What to Know Before Accepting a Personal Injury Settlement
UPDATED: August 1, 2017
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If you are pursuing a personal injury claim or lawsuit, you are likely to encounter a settlement offer at some point during the process. Before you accept a settlement, you should note that once you sign an agreement, you cannot seek additional damages. Settlement agreements close personal injury cases, so it is a good idea to review one carefully before making a final decision. Consult an attorney with specific questions about the value of your case and the fairness of your settlement.
Negotiating a Personal Injury Settlement on Your Own
If you are handling the case on your own, there is no difference in value, per se, but what you actually are offered and ultimately settle for might be much lower than the true value of the case. Much of your settlement is determined by what documentation you provide to support your claim, your statement and those of witnesses, and your level of knowledge about the value of your case. If you don’t ask for an amount that represents the true value of your claim, then it’s in the hands of the claims adjuster to offer you an amount that may or may not be appropriate. Since insurance adjusters work for the company that makes money by paying you less, it is likely that the value provided you by the adjuster will be less than the true value of your claim.
Negotiating a personal injury settlement on your own is possible, however, you should be prepared to get independent assessments of the value of your case. You will also need to approach your settlement negotiations with confidence and be able to clearly articulate your demands. As with any negotiation, keep in mind that you do not need to reach an agreement - you always have the option of pursuing legal action if you feel your settlement offer is unfair.
Having an Attorney Negotiate Your Settlement
If you hire an attorney to negotiate your personal injury settlement, he will do a thorough evaluation of the claim in order to know what to ask for when it comes time to make a demand for settlement, and be able to provide adequate documentation in support of the requested amount. Having an attorney also changes the settlement dynamic by leveling the playing field. The attorney may also be able to uncover other sources of compensation, which may not be readily ascertainable to you, giving you a complete picture of the money you are owed and how you can pursue it.
Although the goal is the same for both your attorney and the adjuster, i.e., to settle the case, the adjusters’ responsibility to their employer is to pay out as little of the insurance company’s money as possible and to settle claims promptly. Your attorney’s job as your advocate is to get a fair settlement of your claim that represents the true value of your case. Even if you do not want to file a personal injury lawsuit, hiring an attorney will give you the best chance of collecting the insurance money you are owed.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If your attorney files a lawsuit, the value of the case will be determined by the evidence presented to the court. Depositions of witnesses may be taken and important documents, such as wage loss information, medical records, etc, may be subpoenaed (legally demanded). All the evidence of your case is presented to the judge or jury to determine the fair compensation of your case.
At any point during a personal injury lawsuit, the insurance company may approach you with another settlement offer. Depending on the nature of the evidence and the strength of your case, this offer may be higher than previous ones. If you can wait out early settlement offers and pursue a lawsuit, you may be able to obtain a settlement that reflects the true value of the case rather than one that compromises value for expediency.
Personal injury lawyers offer free consultations, so it does not hurt to discuss your settlement options and strength of your case before you make any decision.