After a car accident, the insurance company of the at-fault driver might contact you as soon as the day of the collision. You might still be in a daze, tending to your injuries and trying to figure out what to do next. Do not let an insurance claims adjuster take advantage of you during this time.
Listen to what the company has to offer you, but don’t say yes right away. Instead, take your time evaluating the offer, and speak to Tampa car accidents lawyers to make sure you’re getting the settlement you deserve. Here’s how to size up an insurance offer to protect your best interests after a crash.
Tips for Evaluating an Insurance Settlement Offer
First and foremost, know that the first offer the insurance company gives you is probably not the best the company can do. An insurance claims adjuster, or the person in charge of settling your claim, has two job goals: to spend as little of the insurance company’s money as possible and to settle the claim quickly.
Notice that respecting your rights or trying to get you the best settlement are not in the adjuster’s job description. The insurance company does not want to maximize your compensation. Instead, it’s up to you to gauge whether or not the offer is fair. Here are five tips from the attorneys at Bulluck Law Group:
- Learn how much your claim is worth. Before even picking up a phone call from an insurance company after a car accident, discuss the value of your claim with a lawyer. Bulluck Law Group offers free case evaluations for this purpose. Ask an attorney what your case could be worth to better prepare yourself for what settlement amounts are fair.
- Don’t say anything. An insurance adjuster can use what you say during a conversation against you later. When in doubt, don’t say anything at all. Wait until you have an attorney with you, or at least until you’ve spoken to a lawyer, before giving a claims analyst any information.
- Don’t sign anything. The insurance adjuster might try to get you to sign a statement or a release form for your claim. Do not sign anything until you’ve talked to an attorney. Signing a release claim can make it difficult to seek further damages for your claim, even if you believe you deserve more.
- Don’t say yes right away. Politely decline a settlement offer until you can talk to a lawyer. Be polite with the insurance representatives or attorneys that contact you about a car accident settlement, but be firm. Tell them you will not accept a settlement offer until you’ve spoken to a lawyer about the value of your claim.
- Talk to an attorney. The main thing to take away is to speak to a lawyer before talking with an insurance claims adjuster. The insurance company is not on your side, while a personal injury lawyer works for you and only for you. A lawyer can even talk to the insurance company for you, so you never have to worry about agreeing to a lowball offer.
Evaluating your settlement offer is impossible until you recognize how much your car accident case could actually be worth. This takes calculating your vehicle repair costs, medical bills, and lost wages, and estimating your pain and suffering damages.
You also need to keep in mind Florida’s comparative negligence laws and other factors that could affect your settlement. The only way to find out if an insurance settlement offer is fair is to learn the value of your claim with help from an attorney.
Learn How Insurance Companies Determine Your Settlement
After receiving a settlement offer from an insurance company, the amount offered might take you by surprise. It could be much less than you were expecting – as is often the case with initial settlement offers.
Knowing which factors the insurance company take into account when deciding what to offer can help you get the upper hand during settlement negotiations. While each car accident claim is different, there are a few general things insurance companies use to determine settlement offers in Florida:
- Details from insurance claims and police/accident reports
- The plaintiff’s history of personal injury claims
- Plaintiff’s prior medical records
- Plaintiff’s injuries and medical costs
- Plaintiff’s claimed lost earnings from the car accident
- The cost of property damage repair or replacement
- Plaintiff’s estimated pain and suffering damages
- The plaintiff’s chances of winning a personal injury trial
Most insurance companies use claims estimate software to come up with the first offer amount. Remember, you were the one involved in the car accident, not the claims adjuster. You’re the one that knows about your injuries and property damages.
Do not underestimate your power during settlement negotiations with insurance companies. It’s up to you – and your attorney – to argue for a fair amount. If you’re not feeling confident about your abilities to negotiate a settlement with a car insurance company, seek help from the Tampa car accident lawyers at Bulluck Law Group.