Frequently Asked Questions - How Do You Respond To A Low Settlement Offer?
To obtain a settlement for any injuries you may have sustained in an auto accident, you have to present your claim to the at fault insurance company. Before you submit a claim, you will likely have gone through extensive medical treatment for your injuries. Most people treat with a physical therapist for many months in order to try to relieve their pain. You will probably also be referred for MRI’s to rule out any abnormal pathology. Depending on what the MRI results show, you may then be referred to an orthopedic doctor or neurosurgeon. Once you are finished with your medical treatment and your doctors have released you at maximum medical improvement, you or your attorney, if you have retained one, will present your entire claim to the insurance adjuster in order to get them to make a settlement offer. You or your attorney will include all your medical bills and records and any other supporting documents such as lost wages or any out of pocket costs you may have incurred. An amount will be included in the demand letter for the amount you want to settle your claim for, depending on what the policy limits are on the policy you are suing.
Once your claim has been submitted to the insurance adjuster and they have had a chance to review your claim, the adjuster will usually make a settlement offer within approximately thirty days. When making their offer, the adjuster will consider your injuries, treatment, lost wages and any future medical treatment or lost wages you may incur. The adjuster will contact you or your attorney with their offer once they have evaluated the claim. The adjuster will make a very low offer and you have the choice to either accept the offer or ask for a higher amount. If you have hired an experienced personal injury attorney, your attorney will never accept the first offer the adjuster makes unless they have offered the entire policy limits. Your attorney and the insurance adjuster will negotiate back and forth until they can come to an amicable settlement amount. Your attorney will contact you and let you know what the offer is and why they believe you should or should not settle for that amount. If your attorney believes you should not settle for the highest offer the adjuster has made, they will discuss with you the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the insurance company. Your attorney will never suggest filing a lawsuit if they do not think your case is strong enough to win as they have to pay for the cost of filing suit and the attorney does not get paid unless you win your settlement. It is always best to listen to the advice of your attorney as they are experienced and have many years of practicing personal injury law, but the choice is entirely up to you how you wish to proceed and settle the claim.
If your attorney advises you to file suit and you choose to do so, your attorney will discuss with you what a lawsuit entails. Filing a lawsuit against an insurance company can be costly and time consuming, however, it is sometimes the best or the only option in being able to obtain the maximum amount of money for your settlement for your pain and suffering. If a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company will assign your file to a defense firm to represent their interest in the claim. Your attorney and the defense attorney will file all necessary documents to establish the lawsuit in the county where the accident occurred. The defense attorneys will send a list of questions to you known as interrogatories and a list of documents they wish for your and your attorney to provide known as request to produce. Your attorney and their staff will work with you to handle any requests from the defense attorney and will submit everything on your behalf. In addition to this, you will also be required to present yourself for depositions and mediation. Before trial, you will be required to mediate the claim. You and your attorney will discuss your claim with a mediator who will then take your concerns to the defense attorney and will try to amicably settle the claim without the need to take the case to an actual trial. If the claim is not able to be settled at mediation, the case will proceed to a trial. Your claim will be presented to a judge and jury and the jury will decide how much to award you for your damages.
If you decide you wish to settle your case for the highest offer the insurance company has made, your attorney will let the adjuster know and they will cut a check to your attorney for that amount. If you do not have an attorney working on your claim, the adjuster will send the check directly to you. Most claims settle for much higher amounts if you have an experienced personal injury attorney working on your behalf as insurance adjusters know that an attorney can easily file a lawsuit if the offer is not accepted. Experienced attorneys also know the right things to say and do when negotiating a settlement offer with an insurance adjuster.
If you settle your claim for less than it is worth, you are not being compensated for all your damages and pain and suffering. Once you settle and close your personal injury claim, you are unable to re-open it if your injuries worsen or return. If you have an attorney working on your claim, they will make sure they do not settle your claim until you are completely sure you are ready to settle and your injuries have been properly treated and that your doctors are sure you have reached maximum medical improvement. If you decide to settle your claim without making sure you have reached maximum medical improvement, you will not be compensated for all your injuries.