After an injury-causing accident, you may be wondering, “What next?”
As you watch medical bills pile up alongside your household expenses, you might be losing income while you miss work to recover. Waiting for an insurance settlement can be an exercise in uncertainty. Every injury, and therefore every case, is different. There may be no way to tell how long it will take to settle your case, and what the insurance company will eventually offer.
One thing you can be certain of is that the insurance company’s first offer will be less than the true value of your case.
The Value of Your Case
In personal injury law, the meaning of “value” is the amount of compensation you’re likely to get for your injuries. If you were injured because of someone’s reckless or careless behavior, you deserve compensation—called “damages”—for all your losses. The value of your case may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Future expenses
- Court costs
- Your attorney’s fee (usually a percentage of whatever settlement you receive)
In certain cases, the court may also award you punitive damages, meant to punish a person or company for the reckless or criminal action that caused your accident.
The Insurance Adjuster Has One Job
Insurance companies have formulas, which they use to determine the range of compensation they’ll willingly pay for your injuries. It’s important for you to know that the insurance adjuster—the person you’ll speak with to discuss your settlement—has one job: to pay as little as possible on your claim.
The adjuster is often an attorney, and is likely to know much more about personal injury law than you do. For this reason, working with an experienced personal injury lawyer can give you an advantage in negotiating your settlement.
Recognizing a Lowball Settlement Offer
The easiest way to recognize a lowball offer is this: it’s the insurance company’s first offer. Don’t take it personally, it’s just good business—for them. Many people make the mistake of accepting that first offer, not knowing that they could likely get more. That saves the insurance company money.
In most cases, offers will also be lower when an attorney does not represent the injured person.
If you’ve retained an attorney, let him or her negotiate with the adjuster on your behalf. Be completely honest with your lawyer, because the insurance company will investigate the circumstances of your injury in much the same way your attorney has. You should expect the insurance company to know everything there is to know about your case—because they will.
At this stage, a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can be of great value in helping you maximize the compensation you will ultimately receive. Since most personal injury attorneys work for a share of your settlement, it’s in your mutual best interest to get the maximum amount of compensation you’re entitled to.
Settling out of Court
Many people don’t realize that most personal injury cases settle out of court. Only when you and the insurance company reach an impasse will you need to involve the court system. Because it can take a year or more to get a court date, both the insurance company and your attorney will do everything in their power to avoid that delay and the added expense involved in going to court.
While no one can predict the outcome of your case with certainty, your lawyer can help you to determine the most likely outcome of your case, so you can decide whether to accept the latest offer or litigate your case in court.
Be Prepared to Go to Court
While bringing your case before a judge isn’t ideal, it can sometimes be worth the added time and expense. Your attorney’s experience with other New York personal injury cases similar to yours will be to your advantage if you need to take this step in order to get the compensation you deserve.