you need a lawyer include, but are not limited to:
- You sustained severe injuries or permanent impairments
- The insurance company or another party is claiming comparative negligence (i.e., you contributed to the cause of the car accident)
- The company pressures you to accept a settlement offer before your doctor releases you from care
- A government agency, trucking company, or rideshare vehicle is involved in the crash
- You were involved in a multi-vehicle car accident
- Your child was injured in a car accident
- A loved one died because of injuries sustained in a car crash
- Your recovery period was lengthy, and you have substantial lost wages and medical bills
Talk with a lawyer if you are unsure how much your car accident is worth. Signing a settlement agreement ends your case. You deserve to be compensated for all damages caused by a car accident.
Call Now for a Free Consultation With Our Chicago Car Accident Lawyers
Do not let an insurance adjuster pressure you into accepting a car accident settlement without legal advice. Contact our lawyers at Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys for help at (312) 726-1616. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your car accident claim with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer.