There is usually no standard deadline for accepting a settlement offer from an insurance company. However, some written settlement offers may include an expiration date.
While you should never rush to accept a settlement offer, you need to know all of the applicable deadlines. If the deadline expires without you formally accepting, the other party may revoke that offer.
You must also know if a settlement is fair before you accept it. When you have a lawyer handling your claim, they will advise you whether an offer is fair, given your circumstances, and ensure to respond to the offer by any applicable deadlines. This is only one of the many benefits of having the right personal injury attorney on board as soon as possible.
How to Find Out the Deadline for Your Settlement Offer
If you are unsure whether you face a deadline for accepting a settlement offer, you might consider asking the insurance adjuster handling your claim. However, speaking with adjusters is risky, as they seek statements from you they can use to minimize your settlement. Always have your personal injury lawyer handle these communications.
Keep Anything That Illustrates Your Damages
Those who seek settlement offers often have economic and non-economic damages. Keep any documentation that helps prove your damages.
For example, a car accident victim may keep:
- Images of injuries
- Receipts for a rental car, Uber and Lyft trips, or any other form of temporary transportation
- A doctor’s written description of injuries and symptoms
- Medical bills
- Invoice for vehicle repairs
- A mental health expert’s diagnosis of psychological and emotional symptoms
These documents may prove helpful as your lawyer calculates a fair settlement.
Review Applicable Insurance Policies
Insurance policies often explain:
- The types of events that entitle someone to compensation
- The specific damages a claimant can receive money for
- Coverage limits that cap the money an insurance company must pay
- Any circumstances that may void insurance coverage
Personal injury attorneys understand all kinds of insurance policies. Your lawyer will analyze, review, and summarize any policies relevant to you.
Account for Harm You Will Suffer in the Future
An insurance settlement must cover immediate expenses, such as medical bills for emergency medical care. Other damages, like rehabilitation expenses, may range well into the future.
Your attorney will project the cost of your future damages. In some cases, attorneys wait to negotiate to gain a better understanding of their clients’ damages. Your attorney will evaluate your unique circumstances to determine the best approach.
Calculate Exactly How Much Money You Deserve
Before engaging in settlement negotiations, your lawyer will have a clear financial target. By calculating exactly how much money you deserve, your lawyer will have a point of comparison for any settlement offers you receive.
Insurance Companies Often Offer Lowball Settlements—Do Your Due Diligence Before Signing
When an insurance company realizes that it must pay a claimant, its goal may be to pay as little as possible. The average disabling car accident results in costly medical bills (and even more losses when you account for non-economic damages).
In such a case, an insurance company may offer far less than what a claimant deserves because:
- The insurance model promotes low settlement offers: Insurance companies’ financial model depends on paying out less money than they take in. Therefore, it is common for insurance companies to offer less money than a claimant deserves. These offers are lowball offers.
- Coverage limits cap the insurer’s financial liability: Insurance companies avoid huge financial losses by placing coverage limits in their policies. While an insurer will cover certain events, paying beyond a policy’s coverage limits is not legally required. You may file a lawsuit to seek compensation beyond coverage limits.
- It believes you are financially desperate: An insurance company may realize that you face significant financial pressure. It may offer a lowball settlement, hoping that you will take any sum of money because of financial stress—even if it is far less money than you deserve.
- It disagrees with the valuation of your damages: An insurance company may genuinely believe that you deserve less compensation than your lawyer demands. The insurer may stand behind its valuation of your damages and refuse to offer the settlement you seek.
Insurance companies have time, resources, and lawyers on their side.
To save money on your claim, these companies may:
- Extend a quick, lowball offer and insisting that it is the best offer you will receive
- Refuse to negotiate in a good–faith manner
- Delay the claims process, perhaps as a means of (it hopes) forcing you to accept the lowball offer
- Try to confuse you about the details of the insurance policy
- Pressure you to make recorded statements when you are not ready to do so
- Take your words or actions out of context
- Use lawyers as a means of intimidation
It is no wonder why so many people hire personal injury lawyers. An attorney can deal with insurers for you, allowing you to avoid the risk of jeopardizing your claim.
How Do I Know If a Settlement Is Fair?
Most people cannot determine if a settlement offer is fair on their own, and they might end up with much less than they need.
Instead, work with an attorney, who may determine your settlement value by:
- Establishing liability for your damages: The amount of compensation you receive may depend on whether someone is fully or partially at fault for your damages. If someone else is completely responsible for causing you harm, they should cover all your damages.
- Consulting experts: Lawyers often seek help to calculate their clients’ damages. For instance, a doctor may help your lawyer identify future medical needs and calculate the cost of care. An economist might review your career earnings and project future lost income.
