If you got injured in a collision, here are some things to know about car accident settlement agreements:
- You don’t have to accept an unfair settlement offer.
- You have a limited time to file an injury lawsuit.
- You cannot ask for more funds after accepting a settlement.
- You don’t want to settle too early.
- Your settlement should account for each of your losses.
You also have the right to partner with a lawyer on your car accident case. They can manage all communications with the insurer, calculate an appropriate settlement, and fight for what you need.
You do Not Have to Accept the First Settlement Offer from the Claims Adjuster
Many people assume that the insurance company calculates the true monetary value of their injury claim and arrives at a fair settlement amount. They do not realize that the first settlement offer from the claims adjuster merely starts the negotiations process.
Think of the personal injury claims process like a tennis game. The claims adjuster starts the game by hitting the ball into your court with an initial offer. It is then your turn to hit the ball back to the claims adjuster by making a counteroffer if you think you deserve more damages.
Long story short: you don’t have to accept an offer if it doesn’t account for your past, present, and future injury-related expenses.
Negotiations do Not Stall the Civil Statute of Limitations
Every state imposes a filing deadline on car accident lawsuits. If you miss the deadline, the law will forever bar you from seeking recovery for your losses.
Most people do not know the time limit that applies to their personal injury cases. The claims adjuster will know the statute of limitations for your claim. Negotiating does not satisfy the filing time limit or give you more time to file a lawsuit.
You do not want to miss the deadline while waiting for a fair offer. If you miss the deadline, you will lose your right to seek damages.
After You Sign a Settlement Agreement, You Can’t Ask for More Funds
Usually, a settlement agreement is not a single piece of paper. There will be a multi-page document that includes the terms of the settlement as well as additional paperwork, like waivers and releases. You will not receive the settlement check until you sign all of these papers.
After you sign a release of liability, your claim is over. Even if you later discover additional injuries, you cannot go back and ask for more funds from the defendant or insurance company.
That One Settlement Check Has to Cover Everything
Each of your injury-related expenses, including your medical bills and lost income, must be accounted for in your settlement check. You won’t receive a settlement and then have the insurance company pay for your medical bills separately.
Your settlement should account for:
- The full cost of your injury-related expenses, both now and in the future
- Your physical and emotional hardships
- Any harm to your earning power
- Any out-of-pocket expense you incurred due to the incident
Some people discover to their dismay that after they pay their medical bills and the cost of car repair, there is very little over from the settlement check. This makes understanding the value of your losses imperative. You don’t want to walk away from negotiations with less than you need.
You Cannot Appeal Your Case After Signing a Settlement Agreement
If you take your case to court and are unhappy with the results of the trial, you might be able to file an appeal seeking a better outcome. You cannot appeal the outcome if you sign a settlement agreement. One of the things that you waive when settling a case is the right to take further legal action, like an appeal.
Sometimes people want to throw out the settlement agreement and take their case to court because of the consequences of the “fine print” in the papers. They did not understand the legal ramifications of some of the terminology in the documents when they signed them. This is one of many reasons to have a personal injury lawyer read your settlement agreement before you sign it.
You Have the Right to Partner with a Lawyer on Your Car Accident Case
You don’t have to wait until you file a lawsuit to consider legal aid. You can hire a lawyer at any point in the legal process. They can:
- Determine what constitutes a fair settlement offer
- Review the liable insurance policy
- Examine the impact of the collision on your life
- Negotiate for what you need
- Communicate with the involved parties
- Protect you from bad faith insurance practices
Your lawyer can handle your case from beginning to end, from gathering evidence to filing a lawsuit if necessary.
Get Help with Your Car Accident Settlement
At D. Miller & Associates, PLLC™, we take pride in how accessible we are to our clients. To explore partnering with our car accident team, dial 1 (855) PRO-LAWYERS.