After an accident, you may be wondering, “What next?”
You watch medical bills pile up with 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 unique. There may be no way to tell how long it will take to settle your case. And there’s no way to know what the insurance company will offer.
One thing you can be certain of is that the insurer’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 costs
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Future expenses
- Court costs
- Your attorney’s fee (This is often a percentage of the settlement you receive.)
In certain cases, the court may also award you punitive damages. These are meant to punish a party for the action that harmed you.
The Insurance Adjuster Has One Job
Insurers use formulas to determine the amount of money they’ll offer to pay for your injuries. The insurance adjuster—the person you’ll speak with to discuss your settlement—has one job: to pay you as little as possible.
The adjuster is often an attorney. They are 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 edge in negotiating your settlement.
The Lowball Settlement Offer
It’s easy to recognize a lowball offer. 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 insurer money.
In most cases, offers will also be lower when a lawyer does not represent the injured person.
If you’ve retained a lawyer, let them negotiate with the adjuster on your behalf. Be honest with your lawyer. The insurance company will examine your injury in much the same way your lawyer has. You should expect the insurer to know everything there is to know about your case.
At this stage, an experienced attorney can be of great value in helping you maximize the compensation you will receive. Since most personal injury lawyers work for a share of your settlement, it’s in your mutual best interest to get the highest amount of compensation possible.
Settling out of Court
Many people don’t know that most personal injury cases settle out of court. Only when you and the insurer 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 insurer and your lawyer will do all they can to avoid that delay and the added cost of going to court.
While no one can predict the outcome of your case, your lawyer can help you determine the most likely outcome. That way, you can decide whether to accept the latest offer or bring your case to court.
Be Prepared to Go to Court
While bringing your case before a judge isn’t ideal, it can sometimes be worthwhile. Your lawyer’s experience with other New York personal injury cases like yours will be to your advantage if you need to take this step to get what you deserve.