Whether your personal injury was a minor setback or devastating blow, it’s taken a toll on you, your bank accounts, your health, and your sense of well-being. A personal injury might have caused a strain on your family and your work relationships as well, and feels all the more tragic because it was not caused by your mistake but because of someone else’s negligence.
What’s there not to rejoice about, then, when your insurance claim is acknowledged, and an offer is made? When an insurance company offers you money for your personal injury claim, would there ever be a reason not to accept?
Many people don’t realize that, no matter how finalized or polished the insurance offer appears to you, you do not have to accept the first offer. Insurance companies don’t have to tell you that they are entering negotiations, but they are. The insurance company’s offer, no matter how matter-of-factly it’s presented, is actually just an opening bid. You have every right to ask for more.
How can you recognize a lowball insurance offer after a personal injury claim? Here are some tips for making sure that you aren’t settling for less than you should.
1. Heal first. You should file your insurance claim in a timely manner to make sure that you don’t miss important deadlines. However, you should make sure that you have reached MMI (maximum medical improvement) before accepting a settlement offer. Otherwise, you might find that the healing process takes longer than anticipated or involves unexpected complications and costs. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a classic example of an injury that may seem fine at first but may linger or worsen. In that case, it is wise to contact a TBI attorney near you who can help you make the best decisions regarding your settlement timing and amount.
2. Itemize everything. You need evidence. Record days of work that you’ve missed, days of work that your family might have missed while supporting you, medical bills, related emails, and any related expenses (travel to the doctor’s office, etc.). Keep a medical journal of symptoms with dates and all medical visits. Photograph everything: injuries, scene of the accident, damaged property (as with a car accident), etc.
3. Stay calm. If you receive a lowball insurance claim, stay calm. It’s hard to imagine anything more upsetting than an offer that minimizes and discredits your injury. Although you may be seeing red, avoid sending an emotive response.
Your accident injury attorney may contact the insurance adjuster to see if he or she received and recorded all your current records and documentation of damages. If the lowball offer is a result of insufficient information, your next step will be to provide the adjuster with itemized and updated evidence, including your most recent medical bills and proof of lost income.
4. Investigate the insurance policy limit. No matter how deserving you are, the insurance company is not likely to pay you more than the worth of the insurance policy. In the case of a car accident, for example, if the at-fault driver’s insurance policy is worth $10,000 and you’ve spent $30,000 on medical bills, you will need the help of your attorney to see if anything can be done. Though it is unlikely that the insurance company will exceed the policy limit, it is possible. Knowing that dollar limit will help you and your attorney execute your case wisely.
5. Factor in pain and suffering. The legal profession has patterns and protocols for determining the amount of money that is traditionally attached to different kinds of pain and suffering, as well as what type of evidence will be required. You are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering that has been caused by the negligence of another person or group of people. A personal injury lawyer will know how to factor in mental anguish and the avoidable pain and suffering resulting from your accident.
6. Recognize that big insurance companies have time on their side. Your paperwork is pressing and personal to you, less so to the insurance company. You may need compensation immediately to pay the mortgage and buy groceries; the insurance company has no such pressing concerns. Whether deliberate or not, the insurance companies are going to move slower than you’d like them to, which causes some individuals to tire of negotiations or accept lowball offers. Whether you decide to do this or not is a personal decision, best made under the advice of a competent personal injury lawyer.
7. Reject and counter. If you decide to reject an offer from an insurance company after a personal injury claim, a written rejection needs to be prepared and sent. The written offer needs to respond to each point made in the initial offer and meet regulatory deadlines. Additionally, you and your attorney need to provide a counteroffer using your own calculations and evidence.
After you and your attorney send a counter offer to an insurance company, the insurance company might reply with an unchanged offer or a token increase. At this point, you will need to decide if you are willing to go to court to gain the compensation that you feel you deserve or accept a low offer to avoid a court battle. An accident injury lawyer is positioned to advise you about this difficult decision since your attorney’s compensation will come out of any court settlement. In other words, your personal injury attorney won’t advise you to go to court if she doesn’t feel you have a strong case, because otherwise she won’t get paid for her work.
Experiencing a personal injury because of someone else’s negligence is a challenging and difficult situation with effects that can linger for months and years. Finding an attorney that you trust will make all the difference in your experience.