I Have Been Hurt in a Car Wreck. Should I Accept the Insurance Companies First Settlement Offer?
The auto insurance company's first settlement offer is almost always just that, a first offer to settle.
The driver who was at fault for the accident (assuming that's not you) is going to be responsible for your damages, that means the cost of your past and future medical treatment, lost income from time missed at work, your vehicle repairs, past and future pain and suffering and any other compensable damages related to the accident.
Assuming the driver who caused your damages has car insurance, the settlement offer is going to come from the insurance company for the other driver, and if you have a lawyer, he or she will be the intermediary.
What are your options once you’ve received a settlement offer?
The First Offer (Probably) Won't Be the Last
The insurance company’s first settlement offer is just that. And it’s almost always going to be a low offer. I have personally had settlement negotiations which went on for a month and involved in excess of 20 offer/counteroffer cycles.
You are absolutely free to reject the offer, and in most cases you should reject it. Listen to your lawyer. He or she will have advice that’s tailored to your situation.
The time settlement negotiations take will depend on a number of factors. They include the nature and seriousness of your injuries and whether fault for the accident is an issue.
Your lawyer will likely draft a demand letter, sometimes known as a settlement brochure. A demand letter is your chance to methodically present your side of the story. How the accident happened, who was at fault, what medical treatment you’ve received so far, the prognosis for your recovery, and any other information that helps your case. The letter will include details on all of these aspects of the case, and will also include a dollar figure that you would be willing to accept in order to settle the case.
Making a Counter-Offer, and What Comes Next
After the insurance adjuster’s first offer in your car accident case, you have the right to respond with your own counter-offer. Again, you may get the best results by putting your counter-offer and your supporting arguments into a detailed car accident demand letter. I often tell clients it is a lot like buying a car. There has to be give and take.
Typically this is the course that a typical car accident settlement will follow:
1. You and your attorney if you have one respond with a detailed car accident injury demand letter that asks for more (sometimes much more) than what the insurer offered.
2. The insurance company makes an initial offer that is usually less than what your claim is probably worth.
3) Your attorney and the insurance adjuster exchange a few more letters and participate in a few more phone calls where you try to keep the settlement figure in the higher range, and the adjuster tries to bring the figure down.
4) Your attorney and the adjuster arrive at a final settlement figure that is satisfactory to both sides.
It will very likely be worth your while to discuss your case with an experienced car accident attorney at Seaton, Seaton & Dierks, L.L.P. (785) 776-4788.
Richard H. Seaton, Jr.