- Calculating non-economic damages: Attorneys use multiple methods to calculate the financial cost of non-economic damages like pain and suffering. The per diem and multiplier method may allow your lawyer to value your non-economic damages precisely.
- Totaling your existing economic damages: Your lawyer will total the cost of your immediate economic damages. For example, vehicle repairs, phone repairs, and temporary transportation may all have a clear financial cost relatively soon after your accident.
- Monitoring your ongoing damages: As you move forward from your accident, your lawyer will keep track of your ongoing damages. For example, your attorney may add the cost of each doctor’s visit to the running tally of your damages.
- Projecting future damages: You may reach a point where you need compensation but continue to suffer from your accident. At this point, your lawyer may need to make an educated estimate of your future damages. This occurs when someone suffers a permanent disability.
Most claims and lawsuits result in settlements, so the average personal injury lawyer knows how to calculate damages and negotiate settlements.
What If the Settlement Offer Is Less Than I Deserve?
Most lawyers begin negotiating a settlement with insurers and often end negotiations with an agreement. However, in many cases, liable parties do not offer a fair settlement, even after exhaustive negotiations.
In these cases, a lawyer may file a lawsuit against liable parties. Insurance companies generally provide an attorney for their client and continue negotiating. Eventually, though, the case may go to trial.
Your lawyer will discuss the possibility of taking your case to trial if this becomes a realistic possibility. In any case, know that a settlement is not your only option for pursuing compensation.
How a Lawyer Will Pursue the Settlement You Deserve
If you hire an attorney to seek a fair settlement, expect them to:
Protect Your Rights
Lawyers protect their clients primarily by handling every step of the case. If an insurer cannot speak directly with you, the insurer cannot violate your rights or convince you to accept an unfair settlement.
Your lawyer can also advise you on any case-related responsibilities. For instance, your attorney may craft any written statement you must submit to an insurer. Whatever role your lawyer takes in your case, they will make protecting you their priority.
Obtain Evidence of Liable Parties’ Negligence
Most cases require a personal injury lawyer to prove negligence, which is unreasonable behavior that causes harm to another. If your attorney proves negligence beyond a doubt, they may have a position of power in settlement negotiations.
Evidence of negligence varies from case to case, and examples include:
- In vehicle accident cases: Eyewitness testimony detailing the accident, video footage of the collision, a police report documenting the accident
- In slip and fall cases: Photographs of the slipping hazard, an expert’s testimony about how the property owner exposed the fall victim to danger
Successful personal injury lawyers gather evidence quickly and in a comprehensive manner. A law firm will begin gathering evidence as soon as you hire it, as this is a priority in every insurance claim or lawsuit.
Identify a Fair Settlement Amount
Before fighting for your financial recovery, your lawyer will determine precisely how much money you are entitled to. Personal injury firms have systems, including several attorneys, for ensuring that settlement targets are accurate.
Represent You in Settlement Negotiations
Your lawyer will negotiate a settlement with an insurance company.
Your lawyer will begin negotiations equipped with:
- Evidence that suggests the insurance company is financially liable (such as proof that their policyholder caused a car accident)
- Documentation of your covered losses
- A detailed calculation of your covered losses
- Any expert testimony they’ve sourced for your case
- Any other relevant information or documentation
Your lawyer’s oral arguments can make the difference during settlement negotiations. Therefore, seek an attorney with experience and successful case results, as these may indicate how skilled of a negotiator the attorney is.
Weigh the Possibility of Trial
If settlement negotiations do not produce a fair offer, your lawyer may consider taking your course to trial. Before they go to court, your lawyer will review the best settlement offer with you.
You are the client, and it is your case. Therefore, you should have the final say over whether to accept a settlement or proceed to trial. Ideally, you will trust your lawyer, and you can agree on the right decision for you.
What Damages Does a Settlement Cover?
Each case is different. Someone who suffers a workplace fall may have significantly different damages than someone who falls at work, even though they will both have medical expenses.
Your lawyer will focus on your damages, which may include:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Property expenses
- Lost income
- Diminished earning power
- Counseling (for pain and suffering)
- Medication (for both physical and psychological issues)
Lawyers identify, document, and calculate the cost of damages. This requires them to work closely with you, your doctors, and perhaps other experts to create a detailed accounting of your damages. Let a lawyer handle this responsibility so you don’t have to.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer as Soon as Possible
When you suffer injuries or lose a loved one, a personal injury lawyer is a logical person to turn to. A lawyer will take over your case and fight for compensation. You can focus on your health while your lawyer handles your claim.