As an accident victim, it may surprise you to learn that most personal injury cases are settled before either party sets foot in a courtroom, usually by the at-fault party’s insurance company paying the injured victim a settlement.
If you have been hurt in a car accident, slip and fall, dog attack, or other preventable accident, chances are that you will soon be contacted by an insurance company offering you money in return for giving up your right to sue. While accepting their offer may seem like the path of least resistance, how do you know you are being treated fairly? Here are three steps you can take to make sure that the insurance company is being fair with your injury claim.
Step 1. Call an Attorney
The first thing you can do to ensure that your legal rights are protected is to retain legal counsel immediately. Insurance company representatives are trained to minimize the amount they pay out. They may ask you leading questions that, if answered a certain way, indicate that you were partially at fault for your accident. They may pressure you to give a written statement when one is not legally required, hoping that you will make a mistake when describing your version of events. When you retain a lawyer, he or she will handle all communication with the insurance company, making sure your rights are protected.
Step 2. . .Call an Attorney
Unless you are a particularly experienced accident victim (or a seasoned personal injury attorney), it is very difficult to determine what your case is actually worth. Not only should a settlement compensate you for your financial losses like your medical expenses and/or property damage, it should also compensate you for things like pain and suffering and loss of quality of life, to which it is much more difficult to assign a monetary value. In addition, any settlement offer that you accept should also take into account any future losses you may sustain, which can often require the assistance of an expert to accurately determine. A lawyer will evaluate the value of your case and make sure that any settlement you take is fair in light of your specific circumstances.
Step 3. . .CALL AN ATTORNEY
When the insurance adjuster finally calls with a payout offer, it can be tempting to simply accept the check on the spot, especially if you have bills piling up. However, this can be a big mistake and can cost you a lot of money that you otherwise deserved. Many insurance companies start with a low offer, hoping that you are unaware that you have no other options but to accept it. If you accept a payout that is too insufficient to cover your losses, you lose the right to ever go back and request more compensation arising from this specific accident.
If you have not gotten an attorney involved in your case yet, it is critical that you speak with a personal injury law firm before you ever accept an insurance offer. An attorney will know how to determine whether an offer is inadequate and, if it is, will have the tools and strategies to negotiate for a proper settlement. Often, with additional evidence properly presented by a lawyer along with the threat of potential litigation, an insurance company will agree to a fair and favorable settlement and your case can be resolved.
Call the Law Offices of Patrick S. O’Brien Today to Protect Your Legal Rights
If you have been injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another, it is important to understand that the insurance company handling your case is concerned primarily about their bottom line. The best way to ensure that you get a fair settlement is to retain a St. Louis personal injury lawyer that understands how to handle insurance company adjusters and who is not afraid to take your case to trial, if necessary. To schedule a free consultation with an attorney that will fight for your rights, contact us or call our office today at 314-330-9390.