The major reason why insurance companies exist is to protect their policyholders from financial ruin in the event they cause an accident that results in injuries. An insurance policy provides financial compensation to the accident victim in the form of bodily injury, property damage, and payment of medical bills. After an accident, the insurer may offer a lump sum amount to cover the medical bills and other damages in something known as a settlement.
Settlements are intended to make an accident victim walk away with a seemingly generous dollar amount, along with preventing them from suing for further damages. An insurance adjuster is authorized to offer a certain amount for each section of the settlement, then issue a check for the final amount once the accident victim signs the release. Meanwhile, the adjuster puts a lot of pressure on the accident victim to sign. Why? The insurance company wants to close the claim as cheaply as possible while eliminating the accident victim’s ability to sue further. The following is a look at six reasons why you shouldn’t accept a settlement offer and why you should first consult a personal injury lawyer instead.
1. Insurance Adjusters Aren’t on Your Side
One of the people you interact with after an accident is the insurance adjuster. They often seem friendly, approachable, and seemingly helpful. What you need to remember is that the insurance adjuster isn’t working for you and isn’t interested in helping you any more than they should. The insurance company has a vested interest in paying out low settlements after accidents in order to save money. That means the insurance adjuster is under orders from their employer to do what it takes to get you to settle.
Insurance companies are in the business of making profits. Paying out large settlements, even when warranted, to accident victims eats into those profits. In turn, the insurance companies put limits on how much the adjuster can offer, encourage lower settlements, and authorize the adjuster to put pressure on an accident victim to accept a lower settlement. Any conversation you have with an adjuster is recorded in case you say something that can be used against you during the claim process or in court if a settlement can’t be reached.
You may not be aware that the insurance adjuster is under no obligation to be honest with you at any time. An adjuster can lie and say anything they like to get you to say something that can lower the amount or disqualify you from getting a settlement. You should say as little as possible when you talk to the adjuster, and don’t let their amicable tone trick you into thinking they’re on your side. The best course of action is to retain a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, then let the lawyer take over the communication with the insurance adjuster on your behalf. A lawyer has the training and experience to negotiate a settlement that’s more favorable to you and your damages.
2. Settlement Offers are Always Lower Than They Should Be
The insurance company wants to be done with your claim as soon it can. They operate on the assumption that they can make a claimant go away by offering them what sounds like a large lump sum of cash. You’ll get offers through the adjuster that sound generous on the surface, but won’t come close to compensating you for your economic and non-economic damages. The insurance adjuster will take full advantage of your lack of knowledge of the value of your claim by giving you a lowball settlement offer. If your response is “that’s not enough,” the adjuster may increase the offer, but it won’t be anywhere near the amount you need to cover your damages.
3. Do You Know What Kind of Compensation You’re Entitled to?
A personal injury claim can request compensation for multiple issues that arise after an accident. In the event someone was killed in an accident of some kind, the surviving family and loved ones can make a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased. You can ask for economic and non-economic damages in either type of personal injury lawsuit including:
Property replacement costs
Ongoing medical bills
Loss of income
Pain and suffering
Loss of companionship.
These are some of the damages that you can request compensation for after any type of accident. A personal injury lawyer in Houston can help you learn more about your rights and make a claim for damages.
4. You Can’t Change Your Mind After Accepting a Settlement
A settlement means that both parties have agreed to and accepted the terms outlined in the settlement. It’s a binding contract between you and the insurance company that states that you accept the amount offered as fair. Once you sign the settlement, that’s it. You can no longer go back to the insurance company or the person who caused the accident for further compensation. There is no telling how much compensation you’re going to require to get back to your way of life as it was or to adjust to a new way of life going forward. A personal injury lawyer in Houston can help you determine how much money you need to cover your medical bills and more.
5. Ongoing Medical Care Related to the Accident May Be Necessary
Accident-related injuries aren’t always resolved after a few weeks of healing. Some can become chronic and require long-term medical care and/or physical therapy. There’s also the potential for injuries that don’t show up right away. This happens when you experience pain that you don’t initially relate to the accident, then find out that the pain is the result of a delayed response from the impact. Some injuries permanently alter your appearance or ability to live the life you had before the accident.
Never accept a settlement of any kind until you’ve consulted with a personal injury lawyer first. You may need to undergo a thorough medical evaluation to find out the extent of your injuries, and a personal injury lawyer can help arrange this on your behalf. An independent physician is needed to perform a medical exam and go over your medical records to help determine how much medical care you’ll need in the near and distant future. This evaluation is used to figure out if you’re going to need ongoing care and its cost. The cost of your care is then included in your claim.
You may have heard of something called the independent medical exam (IME), or the insurance adjuster may have told you that you have to submit to an IME. This is another one of the lies an adjuster is allowed to employ in order to get you to settle your claim. The truth of the matter is that an IME is not mandatory until a judge orders one, and that’s usually done after a request by the insurance company. In fact, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 204.1 states that a judge has to order an exam as part of the discovery process.
6. You May Need to Go to Court
You often have a maximum of two years to file a personal injury lawsuit in Texas. A set of laws known as the statute of limitations, or Section 16.003 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, outlines how much time you have to file in court if settlement negotiations fail. This is something a personal injury lawyer is well aware of. Their job is to prevent the insurance adjuster from running out the clock and preventing you from getting the compensation you deserve. *Always speak directly to an attorney for the exact deadlines that apply to your potential claim(s).
In the event the insurance adjuster fails to cooperate, your lawyer may file a civil lawsuit on your behalf. The goal is to ask a judge or jury to review the evidence in the case and award you a fair amount of damages. Insurance companies often prefer to avoid litigation because the cost of defending the claim will substantially increase once suit is filed. Thus, sometimes a credible threat of filing suit can push up the offer from the insurance company.
Call Us Today at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law for Help
Have you or a loved one been in an accident and find yourself in need of help with making a claim? Call Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law today at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000 to get help from a personal injury lawyer.
Terry Bryant is Board Certified in personal injury trial law, which means his extensive knowledge of the law has been recognized by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, setting him apart from many other injury attorneys. The 22 years he spent as a Municipal Judge, Spring Valley Village, TX also provides him keen insight into the Texas court system. That experience also helps shape his perspective on personal injury cases and how they might resolve. This unique insight benefits his clients. [ Attorney Bio ]