If you’ve been in a crash and are trying to get the insurance company to offer you what you deserve, it can be challenging to negotiate a car accident settlement. Insurance companies are notorious for paying you less than what you need to compensate for your injuries and taking advantage of injured people who are not represented by lawyers.
As legal emergency personal injury lawyers, we deal with insurance companies every day. While they are trying to minimize your damages, we fight to maximize your recovery.
What is a car accident insurance settlement?
A car accident insurance settlement is simply the amount of money you agree to accept from an insurance to pay you for your injuries. What normally happens is after you file an insurance claim a claims adjuster will offer you a settlement amount to pay your damages and close the case. It is usually a very low amount, like $500. Once you receive an initial offer, you will have to decide whether to accept it or attempt to negotiate a better settlement.
While it’s completely understandable why some people just want to take the initial offer, the first settlement the insurance company offers is always a lowball offer. They want you to agree to accept this little settlement as soon as possible to avoid you hiring an experienced legal emergency car accident lawyer and pursuing the real damages you may be owed for your injuries.
Insurance claims adjusters will often approach you with a lowball settlement offer immediately following your accident; when you can’t possibly know the full extent of your injuries. If you take that initial settlement, you’ll have to sign away your right to receive any additional compensation.
So, if your medical expenses end up being higher than the offer you accepted, you will be stuck footing the bill on your own. For this reason, it’s a good rule of thumb to refuse all settlement offers until you have fully recovered from your injuries.
How do I negotiate a car accident insurance settlement?
You wouldn’t pay the sticker price on a new car, so why would you accept the first settlement an insurance company offers? Negotiating with insurance companies is essential for ensuring you receive full compensation for your injuries.
Insurance Companies Are Not Your Friends
It’s important to remember that insurance companies are not looking out for your best interests; as for-profit businesses, they are looking out for the bottom line. Part of the way insurance companies earn profits is by ponying up the lowest amount of money the claimant will accept for every claim they have to pay.
Whether you are working with the other driver’s insurance company or your own, no one you speak with at an insurance company is trying to help you. Insurance adjusters are trained to look for ways to diminish the value of your car accident claim, even if it requires tricking you or twisting your words.
The Negotiation Process
Keeping the insurance company’s motivations in mind, you should never settle for an offer that is less than you deserve. And you won’t get the reimbursement you’re entitled to without negotiation.
The negotiation process will vary depending on whether you are represented by an attorney. If you don’t have an attorney, the insurance company adjuster will make an initial offer, and it will be up to you to negotiate for a higher amount. You can provide evidence supporting the extent of your injuries and expenses to help strengthen your case. Ultimately, you’re at the mercy of what the insurance company is willing to offer to make you go away.
If you hire an attorney, you won’t have to deal with the insurance company at all. Once you hire an attorney, insurance companies can’t contact you and may only discuss the case with your attorney.
Once the property damage to your vehicle has been fixed and you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement, your attorney will gather records to support all your expenses and send a demand letter to the insurance company. The claims adjuster will review the request and respond with an initial offer.
An experienced personal injury attorney will negotiate aggressively with the insurance company to secure a full and fair settlement. The negotiation process generally consists of multiple phone calls, meetings, and communications between your lawyer and the insurance company. Your attorney will keep you informed throughout the process, and it will ultimately be your decision whether or not to accept any settlement offered.
How long does a car accident settlement negotiation take?
When you hold out for the car accident settlement you deserve, negotiation can take some time. Here’s an average timeline for a typical case:
- Healing time — 2 to 5 months for soft tissue injuries; 3 months to a year for more severe injuries like broken bones.
- Record collection — 1 to 4 months, depending on how quickly third parties like medical providers and your employer provide documentation.
- Negotiation — 4 to 5 months from the time record collection is completed to securing a top offer from the insurance company.
Since every case is different, it’s impossible to know for sure how long your negotiations will take. However, the insurance companies count on you accepting less than you deserve because you don’t want to wait for them to offer more. To receive the maximum settlement possible, you’ll have to be patient.
Can you counter a car accident settlement?
Until you’ve accepted an offer, you can always counter a car accident settlement from an insurance company. However, once you agree to an amount, there’s no going back, revising, or requesting more money. For this reason, you should always make sure you know the full extent of your injuries before taking a settlement.
If you’ve negotiated the insurance company to its top settlement offer and it’s still insufficient, the next step is to take the case to court. A personal injury attorney can initiate a lawsuit on your behalf and get you the compensation you deserve.
Do I need a car accident attorney to negotiate a settlement?
You aren’t required to hire a car accident attorney to negotiate your settlement. You can deal with the insurance company yourself, accept a settlement offer, and get the case closed without a lawyer.
However, unless the injuries and property damage involved in your accident is very minor, you will generally benefit from hiring an attorney. Here are a few of the advantages of having an experienced personal injury attorney represent you in your car accident case:
- As trained and skilled negotiators, lawyers can secure a higher settlement, even after attorney fees are subtracted.
- Insurance companies take your personal injury claim more seriously when you are represented by an attorney and generally offer more money from the start.
- Hiring a lawyer allows you to avoid the stress of dealing with insurance companies.
- Lawyers can help you navigate complex cases, such as multi-vehicle crashes or high-value claims.
- If necessary, attorneys can take your case to court and win.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you should consult with a skilled personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Experienced personal injury attorneys know how to negotiate with insurance companies to get you the best settlement possible.
Have questions? We protect victims like you every day.
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Legal Emergency Lawyers™ legal services
Attorney911 Legal Emergency Lawyers™ legal services is a Texas-based personal injury and criminal defense law firm with offices in Houston and Austin, though we are proud to serve Texans from all over the state and represent clients in federal court. We handle a wide variety of legal issues — from car accidents to worker’s compensation to DUI/DWI offenses. Our staff is bilingual, friendly, and genuinely passionate about helping our clients, whether it’s a million-dollar case or a thousand-dollar case. We also understand that cost can be a prohibitive factor in hiring a lawyer, and are willing to work with you on structuring payment in a way that is fair and feasible. We do accept credit cards for our hourly fees, and take some cases on contingency, which means you don’t pay us unless and until you get paid yourself. We know that you have a choice in your legal representation, and we believe that what makes us stand out from the competition is our real emotional investment in our clients. We see you as a person — not a paycheck. And we will fight hard for you, because we truly care.