It is not a pleasant experience when you get injured. Whether the injury happened at work, was the result of a car accident, was due to a manufacturer defect, or happened during a doctor’s visit, it is a traumatic experience when you have an unexpected injury. Now, you have to deal with insurance companies and attorneys to get the settlement you need to be compensated for your injuries.
What’s even worse is when the insurance company or lawyer comes back with a low settlement offer that you do not feel compensates you for the losses caused by your accident. It is stressful and worrisome to have to deal with this burden. That is why it is vital to hire professional lawyers in Fresno to help represent you and your personal injury case.
But, what do you do when you get a low settlement offer? We have all the details to help you throughout the process of your personal injury case.
What is a settlement offer?
A settlement offer is given to the injured person (plaintiff) by the insurance company of the person or entity deemed to be at fault (the defendant). A settlement occurs when the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys negotiate an agreement to avoid litigation. In most instances, the defendant pays less than they believe they’re likely to if the case were litigated.
What would be considered a low settlement offer?
A low settlement is when the plaintiff receives a settlement that is lower than the damages caused by the accident or incident. There are many reasons why an insurance adjuster offers a low settlement. One of the reasons could be because the insurance adjuster does not have all the pertinent information they need, like medical bills and records to support the plaintiff’s case.
Another reason could be that the plaintiff was partially at fault. If that is the case, then in some states, California included, you will only get a percentage of a settlement. Other reasons for a low settlement offer could be gaps in your medical treatments or the belief that you had pre-existing injuries before the injuries sustained in the accident. As a rule, insurance adjusters will lowball their settlement offers.
What should be included in an adequate settlement offer?
A solid settlement offer covers all of the plaintiff’s economic and non-economic damages. The stronger the evidence, the more likely you will be to receive a full and fair settlement. With this in mind, it is important for your personal injury attorney to build a case from all of the available evidence, including photographs, medical records, police reports, witness statements, bills for repairs, etc.
Plaintiff’s Steps in a Settlement Negotiation
1. Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer
When pursuing a personal injury case, you should hire the best personal injury lawyer that you can find. A lawyer with expertise in personal injury law will give you all the help you need throughout your case. They will be able to file documentation for you and can determine a good settlement offer versus a low settlement offer. Plus, they may be able to find things that can strengthen your personal injury case that you may not be aware of.
2. Try to Remain Calm
It can be unsettling when you receive a low settlement offer. Remember that you do not have to talk to the insurance adjuster or any of the defendant’s lawyers. This is a job for your personal injury lawyer to do for you. So, even if a low settlement offer is given to you initially, it is very likely your lawyer can talk to the insurance adjuster or defendant’s lawyer to negotiate a better offer.
Then, you can submit the proper documentation to get the right amount owed to you for the negligence caused. You should talk to your lawyer about it if you find it difficult to keep your cool. Do not attempt to talk to an insurance adjuster or other personal injury lawyer to get it settled, especially when your emotions are running high.
3. Go Over The Offer With Your Lawyer
After receiving the initial low settlement offer, go over the offer with your lawyer. This way, they can determine why they are sending you such a low amount of money. Your lawyer can assess what the offer states and get all documentation needed to provide a counteroffer. This is why it is extremely crucial to have professional legal help to aid you in the process.
4. The Counteroffer
First, your attorney must make a formal rejection of the low settlement offer. Once that is done, your lawyer can create a document to provide the defendant’s insurance company with a counteroffer. Your lawyer will be able to add things like medical expenses and treatments, pain and suffering, loss of income, and any other losses that you may have suffered due to the accident or incident — although there may be a limit to the amount being asked due to insurance premiums or if the defendant is not able to cover damages caused outside of their insurance.
Your lawyer may have to write a couple of these counteroffers due to not receiving the amount that you think is viable for the damages caused to you. In the end, know that accepting a settlement is permanent. This means that you agree that you will not go to court and sue the defendant. Therefore, if you do not receive a good settlement, it may be wise to use the judiciary system to get the settlement you believe that you deserve.
5. Do Not Settle Unless you Get a Good Offer
Under no circumstances should you accept an offer if it is under the amount that is owed to you for the damages caused. This is part of the personal injury case where you are “made whole” from the incident or accident. Remember, if you accept an offer that is below the prices paid for medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of income, etc., you cannot undo this. Also, you should consider if you were partially at fault for the accident or if you had pre-existing conditions. If this is the case, then, depending on what state you live in, money will be deducted from the amount owed.
6. It is Your Choice
Always know that you have the right to accept or refuse an offer until it is what you deem to be a good settlement offer. It is the insurance company’s job to try to pay out the least amount of money owed. This way, it saves them money in the long run. But, this is also why people have insurance, that way they are covered in case of an accident or incident. Usually, when dealing with an insurance company, the first offer will be a low offer. Having the right professional legal help can let you determine if what you are being offered is the right amount. Most lawyers know to not accept the first offer because it is usually not enough compensation for what you went through.
7. Try Not To Worry
The defendant has a legal obligation to pay out if their negligence caused injury to the plaintiff. So, do not worry about rejecting the first couple of offers. The insurance company may put a timeline on the counteroffer you can make, but do not let this intimidate you. As the personal injury case proceeds, new information and documentation may be presented to cause a new settlement offer to be evaluated. It is normal for negotiations to go on until just before the date of the trial. And, the defendant and the insurance company want to do everything they can to settle. This way, they do not go to court.
The process is simpler when you have a professional lawyer to help you with your personal injury case. Having to deal with all the paperwork and documentation on your own can be intimidating. Be sure to contact a personal injury lawyer in the Fresno, California area today. Most personal injury lawyers will give you a free consultation upon first meeting.
Although, if you are in Fresno, California, and you get injured while working, then you should know that California is a “no-fault” state which means that you will be eligible for workers’ compensation.