You should not accept the first settlement offer unless you have shown the auto insurance company letter to an attorney who agrees the amount is fair. At Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman P.C., we provide free consultations to advise you on what “fair compensation” means, given your unique circumstances. Since consultations are free and you won’t have to pay a legal fee unless your car accident lawyer recovers money on your behalf, it is always worth it to seek the assistance of a trusted, experienced professional.
Why Should I Be Careful Dealing with the Insurance Company?
For insurers, even better than paying out a lowball claim is paying out no claim. Insurance companies have many strategies not to pay claims. For instance, they may ask, “How are you today?” If you say you are “good,” they may dispute that you’re injured at all, asking you to provide documentation of your injuries. They may claim the injuries sustained were a result of preexisting conditions. In “fault” states, liability may be disputed, and the insurer may say there is not enough evidence to prove their client was to blame for causing the collision.
There may be disputes as to when you first filed your claim. There may be stall tactics, hoping you’ll miss the window of opportunity to file a lawsuit– called “the personal injury statute of limitations,” which varies by state. Finally, once you sign a waiver or accept a check, you pass up your legal right to pursue damages in court.
How Do Insurance Companies Determine the Settlement Offer?
Most insurance companies use Colossus, a computer software program, to calculate the value of injury claims. It uses data provided by insurance adjusters, as well as over 600 injury codes and 10,000 rules to determine a mathematically fair offer.
Long periods of hospitalization, surgeries, medications, physical therapy, and symptoms like restricted movement, anxiety, or radiating pain are value drivers that may increase the base rate that was offered. Some companies will use the figure devised by Colossus as their final offer. Others may rely more heavily on the experience and judgment of human adjusters.
One significant factor generally not considered by insurers is the pain and suffering endured due to disability, emotional trauma, and the inability to work or enjoy your life. Often, it’s the “pain and suffering” component that can transform a $5,500 settlement offer from the insurer into a final settlement offer worth $100,000 or more, negotiated by your attorney.
What Happens If I Don’t Accept the Settlement Offer for My Car Accident?
Once you reject the offer, the insurance company will expect you to begin negotiating for what you think your claim is truly worth. Your best bet is to call a car accident law firm to speak with an attorney. Before you do, it may help to jot down some notes regarding the date, time, place, and events as you recall them.
In addition, try to assemble as many of the following documents as you can: a copy of your insurance policy, a police report, contact information for any other drivers or witnesses, correspondence received from the insurance company and the other driver’s attorney, medical records, your last pay stub and an estimation of time lost from work. It also helps to include photographs of the vehicles, location, injuries, traffic citations, vehicle damages estimates, a calendar of your medical appointments, and a daily pain journal.
Why a Trial May Be Necessary
A personal injury law firm has a team of investigators who can assist you in piecing together the above information, as well as expert witnesses on retainer who can help determine liability and the extent of past and future losses. Most car accidents do settle outside of court in a reasonable amount of time, for a much higher amount than what was initially offered. However, if your case involves very serious injury and we are confident we have enough evidence to win, we may recommend a trial before judge and jury.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
Since every case is unique, we invite you to contact us at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman P.C. to discuss your accident and help determine how much your claim is truly worth. We’ve helped personal injury plaintiffs in Rockland County, New York, and Bergen County, New Jersey, since 1975.