Should I Take the First Settlement Offer from the Insurance Company?
Right after you get into a car accident, you may be in a great deal of pain. You are probably feeling a financial burden as well. Your medical bills may be piling up right at a time when you cannot work. It can be a highly stressful time. So, it’s perfectly understandable to get excited when an insurance company calls you with a settlement offer. However, it will be important to keep your excitement in check.
Typically, the first settlement offer that an insurance company makes to a car accident victim is a low one. It may represent just a fraction of the total costs that you have incurred – and will incur – as a result of your crash-related injuries. For this reason, you should exercise your right to refuse the insurance company’s initial offer and get in touch with an experienced Houston car accident lawyer from Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C., right away.
What Happens If You Accept a Settlement Offer?
The insurance company hopes to find you in a bad financial position after a car accident and willing to accept any offer that comes your way. An insurer wants to take advantage of your vulnerable state in order to pay as little as possible and maximize its profits. So, when you get that first offer from the insurance company, you have every right to be skeptical about it.
Once you accept a settlement offer, you will have to sign a release which states that you will not seek more compensation in the future – even if you face additional expenses arising from your injuries. Cashing a check can also be a form of accepting a settlement offer. This is why you should avoid signing anything or cashing a settlement check without first consulting with your lawyer from Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C. You don’t want to sign any documents or do anything that will jeopardize your right to a full and fair financial recovery.
How Do We Prepare for Settlement Negotiations?
When you work with Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C., on your car accident case, we will thoroughly investigate the crash to establish liability. As part of that investigation, we will gather and analyze evidence such as:
- Photos of the accident scene
- Available surveillance camera footage
- Police accident report
- Eyewitness statements
- Event data recorder information (“black box data”)
- Chemical test results
- Cell phone records.
Our Houston car accident attorneys also routinely consult with experts in fields such as accident reconstruction. They can help us to determine why an accident occurred and, in turn, help us to establish liability. Additionally, we will review your medical records and other evidence in order to calculate the amount of damages that you should seek in your insurance claim.
When you enter settlement negotiations with an insurance company, you want to be prepared. Preparation allows you to operate from a position of strength. When an insurance company knows that you have solid evidence which establishes liability and damages, the insurance company will be more likely to make a full and fair settlement offer.
What Happens During Settlement Negotiations?
After we complete our investigation of your car accident, we will submit a demand letter – or a demand “package” complete with graphics and video – to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The demand will clearly explain why you deserve compensation, and it will detail the amount which you should receive in damages, including:
- Past and future medical expenses
- All other accident-related out-of-pocket expenses
- Lost income
- Reduction of your future earning ability
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
Typically, the demand letter or package will begin negotiations with the insurance company. After reviewing your demand, the insurance company may come back with an offer for a different amount than what you demanded. You can reply with a new demand. The process may go back-and-forth like this for a while.
No one can say with certainty how long it will take until you finally reach an agreement. It could take a few days or several weeks. In some cases, it may take even more than a year. Unfortunately, insurance companies often try to drag out negotiations in order to “wear down” accident victims. In some cases, the parties may need to bring in a mediator. The mediator is a neutral party whose role is to help the parties to reach an agreement.
Of course, if the insurance company refuses to come to an agreement, the next step will likely be to take your case to trial. Because of this possibility, you should know that the clock on your car accident claim will not stop simply because you are involved in settlement negotiations.
All personal injury cases in Texas have a statute of limitations. Generally, in our state, you must file a personal injury claim in court within two years after your injury occurred. If you fail to file a lawsuit within this period, you could be barred from recovering any compensation.
This is another reason why you should seek help from an experienced lawyer when you deal with insurance companies. While settlement negotiations are taking place, your lawyer from Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C., will continue to prepare your case for filing in court. To protect your right to full and fair compensation, the lawyer will make sure to file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.
Keep in mind: Even if you file a lawsuit, settlement negotiations with the insurance company may continue. In fact, you may still reach a settlement with the insurance company after a trial begins and even after a jury returns a verdict.
Get Help from an Experienced Houston Car Accident Attorney
At Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C., our Houston car accident lawyers know how insurance companies in Texas like to operate. We will be ready to protect your rights. If the insurance company makes an initial settlement offer to you, contact us before you accept or sign anything. We can assess the offer and help you to decide whether it meets your needs or goals. Contact us today and learn more about how we can help you in a free consultation.
Michael P. Fleming, former Harris County Attorney, has been a practicing attorney in the Houston, Texas area for over 30 years. His background includes having previously served as the elected County Attorney for Harris County, Texas. Mr. Fleming was elected Harris County Attorney in 1996 and re-elected in 2000.