After the trauma of being in a car accident, it’s natural to want life to return to normal as quickly as possible. You want to regain your health, get your car fixed, and get back to work. So a quick car accident settlement with the insurance company can sound very inviting.
Resolving your claim and getting cash quickly can take a big item off your to-do list. But before you accept a car accident settlement offer, you should understand the whole picture. As a car accident attorney, I walk my clients through all the facts they need to know before agreeing to a settlement.
Know What Your Car Accident Case Is Worth
An insurance company’s goal is to maximize their profits, not look out for your best interests. Their first settlement offer to car crash victims is based on what they think you will accept. It is not based on what you are entitled to receive. To assess whether a settlement offer is fair, you need to know what your case is worth.
A good car accident settlement will compensate you for all your current and future expenses and damages, including:
- Car repair bills
- Replacement transportation
- Replacement services for household tasks you perform (like cooking, cleaning, yard work, shopping, child care)
- Medical expenses
- Costs of future medical treatment and therapy
- Lost wages
- Expected future lost earnings
- Mental health treatment for trauma and emotional injuries
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional or psychological injuries
Insurance companies want to close your case as quickly and cheaply as possible. They will pressure you to settle before you even know what all your damages are.
One of the biggest problems with speedy settlements is that some car accident injuries take time to show up or be properly diagnosed. Our bodies are complex systems and the full impact of injuries may not be apparent for weeks, months, or longer. For example, traumatic injuries like a shoulder dislocation or a broken bone can lead to post-traumatic arthritis. Head and spine injuries are also likely to have long-lasting negative effects and take time to develop.
To receive the compensation you deserve, you need to allow enough time to determine the full extent of your injuries. That includes what the likely future impact of those injuries will be.
Know Who Was at Fault for the Car Crash
California is a comparative negligence state. That means when an accident results in bodily injury and/or property damage, the people responsible for the accident must pay their share of the damage. Sometimes only one person is responsible for an accident. Sometimes more than one person is to blame.
Each person involved in the incident is assigned a percentage of fault (from 0-100%). Each person is then liable for paying damages equivalent to his percentage of the fault. So, if a driver is found 80% responsible for the accident, he must pay for 80% of the damages the accident caused. For cases that go to trial, the jury hears all the evidence and then allocates percentage of fault.
If a driver runs into your car while texting, you would say that driver caused the accident. But if you rolled through a stop sign when the accident occurred, you may be deemed partially responsible. If you are partly at fault, your award of damages will be reduced by the percentage of blame assigned to you.
Know That You Don’t Have to Accept the First, or Any, Car Accident Settlement Offer
Insurance companies want to pay as little as possible on each claim.
Claims adjusters will likely offer a settlement for the minimum amount they think you will accept. They will say the offer is what your case is worth. What your case is worth to them and what your case is worth to you, are likely to be vastly different.
Think about what has happened since your car accident. You probably missed work and have been in pain. You rearranged family members’ schedules to accommodate your medical care. You’ve spent time dealing with a wrecked car, injuries, insurance companies and your employer. The ripple effect through your household has probably affected everything from who picks up the kids from school to who gets groceries and does the laundry. Your time may be spent resting and recovering. You deserve compensation for all that pain and suffering and disruption of your family and relationships. The value of that is not included in a first offer from an insurance company.
Despite what an insurance company might tell you, their first offer is not the only offer they will make. If a settlement offer doesn’t feel fair, make a counter-offer. Show evidence that backs up your counter-offer, including:
- medical and auto repair bills
- rental car receipts
- payments for household support
- reduction in earnings
- estimates from medical, therapeutic and mental health providers of future care that will be needed.
- photographs of your injuries, including any scars
If the insurance company’s second, third or even sixth offer does not feel fair, you still don’t need to accept it. It is an offer, not a demand. If you are not presented with a just offer, you can take the case to trial.
Know That A Car Accident Settlement Agreement Includes a Binding Liability Release
If you decide to accept a car accident settlement agreement, it will include a release of liability, by which you agree not to ask the insurance company for anything else related to your claim. You cannot sue them in the future, even if you find out that your injuries are much more serious than originally thought, or if you suffer unexpected complications because of your injuries.
The compensation you accept in a settlement agreement is all that you will receive. Therefore, it is imperative that you know whether and how your injuries will affect your future employability, mobility, health and enjoyment of life. If you are likely to live with chronic pain for the next 40 years, you need to have funds to cover treatment that will help minimize that pain and maximize your ability to work and have fulfilling relationships.
Before talking with the insurance company, call me for a free consultation so you have an idea of the value of your case. If you decide to talk to the insurance company on your own, you can still hire a car accident lawyer at any time in the process. Having an experienced advocate on your side increases the likelihood that the insurance company will make a fair and just offer early in the process because they know you will take them all the way to court if they don’t properly compensate you.
I draw on my 35+ years of experience representing car accident victims and my network of experts to make sure that when you sign a settlement agreement, it is a full and fair arrangement for your present and future needs.
Getting Help from a Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer
Your Injuries are Personal to Me
I have represented thousands of clients who have suffered from the effects of a car crash. I know how insurance companies work and what their process is for settling auto accident claims. Based on more than 35 years of experience advocating for accident victims to get the compensation to which they are entitled, I can appropriately assess the value of your car accident case.
I know how to build a persuasive case for you to receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled. Because your injuries are personal to me, I handle all aspects of your claim.
I offer a free consultation by phone in English or Spanish. You will be under no obligation and you will never pay any money unless you recover compensation for your losses.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks at 888-394-1174 or use the convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation. Learn how an experienced Long Beach car accident lawyer can help if you’ve been hurt in a car accident.
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