Insurance companies exist to provide financial compensation to people involved in an accident. They create policies with payout limits for bodily injury, cover the cost of repairs for physical property, and pay for incidental damages to innocent bystanders and property owners. Insurers typically offer an accident victim a lump sum of money to cover their medical bills, along with a nominal amount for pain and suffering; this is known as a settlement.
The settlement is intended to make an accident victim “go away” after getting a set dollar amount and signing an agreement that bars the accident victim from suing for further damages. A claims adjuster for the insurance company will approach an accident victim with a settlement offer that lays out the details of the claim and how much the insurer is willing to pay for each portion.
The amounts are totaled into one sum that represents the amount the accident victim will receive if they accept. The adjuster’s job is to put pressure on the accident victim to accept the offer even though it might be unfair to the victim. This is the main reason why a Texas car accident victim often needs the assistance of a Texas personal injury lawyer. The financial stakes are high, and the insurer is going to do its best to go low in response. A personal injury lawyer can prevent the insurer from pushing an accident victim into an unfavorable settlement while negotiating to get a fair offer and preserving the right to sue in the future. Here are 6 reasons why you should consult a personal injury lawyer before accepting an insurance settlement:
Getting Pressured Into Making a Recorded Statement
The claims adjuster may ask you to make a recorded statement about the details of the accident and the injuries you suffered, especially if you don’t have a lawyer. The adjuster will ask you misleading questions that may result in your giving a response that’s inaccurate or vague with regard to the details of the incident. Your responses can be used against you at some point in the future. You can refute the statements you made, but they can be difficult to overcome. If you have an accident lawyer representing you, the lawyer will help prevent you from giving a recorded statement unnecessarily.
Undergoing an Independent Medical Examination (IME)
The independent medical examination (IME) is an appointment for a medical exam by an independent physician. However, the physician is rarely independent and is usually paid by the insurance company for their exam. The physician is essentially working for the insurer, which means they’re more likely going to find that your injuries aren’t as severe as your personal doctor has stated.
An IME is usually unavoidable, especially when litigation is likely. You have to attend even though the outcome of the exam is unlikely to accurately reflect your physical injuries and recovery. This is legal, and the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 204.1 outlines when and how an accident victim has to submit to an IME. However, an accident victim can have an advocate in the room with them to observe the examination and act as a witness if necessary.
Running Out the Clock
The state of Texas has laws called statutes of limitation, or deadlines for filing lawsuits. Section 16.003 of the Civil Practice and Remedies code states that an accident victim has two years from the date of injury to file a claim for economic damages against the party that caused an accident. (*Always speak directly to an attorney for the exact deadlines that apply to your claim(s).) The claims adjuster for the insurer is very familiar with the statute of limitations and engages in a variety of delaying tactics to force an unrepresented accident victim into accepting a settlement. The claims adjuster also knows that an unrepresented accident victim is very unlikely to file a lawsuit on their own and takes advantage of that fact by taking their time to respond.
Blaming the Victim
Texas has a standard known as “modified comparative fault” for determining how much blame each party bears in an accident. A party who has more than 50% of the blame will not get compensation. Insurance adjusters have been known to shift blame onto the victim in order to reduce or outright eliminate the amount of money paid in compensation. An accident victim can’t rely on the claims adjuster to tell the truth when it comes to apportioning responsibility for the accident.
A claims adjuster is seen as an expert in reconstructing accident scenes to determine who bears the most responsibility. Their report may not be unbiased, though, because their aim is to protect the bottom line of the company; and the company is likely to accept their report without question. An accident victim has a much harder time of arguing against the adjuster, and needs an accident lawyer to help prove the truth of the matter.
Lowball Settlement Offers
Insurance companies are never going to make generous offers to settle with an accident victim. Insurance companies exist to provide economic reimbursement and coverage for accidents, they do not like to pay out on a claim, even though their commercials may say otherwise. The initial offer from a claims adjuster is going to be minimal, and it’s expected that the accident victim will reject the offer. The adjuster may come back with a higher amount, but it’s most likely not going to be an amount that is commensurate with the actual and non-economic damages.
Little to No Non-Economic Damage Compensation
Non-economic damage compensation generally focuses on the mental suffering caused by the accident. The main focus is typically referred to as “pain and suffering.” It’s difficult to provide a measure that adequately defines pain and suffering; yet this type of damages is recognized by the court system is a normal component of a request compensation after an accident. However, an insurer doesn’t want to pay for what they feel is a vague complaint and will likely balk at a victim’s claim of pain and suffering. The fact is, accidents are traumatic and stressful. They cause lasting trauma that may not resolve without help from a mental health specialist. Non-economic damages pay for that care, and a personal injury lawyer can help obtain it.
Call Our Experienced Attorneys Today for Help With an Accident Settlement
Have you been in an accident and are now dealing with an unreasonable claims adjuster? Call the accident and injury law firm of Terry Bryant at (713) 973-8888 for help today. Terry Bryant has been practicing law in Texas for over 40 years and is a former judge. He’s familiar with how the system works and uses that knowledge to aid clients in pursuing a personal injury claim on their behalf.