You’ve just received a personal injury settlement offer from the insurance company representing the person who caused your injuries in a car crash or other mishap. The offer is not even close to the amount you had hoped for, perhaps not even enough to cover your current medical expenses and income you lost during recovery. But you’re tired and in pain and not at all excited about the idea of haggling with insurance adjusters or going to court over the matter. Should you accept the settlement offer without talking to a trained personal injury lawyer?
It can be awfully tempting sometimes to take that first settlement offer from an insurance company when you have been injured. Most likely you’ve been through several weeks of medical treatment, you have not been paid for most of the time you took off from work, and medical bills and household bills are piling up. It sure would be nice to have an insurance check to help you. Besides, you are feeling much better and expect that treatment will be over soon and you’ll go back to work soon.
Unfortunately, in my experience as a Montana personal injury lawyer, accepting an early settlement offer from the insurance company is usually a mistake. Here is why:
Insurance companies don’t make money by paying claims. They make money by investing customers’ premiums and earning money on those investments. Every dollar an insurance company will pay out in claims is a dollar that is not earning income. Because of this profit strategy, insurance companies have found it highly profitable to deny claims or pay as little as possible in settlements. The result is that most insurance companies first offer the smallest amount they think a person may accept. Often that amount is far less than the value of the person’s injuries and the injured individual is left with unpaid medical bills and other financial woes stemming from their accident.
In 2007, a report by CNN showed that 10 out of the top 12 insurance companies utilize this strategy. The report revealed that insurers actually count on the fact that people will take their settlement offers out of fear of receiving nothing if they do not. Don’t fall for this tactic. Insist on the full value of your injuries. A personal injury attorney can help you negotiate with the insurance company and most likely persuade them to agree to a larger settlement than you can on your own.
One of the reasons attorneys are more successful at getting the fair value out of insurance companies is that they thoroughly understand personal injury law and how a serious injury is likely to affect a person. Individuals without this training and experience, however, often do not realize every aspect of financial losses to which they are entitled to receive compensation. Nor do they understand all of the ways their injury will impact their lives for many years or forever.
For example, most people do not understand that their injuries may flare up again when they return to work or other activities. Costs associated with recovering from these recurring problems need to be included in the settlement. Most people also do not know they may be entitled to damages for pain and suffering or how to calculate those damages and present evidence of it to the insurance companies. Nor do they know how to calculate the value of life-long impacts, such as a disability or no longer being able to engage in one’s favorite activities. Calculating the value of an injury can be very complex and should usually be handled by a personal injury attorney.
The third reason that accepting an early personal injury settlement offer from an insurance company may not be wise – especially the first offer – is that accepting the offer usually means you cannot claim any later identified future medical costs or lost wages. By accepting the offer and cashing the insurance company’s check you likely agree to these terms. This is a problem if the injury symptoms return or you later find that you cannot play basketball (or whatever activity) without pain anymore.
If an insurance company offers you a settlement that seems close to your current costs or is more than those costs, be wary. The insurance company may have decided that you will have years of medical treatments and lost income and that they are better off paying more now than having to incur those future costs. It is because of these kinds of tactics that anyone with a significant injury should consult with a trained personal injury lawyer before accepting a settlement offer from an insurance company.
If you, a loved one, or friend has been injured in a vehicle crash or other event in Wyoming or Montana, the injury lawyers at Stinson Law Group have the experience and training to make sure the insurance company treats you fairly. You do not have to “settle” for less than is fair, for less than your medical costs and lost wages, or be left without fair compensation for future problems caused by your injuries. Call the injury lawyers at Stinson Law Group toll free today for a free consultation: (888) 527-6090.