The car accident injury settlement process begins almost immediately following the accident. Statistics indicate that about 95 percent of the injury cases are settled before going to court. This is in large part because insurance companies want to settle as quickly as possible because in all probability out-of-court settlements are lower than jury awards. Insurance companies are for-profit organizations. So, it can be argued that they are looking after their own bottom line. Regardless of claims of helping people, an insurance company’s main concern is healthy profits. Unfortunately for society, the best interest of the victim typically takes a back seat to the insurance company’s bottom line.
A car accident victim should consult an attorney before having any discussions with an insurance claim adjuster. Settlements are only offered when a person has been injured in a vehicle accident. Insurance claim adjusters may attempt to contact a victim soon after the accident. A person may still be confused and upset about the recent traumatic events and an offer by the insurance company may sound more than reasonable. But, in reality the offer may be far less than what the victim is entitled to receive. Accident claims can be complicated. If the case was to go to court, a jury would consider several factors before determining damage awards. Don’t be rushed into a settlement.
Insurance Research Council (a nonprofit group funded by major insurance companies across the nation) conducted a study called “Paying for Auto Injuries”. This study found that the average total payout on claims that involve an attorney is 4.8 times greater than those claims where the injured victim settled on his or her own. Most insurance claims adjusters are aware of this study. To maximize profits the insurance company will train its claims representatives to go to great efforts to dissuade people from hiring an attorney. This keeps more money in the insurance company’s pocket. They have protocols and scripts to dissuade you from hiring an attorney. There is even a script for what to say if you start talking about hiring attorney.
The faster you settle, the less likely your rights will be fully protected. Suppose a claims adjuster shows up at the scene, runs some numbers and offers you a check for $1,000 to fix your car, plus an additional $500 for the “inconvenience”?
Don’t take it, advises J.D. Howard of the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network. You might have a soft tissue injury you can’t feel right away but that three days later will hurt like a tax audit.
“Which is why the insurance claims adjuster wants to get to you as soon as possible,” says Howard, himself an adjuster for 26 years.
It is possible to get those release forms set aside. But it’s not a sure thing, and it costs time, aggravation and attorney’s fees.
After an accident, insurance companies have one main priority: keep their costs low. They will work as fast as possible to make sure they have to pay as little as possible. When in an accident, the old adage is true: patience is a virtue. Before settling, take time to let everything sink in. Take time to figure out how bad your injuries really are. Take time to figure out how much the accident has affected and interrupted your life. Take time to talk to an attorney to see how you can actually get the compensation you deserve, instead of the low-ball offer pitched to you by the insurance claims adjuster. By taking a little extra time and seeking out the right legal representation, you can make sure that the insurance company pays what you really deserve.