The short answer is “No.” The insurance company’s first offer is almost always a lowball offer—if they make an offer. Whether you have a medical malpractice case, vehicle accident case, sexual abuse case, premises liability, or product liability case, you will most likely deal with insurance companies. Because they are in business to make a profit, they will never offer you a fair and reasonable settlement as a first offer.
In the case of car accidents, you almost always deal with insurance companies. However, if the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, you might have to sue the driver and other at-fault parties directly. If a commercial vehicle driver is at fault for the car accident and doesn’t have insurance, you may be able to sue the employer or others or recover a settlement from their insurance companies.
How Insurance Companies Work and Why You Shouldn’t Accept the First Offer
Because an insurance company wants to lose as little money as possible, it will find any reason to deny a claim or pay as little as possible. Depending on the severity of your injuries, a first offer may not cover medical expenses—and you most likely have many more losses you should recover.
Once you notify an insurance company of an accident, it will investigate the case, including your injuries. If the insurance company believes its client is at fault for your injuries and losses, it might offer you a settlement. You might be tempted to take the settlement if you do not have an attorney.
However, insurance companies use several tricks to deny a claim or get you to accept a pittance. First, the insurance company looks for reasons to deny your claim. They will check your social media. They might use something you wrote or a photo you posted to claim that your injuries are not as bad as you say. For example, you might post a photo of you and your family going out to eat. The insurance company might say that if you can go out to eat, your injuries are not as bad as you claim.
Another trick is to admit their client’s fault in the accident, then tell you the most they can pay is a certain amount. That is almost always never true. Insurance companies will also try to get you to talk about the accident. You could inadvertently say something that the insurance company will twist to use against you.
Insurance companies use these tricks and others to get out of paying a fair and reasonable settlement. We recommend that you don’t even speak with the insurance company. Instead, have an attorney file the claim for you.
Insurance Company Settlement Contracts
Once you sign a settlement contract with an insurance company, you can’t go back and ask for more if you find that your injuries are more severe than you thought or if you learn that what the insurance company paid doesn’t cover all of your expenses, losses, and other damages.
First, it’s always better to have an attorney review any settlement offer the insurance company sends you. Second, there is always room for negotiation! And finally, some injuries could take weeks or even months to manifest. You don’t want to sign a settlement with a low offer too soon, as you could need more than the insurance company’s first offer.
While it might seem like it’s taking too long and you need the money now, waiting it out and getting the compensation you deserve is always better.
The severity and type of your injuries depend on several factors, including the size and weight of the vehicles involved, the speed of the vehicles, and the way the at-fault driver’s vehicle hits yours.
Injuries might include
- Bumps, bruises, scratches, scrapes, and cuts.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones and other crush injuries.
- Ear injuries, including deafness.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Road rash.
- Chemical and thermal burns.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
Accident and incident injuries could also lead to secondary injuries, such as infections and deafness. For example, the open wound you received in the accident could become infected just as a surgical wound could become infected.
Additionally, accident injuries could exacerbate existing illnesses and injuries, causing more pain and suffering and other damages. You are also entitled to recover compensation to pay for the added expense of treating these injuries or illnesses, as you wouldn’t have the additional expense and pain if not for the defendant’s actions or inactions.
Depending on the type of injuries you sustained, you could recover compensatory damages and punitive damages. The court orders compensatory damages to make you whole again. Compensatory damages include economic damages and non-economic damages. It also orders punitive damages to punish the defendant’s grossly negligent actions or inactions.
Most people in accidents or incidents recover economic damages if they can prove the defendant’s negligence. Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value and include:
Most accidents and incidents result in injuries. If another’s negligence caused these injuries, you could recover compensation from your insurance company and any out-of-pocket expenses you have.
Medical expenses include
- Doctor’s appointments.
- Surgeries and follow-up appointments.
- Prescriptions and prescribed over-the-counter medications.
- Ambulatory aids.
- Hand controls for your vehicle.
- Updates to your home, including but not limited to handrails, wheelchair ramps, grab bars, and widened doorways.
- Physical therapy.
- Occupational therapy.
- Cognitive therapy.
- Psychological therapy.
- Rehabilitative care (temporary or permanent).
- Home health aides (full- or part-time).
You could also recover compensation for any time you miss work because of car accident injuries. If the car accident caused long-term or permanent injuries, you could recover loss of future earning capacity.
