Don’t Settle too Early – Timing Your Settlement
There is nothing simple about being injured in a car accident. In fact, more than 2 million people are seriously injured in car accidents across the United States each year. Unfortunately, many people are injured in such a way that their injuries are permanent and progressive. Moreover, far too many people spend time and money recovering from injuries caused through no fault of their own.
Considering your injuries and damages, many accident victims are never quite able to resume their typical day-to-day activities. There are numerous factors involved in evaluating a personal injury claim, including but not limited to the existence of any of the following: disfigurement, permanent injuries, temporary disabilities, medical treatment, surgeries, pain and suffering, lost wages and expenses. Moreover, many accident victims don’t quite grasp the extent of their injuries until well after the accident.
If you have been injured as a result of a personal injury accident, you likely have begun wondering or even exploring what fair and reasonable compensation may be possible considering your case’s unique facts and circumstances. While there are thousands of variables to a single personal injury claim, it is important to remember that rushing your case will not and will never help you seek fair and reasonable compensation for your injuries. Timing and presentation are critical when filing and negotiating your car accident settlement.
It is worth mentioning that knowing what your claim’s statute of limitations is crucial when evaluating how much time you have available for seeking a fair and reasonable settlement of your claim. If your claim’s statute of limitations will be running or expiring within six (6) to twelve (12) months, consider speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer about how aggressive you should be in presenting your claim. Failing to take your claim’s statute of limitations into consideration may result in your claim for damages being barred.
So considering that a well-prepared and tactical approach to presenting your injury claim for damages is more beneficial to your interests, many insurance companies attempt to reach out to accident victims immediately after the accident in order to push an early settlement. An early settlement, while in theory sounds good, generally means that you have not been afforded the opportunity to understand exactly how you have been injured.
There have been stories of accident victims being contacted two or three days after the accident and other stories of adjusters arriving at the accident victims’ homes with a check in hand trying to force a settlement. Worse yet, there are even stories of adjusters getting accident victims to sign settlements while on pain medication.
Remember that the insurance company and their insurance adjusters operate with the sole goal of ensuring that you get less than what is actually owed to you.
Why should I Wait to Settle?
There are many reasons why waiting to settle your personal injury claim is typically better for you and your case. Most notably, claims for damages can be substantiated more effectively if the victim is given time to clearly and accurately identify and document their injuries and damages.
Consider for a moment why the insurance companies and adjusters love early settlements. The most common reason that insurance adjusters push for early settlements is that the longer the case sits, the more likely it is that an accident victim may speak to an attorney or seek medical attention. It is easier for the insurance company to pay you less when you haven’t clearly identified and documented each and every aspect of your personal injuries.
For instance, wouldn’t you be able to demand a larger settlement if you waited the extra week for the MRI results? Furthermore, what if your MRI shows a herniated disc that will require surgery and/or physical therapy?
Therefore, by thoroughly evaluating your personal injury claim, you will quickly learn that the more information you have about your damages the better off you are. You will also realize that early settlements are typically just another way the insurance company attempts to take money out of victims’ pockets.
How Long Should I Wait to Settle?
There is no clear answer to the question of how long you should wait to settle your claim. However, the best answer is don’t wait too long and ignore the statute of limitations.
With that being said, if you have been injured as a result of a car accident, you should seek the medical treatment needed. Also, be sure that you follow your doctor’s instructions and focus on getting healthy. Once you have been released by your doctor or have reached your Maximum Medical Improvement consider your case primed for processing. If you have been released by your doctor or have reached your Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) and you are unsure what comes next, visit our demand process section.
What’s the Problem With Accepting the First Offer?
If you have been injured in a car accident, it may be tempting to agree to the insurance adjuster’s first or even second settlement offer. If you have received an offer for settlement from the insurance company, consider the following reasons why you should wait until you understand your injuries and damages completely:
Your Damages and Injuries Aren’t Immediately Quantifiable. This means that it often takes weeks or even months before you are completely aware of all of your injuries and damages arising from your accident. Many traumatic injuries take several months to fully develop and even longer to diagnose and treat. What may seem like a minor pain now may require several surgeries or even hospitalization in the future. It is important that you realize time will typically tell what medical expenses, lost wages and other financial damages have actually been sustained.
The Insurance Company is Not on your Side. It is always unfortunate to meet an accident victim who settled their case too early for a quick payout and later realizes their mistake. Insurance adjusters work for the insurance company, and no matter how long you have been loyal to them, their goal is to ensure you accept a settlement that is good for their pocketbook and not yours. Insurance adjusters are not there to advocate for you to the insurance company. The adjusters are used to protect the insurance company’s profits.
One of the most interesting things about being in an accident is that the insurance companies want you to handle your accident claim in a way that benefits them. This is why most insurance adjusters will not talk to you about or even tell you about what you may actually be entitled to. For example, insurance adjusters rarely discuss types of damages that accident victims may be entitled to, namely medical bills, future medical expenses, lost wages, future lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, property damage and diminished value.
It is worth noting that if you decide to settle your claim and you execute the settlement and release paperwork, there are no do-overs or take-backs. If you sign your release today and then tomorrow you discover that you need surgery for your car accident-related injuries, you are likely out of luck. Therefore, once the release has been signed, there is not a way for you to hold your case open, despite what the insurance company has said, to assert additional claims. Be mindful that you have one bite at the proverbial settlement apple after your car accident.
What if I Can’t Afford Medical Treatment?
Many accident victims decide to settle their injury claim early to ensure that they can afford medical treatment. However, one of the most common mistakes with this approach is that the accident victims fail to see that they are using money for their injuries to pay for additional treatment that the insurance company should be responsible for.
If you have been injured through no fault of your own and cannot afford medical treatment, consider speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer about seeking medical treatment under a physician’s lien or medical lien. Receiving medical treatment under a medical lien allows you to get medical treatment and reimburse the medical provider from your settlement proceeds after the case resolves. Not all medical providers treat patients under a medical lien, but many do. For more information about treatment under a medical lien, visit our medical lien section to understand the benefits and risks with doing so.