The Insurance Company Offered Me A Settlement Right Away. Should I Just Go Ahead And Take It Or Could I End Up With More Or Less If I Continue With My Car Accident Case In Florida?
Everything that insurance companies do is intentional. If an insurance company quickly offers you a settlement before even taking a look at any of your medical records, or ever having a full understanding of what your condition is, I would very much caution against taking that settlement. More likely than not, if they make an offer like that, they’re probably trying to get you to take a settlement that is significantly less than what the case is worth.
As they see it, you are unlikely to know the full worth of your case as soon as you file it. If they can get you to settle the case immediately for a smaller amount than it will ultimately be worth, it saves them from having to pay out more in the future and from having to go through the process of fighting the case. Bottom line, it saves them money, and they’re a business first and foremost.
With this in mind, I always recommend that clients don’t accept offers from insurance companies until they reach the point of what’s called Maximum Medical Improvement. From a physical standpoint, maximum medical improvement means that your healing has plateaued, and your injuries have improved as much as they are ever likely to improve. Until you reach this point, it’s unclear how much improvement can be hoped for with any given injury, as well as what types of treatments may be necessary moving forward. If you accept a smaller settlement right away, you have no hope of getting full coverage for your future treatments beyond that settlement. Therefore, you don’t want to accept anything until you have a good understanding of what your case is worth and what your required treatments are going cost moving forward.
You will almost always get more money if you push forward past the first settlement offer, and wait until you know the full extent of your injuries, prognosis, and treatment needs. You don’t want to settle too quickly. Your medical expenses (and future projected medical expenses) may be exponentially higher than they were expected to be when you were first injured. Within a few months, many things can change in terms of prognosis, and you may need to undergo many different types of costly tests, procedures, and treatments.
A settlement is your one shot at financial coverage. Once the case settles, it is settled. You don’t get to come back 10, 20, or 30 years down the line and reevaluate your needs. So, you certainly want to pump the brakes on accepting any offers at the very beginning. As a rule, if your accident happened within the last week or two weeks, you should not even entertain any type of settlement offer.
As an aside, turning down a settlement offer until you know more about your injury will not usually take the offer off the table. In my experience, I’ve never seen an offer get pulled, even when it was rejected. That doesn’t mean offers never get pulled. However, it happens rarely enough that I have never seen it myself in all my years of practice. It doesn’t make sense for an insurance company to take a lowball settlement offer off the table just because the claimant initially rejected it. The insurance company is in the business of settling cases for as little as they possibly can. Lowball settlement offers serve that purpose, and will usually remain on the table until they no longer serve that purpose.
If It’s Clear That The Other Driver Was At Fault For An Accident, Do I Still Need To Hire A Florida Personal Injury Attorney For My Car Accident Case?
I believe that you still need to hire an attorney, even in cases where the other driver was clearly at fault. The reason you still need an attorney is that fault (or liability) is only one part of a personal injury case. The other part of the case, which I think is probably even more significant than liability, is your injuries and the extent of your damages, both economic and non-economic. You need an attorney to make a compelling case for how badly you were injured and the way that injury has negatively impacted your life.
An attorney can also help you sort through your case and figure out exactly what sort of damages to sue for. As previously mentioned, there are two types of damages in personal injury: economic damages, and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are damages that are objective and can be measured in terms of exact sums. These are evident and easy to see, and are often represented by clear evidence like financial statements and bills. They include things like medical expenses and lost wages. They are easy for most people to understand, and it is easy for most people to support a person receiving financial reimbursement for them.
Non-economic damages become a little bit murkier. These are damages that are not as cut-and-dry and objective, including things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, and the loss of enjoyment of life. While these are very real experiences, they need to be proven and explained in a way that is so compelling that people not only believe in the damages, but believe that you should receive financial compensation for them. This is something you will need an attorney to do successfully. They have the skills and experience to show whomever needs to be convinced—whether it’s a jury or an insurance adjuster or a judge or a mediator—what the appropriate compensation for those damages actually is.
According to the old adage, “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” but that’s exactly what adjusters want to do. They want to look at the surface and say, “Well, that person’s hurt or not hurt” when in reality, it’s a much more complex and complicated than that.
So, you certainly need a Florida personal injury attorney to guide you through that process and really to show the fair exchange of value that’s been taken from you. Those are the metrics used to evaluate personal injury settlements. In some ways, it’s kind of like buying or selling a used car. You use the Kelley Blue Book as a guide to say what is the fair trade and value for the car by considering what has been done to it since it was new—that is, what’s been taken, and what’s been lost. In a personal injury context, convincingly explaining those losses and how they correspond to fair compensation requires an attorney who is in touch and in-tune with the exchange.
To illustrate the point, if someone appeared right before the crash with a magic wand and said, “Hey, I can take away all of the pain and suffering that this crash is going to cause you”, how much would you be willing to pay? How much would you be willing to pay to get your health back, to get what was taken from you through no fault of your own by someone who wasn’t paying attention on the road that day? And to add to that illustration, one might ask, how many costs would be avoided if someone was able to wave a magic wand and stop the crash from happening? In addition to medical costs, how many emotional costs? This is one way in which these subtler, more subjective losses can be teased out and brought to life in description.
When it comes down to it, in a Florida personal injury case, you will need an attorney with experience. I would like to state this clearly: if you don’t have an attorney, the insurance company will take advantage of you, period. For better or for worse, having an attorney is the price of entry when it comes to getting a fair shake at a just settlement.
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