If you are able to return to work, but your injuries won’t allow you to work full time, nor in the profession, you had prior to the accident, you could recover partial loss of future earning capacity to make up the difference in your previous and current salary.
In some cases, such as vehicle accident cases, you could recover compensation for destroyed or damaged personal property, including your vehicle and anything of value in the vehicle that the accident damaged or destroyed.
If a car accident causes the death of a loved one, you could recover compensation for death-related expenses, including:
- Burial expenses.
- Funeral expenses.
- Cremation expenses.
- Certain probate court costs.
- Probate attorney’s fees and costs.
Not everyone can recover non-economic damages. Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value.
Usually, those whose injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities and those who have lost a loved one can recover non-economic damages, including:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make changes, such as taking prescriptions or using ambulatory aids for the rest of your life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy time with your family or can no longer attend family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a finger or leg.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your bladder or eyesight.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Excessive scarring or disfigurement.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, including but not limited to house cleaning, grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, and home repair and maintenance.
It is usually difficult to recover punitive damages, but when you can, it is worth the extra time it takes. If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one because of a car or truck accident you could recover punitive damages if the court finds that the defendant’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional.
Car Accident Responsible Parties
The at-fault driver is sometimes not the only person at fault for your injuries and losses, especially if the driver is a commercial driver.
Others who might share responsibility for your damages include:
- Another driver who crashed into the driver that wrecked into you.
- The driver’s employer.
- The weather, including the sun.
- A third-party dispatcher.
- An inspector.
- The vehicle manufacturer.
- If a trailer caused the accident, the trailer manufacturer.
- A municipality for poorly maintained roads.
Causes of Car Accidents
Common causes of car accidents include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Driving while distracted.
- Poorly maintained vehicle.
- Malfunctioning parts.
- Incorrectly installed parts.
- Driving recklessly or aggressively.
- Speeding and excessive speeding.
- Driving too fast for the conditions (which can still happen even when driving below the speed limit).
- Driving while tired or fatigued.
- Another driver’s reckless driving causes the person who hit you to wreck.
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help You After an Accident or Incident?
Because insurance companies will do anything to deny a claim or offer you just enough to make you go away, it is a good idea to retain an attorney as soon after the accident or incident as soon as possible.
A good legal team will:
- Investigate your case.
- Look for additional defendants that might share the responsibility for your injuries and losses, such as in a truck accident where manufacturers, driver employers, inspectors, dispatchers, and others might share fault.
- Review medical records.
- Can recommend specialists if needed.
- Interview witnesses.
- Collect evidence to support your claim through depositions, subpoenas, requests for admissions, interrogatories, and requests for disclosures.
- Negotiate with insurance companies.
- Recover the compensation you deserve instead of the pittance the insurance company will grudgingly pay you—if it pays at all.
- Prepare to represent you in court if the insurance company refuses a fair and reasonable settlement.
- Ensure the defendant doesn’t violate your rights.
How Long Will It Take to Receive a Settlement from an Insurance Company?
Once you and the insurance company agree on a settlement amount, one of the attorneys—usually the insurance company’s attorney—must draft the settlement agreement. Depending on the attorney, that could take a couple of weeks.
Once their attorney drafts the settlement agreement, they forward it to your attorney for review. If your attorney doesn’t find anything wrong or missing, he will forward it to you for your review.
If you agree the settlement agreement is correct, you’ll sign and notarize it, and your attorney will forward it to the insurance company’s attorney for processing.
If you see anything you want to change, discuss it with your attorney. If your attorney believes that your changes are within the verbal agreement, he will request that the insurance company’s attorney make the changes. If the insurance company’s attorney agrees, she makes the changes and forwards the agreement to your attorney for review and your signature.
After you sign the agreement, the insurance company’s attorneys process it and forward a check to your attorney, who then deposits it in his escrow account. Depending on the amount, it could take up to 14 days to clear—your attorney cannot take the next step until the check clears.
When the check clears, your attorney pays any outstanding medical expenses you might have and reimburses your health, homeowners, and vehicle insurance companies if you used them to cover your medical expenses while waiting for your settlement. Your attorney then deducts their percentage as agreed to in the contingency agreement you signed when you retained them. They then forward the balance to you to deposit and use as you wish.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one because of an accident, contact a car accident lawyer for a free case evaluation.