Should I Accept a Settlement Offer from the Insurance Company?
Every year thousands of vehicle accidents take place in North Carolina.
Many of them cause the injured party to suffer serious personal injuries and property damage at the hands of an insured party. Almost all of these involve an insurance claim that is routinely assigned to an insurance adjuster who has only one goal in mind when your personal injury claim crosses his or her desk: Pay you or your loved ones as little money as possible to settle your personal injury claim without getting the insurance company in trouble for acting in bad faith. At Nagle & Associates, we’re savvy to sharp insurance practices and pride ourselves on maximizing your settlement when the insurance company tries to undervalue your claim.
What is the Settlement Value of My Personal Injury Claim?
The settlement value of every personal injury claim is different, depending entirely on the circumstances; but there are a core set of factors that determine the true value of your particular claim and thus what you should accept (and not accept) by way of a settlement offer from the insurance company. The core factors are the negligence or wrongfulness of the wrongdoer; the negligence or wrongdoing of your own actions (if any); the type and significance of your injuries (whether temporary or permanent); the cost of your medical treatment to date and projected into the future; your current and future pain, suffering, and emotional distress; and your economic losses past and future (including lost wages, lost profits, disability, etc.).
Following an accident victim, there is no formula to determine how much an injury victim’s personal injury claim is worth. Legally speaking, a person who suffers injury in an vehicle collision does not get an automatic payment right; rather, they only get a “cause of action” or right to sue. Thus, the real value of the victim’s personal injury claim is the amount of money damages that a jury would likely grant following a jury trial. Most cases settle, but you want to make sure your settlement reflects the full amount you would win at trial. With a lawyer poised to file suit, insurance companies shy away and typically offer full/fair settlement value. This is because if they don’t and you go to trial, following trial they now have to pay what they could have settled for PLUS pay to retain a lawyer and pay all legal fees arising from the task of defending the at-fault driver in court PLUS pay you pre-judgment interest of 8% PLUS pay for their own medical experts PLUS they also sometimes have to pay the victim’s court costs. Simply put, with a strong and valid threat of litigation and thorough proof of all injuries and damages, insurance carriers will realize that their cheapest solution is to pay the FULL value of your case.
Will the Insurance Company Attempt to Settle My Personal Injury Claim for Less Than What It Is Worth?
You can bet your bottom dollar on that. The insurance adjuster has marching orders to assess your case, strategize on how to devalue it, punch holes in it any which way he can, and get that file settled after paying as little as possible. Our founding attorney Carl Nagle is a former insurance claims adjuster for one of the nation’s largest insurers, and he also worked as an insurance defense lawyer in Atlanta. Carl warns that “insurance adjusters are cost control experts, and they always work only to oppose victims’ personal injury cases and pay as little as possible for valid injury claims”. Sometimes this is done by offering you a quick settlement check when you are weak and in need. Other times the settlement offer comes in before the medicals, disability, and future prognosis have stabilized, hoping you’ll take less than what the adjuster (behind the scenes) thinks the case will ultimately be worth. Other times the strategy is the opposite: the insurance company drags it out as long as possible in hopes you will finally throw up your hands and cave, settling just to get it over with and put some money in the bank. The pressure will always be on to take less than what your case is worth. That’s why experienced personal injury counsel is so important. We at Nagle & Associates know all the insurance company tricks, and as the carrier is trying to sell you short, we’re building the proof that will maximize your claim.
What Can I Do to Maximize My Personal Injury Settlement?
Just as there are core factors affecting the value of your personal injury claim, there are core steps that must be taken to enhance the value of that claim. First and foremost is your medical treatment. You need to pursue an aggressive treatment regimen and see specialists in all areas involved with your injury, treatment, and rehabilitation. Of particular concern is future medical attention and the need for thorough treatment and rehabilitation in all areas of injury and disability. You are entitled to be made as whole as possible, and the insurance company must pay for it even when 100% recovery is not possible.
In addition to your medicals are your economic losses. These are measured by wages you lost from missed work, income you missed from lost jobs, and specific opportunities that went away because you were propped up in bed with a sling on your leg or neck. The key to maximizing economic losses is employment history, historical proof of income, evidence that income would have have been made but wasn’t because of the accident, and expert testimony as to any ongoing disability that will negatively affect your earnings in the future. The experienced North Carolina personal injury attorneys at Nagle & Associates know the nuances and technicalities when it comes to substantiating all of this to the satisfaction of the insurance adjuster…and that’s the bottom line of what you need to maximize your settlement.
What Happens If the Insurance Company Won’t Make Me an Acceptable Settlement Offer?
The old saying, “you have to fight fire with fire” comes to mind. In the arena of personal injury claims, that means you have to build your case aggressively, make a detailed and substantiated settlement demand with solid and admissible medical evidence to back it up, when necessary file a lawsuit against all potentially responsible defendants, scrutinize the applicable insurance policies for coverage limits and weaknesses, pursue smart and focused discovery, and retain experts in all fields necessary to conduct a winning trial. Being dogged is another way to put it, and at Nagle & Associates that is what we’re known for doing. We focus from day one on building every case from all angles with the goal being to leave the insurance adjuster no choice but to settle. And if a sufficient settlement offer is not forthcoming, we have a solid reputation for trying cases to verdict (which is one reason most of our cases settle short of trial).
Is the Process Over If I Reject an Unacceptable Settlement Offer from the Insurance Company?
You could say just the opposite. If you don’t reject the early settlement offers coming from the insurance company, you probably aren’t getting what your case is worth. But you can’t do this in a vacuum. You can’t sit back on your laurels and do gardening in your back yard while claiming a back injury as the insurance adjuster climbs the neighbour’s tree to take pictures proving you’re a malingerer. Following any collision-related injury, you have to take reasonable steps to mitigate your losses, pursue thorough medical treatment, follow doctors’ orders, try to get back to work, search for new job prospects, and do everything possible to build the credibility of your case…as a member of Nagle & Associates assembles the proof, engages experts and consultants, and puts together a thick and detailed settlement demand that cannot be overlooked. Then you counter-offer with that. And if the carrier comes back low once again, you re-double your effort until you get the job done, whether by negotiations, arbitration, mediation, or trial. That’s the only way to do it, because at some point it will be the adjuster (not you) who throws in the towel.
There are good insurance companies and there are bad insurance companies. Some have a reputation for settling claims reasonably and in good faith most of the time. Others have a reputation of being difficult from the get-go; and we’ve dealt with them all. Individuals dealing with serious injuries benefit in many ways from legal representation – we handle all of the homework from day one, we handle all insurance company communications, we gather all medical records and bills, we review the medicals and secure medical opinion letters whenever necessary, we assemble the settlement demand proposal and present it as a valid threat of litigation, we know from experience when a fair offer has finally been made, and we oversee the settlement to make sure that your injury payments are received safely and remain tax free. At Nagle & Associates, that’s what we do: we build your case and make that demand, and in most of the cases, the insurance company would rather pay than tangle with us. That’s the brass tacks on how to maximize your insurance settlement.