When you are injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver, you will likely file a claim with their insurance company to recover compensation for the losses you experienced. Fair compensation will look different for every accident victim, but in general, your settlement should account for the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- Future medical care costs if your injuries require long-term treatment
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity if you are no longer able to work
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage replacement or repair
But what if the insurance company offers you a settlement that does not cover your losses? A helpful Indiana personal injury lawyer can explain why these low offers happen and how you can respond to get the fair settlement you deserve.
Why Might You Be Receiving a Low Settlement Offer?
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, which means they keep a close eye on their expenditures and attempt to limit their payouts as much as possible. Low initial settlement offers are frequently part of their cost-cutting measures. However, there may be other reasons why you have been given a low settlement offer, including:
- The insurance company believes you are at fault for your accident: Indiana is an at-fault state for car accidents which uses a modified comparative negligence system. Under this system, if an injured person was 51% or more responsible for the accident, they cannot file a claim against the other driver’s insurance. The insurance adjuster may decide that you were partially at fault for your accident, which results in a decrease in your settlement or an outright denial.
- Your claim has been undervalued: Adjusters use formulas to calculate settlement amounts, but these may be too generic to account for all the losses you’ve suffered due to the crash. It is also possible that they did not receive enough information on expenses, lost wages, and other damages to make a proper calculation.
- You are dealing with bad faith insurance practices: Not every insurer is scrupulous. Some insurance companies may make lowball offers without even considering the facts of the case. Worse, they could attempt to pressure you into accepting their offer. These fraudulent activities are known as bad faith insurance practices and are illegal. If you believe the insurer is acting in bad faith, promptly contact a lawyer for assistance.
Do You Have to Accept a Low Settlement Offer?
The good news is that you are under no obligation to accept a low settlement offer from an insurer. If you have mounting bills, it may be tempting to take the first offer even if it is low, but this is harmful in the long run. Once you accept a settlement, your claim is closed, and you cannot seek further compensation.
However, it can be critical to discuss your settlement offer with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer who can help determine if you should reject the offer. If you were partially at fault for an accident, your settlement would be reduced by the amount of fault assigned to you. This can result in receiving less than you had expected, but it still may be reasonable compensation.
In most cases, you should only accept an offer once you have reached a stable point in your recovery to ensure that all your medical expenses are adequately covered. If you have concerns about handling medical bills until then, your lawyer can explain strategies, such as medical liens, to remove some of the stress from the situation.
What Steps Can You Take to Receive a Higher Settlement?
Getting a low offer from the insurance company can be frustrating and disheartening, but you should not get discouraged. It is relatively common for claims, especially ones involving serious injuries and hefty expenses, to go through a negotiation process to reach an agreeable settlement. While individuals are free to negotiate with the insurance company, it is often in their best interests to seek the counsel of a car accident attorney with negotiation experience to get the best possible outcome.
Steps that your attorney can take to recover a fair settlement include:
- Reject the low initial settlement in writing: Your lawyer will draft a letter that formally rejects the offer and details why it is unsatisfactory.
- Make a counteroffer: Using evidence from your case and proof of your losses, your lawyer will build a strong case for a higher settlement amount. The insurance company may accept it or may counter back. This process can continue until both sides reach a settlement they believe is fair. The majority of cases end at this step.
- Take the case to court: If negotiations fail, you can file a lawsuit to recover damages. Sometimes insurance companies are more willing to negotiate when the prospect of a trial is looming.
How Can an Attorney Help You?
Retaining the services of an attorney can not only make it easier to successfully fight back against a low settlement offer, but it also shows the insurance company that you are determined to collect proper compensation for your losses. An experienced car accident attorney can thoroughly investigate your accident, gather necessary evidence and documentation, and provide a fair valuation of your unique claim. A good lawyer will ensure that you have reasonable expectations for your case’s outcome and explain your claim’s strengths and weaknesses. If you have questions or concerns about your settlement offer, our helpful legal team provides free case evaluations for car accident victims.