There are really two separate ways to tell if the insurance company settlement offer is too low. The first is to look out for insurance company negotiating behavior that’s intended to intimidate you. The second way is to make your own rough settlement calculation with the help of a personal injury lawyer.
The following are all examples of tactics the insurance company might use when trying to convince or intimidate you into accepting an unfairly low settlement:
A good insurance company claim settlement should cover all the costs you incur due to the accident. You ideally shouldn’t have to pay anything out of pocket or suffer financially for the injuries and property damage someone else caused. Your compensation should cover not only your medical costs but also any wages you lost while your injuries kept you out of work.
You can calculate for yourself how much the minimum fair settlement should be by adding all of your medical bills together with your lost wages. Also add in any property damage you suffered, like the repair bill for your vehicle.
Although that calculation might sound simple, there are several factors that can make determining the fair value of your claim difficult. For one thing, the above calculation doesn’t include pain and suffering, which may be justified in your case.
There’s also the matter of fault and whether you share any of it. Your compensation will likely be reduced if you were partly to blame for your own injuries. You can share fault for an accident and still be owed money by the other driver’s insurance company, but they likely won’t want to pay you the full amount for your medical bills, lost wages and property damage.
Time might also be a factor in your settlement offer. Doctors don’t have a crystal ball that shows them exactly how long your recovery will take and how much all the necessary treatments will cost. Their initial estimate after your first emergency visit will be just that – an estimate.
You may require additional X-rays, MRIs, consultations with orthopedists or other advanced diagnostics to determine the true extent of your injuries. A doctor providing a second opinion might recommend an expensive surgery, which could increase your overall medical costs.
It’s often impossible for your car crash lawyer or doctor to know on day one exactly what your medical bills will be or how long you’ll end up being out of work. Until your medical and legal team have a fairly clear idea of what your recovery will look like, they may have trouble negotiating for all the money you deserve.
That being said, it still may become clear early on what type of settlement offer is too low. If you’ve suffered several broken bones your doctor might be able to tell you right away that you won’t be able to return to work for months. In that case your lost wages will at least be your monthly wage times three or four. You might also require emergency surgery after a serious accident, in which case you and your lawyer will know that any settlement offer that’s less than the cost of your surgery plus three months of wages will be too low.
Many people injured in car wrecks are tempted by that initial settlement offer. They might not have great health insurance, or they may not have the savings necessary to support themselves during their recovery.
When the insurance company calls and says, “Hey, we’re willing to give you this much money – and you should consider yourself lucky because it seems like maybe this accident was your fault,” a lot of injured people are inclined to accept the offer.
Before you accept any offer you should seriously consider your options. Many personal injury attorneys offer free consultations to people who were injured in car crashes, so it costs you nothing to get an honest assessment from an auto accident lawyer.
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