The insurance company just offered you a settlement, and you want to sign it. You need money fast, and they’re offering to give you more than you imagined. Should you sign this car accident settlement? How do you know if the car accident settlement is good or if they’re lowballing you?
What should you know before reaching a car accident settlement? Before you sign anything, you must understand some things about car accident settlements. You may not want to sign after you read this!
You Forfeit Your Ability To File a Future Claim
When you agree to a settlement after a car accident, it might seem like the end of the story. However, it’s important to know that by doing so, you give up your right to seek further compensation in the future.
The key issue here is that when you put your signature on that car accident settlement agreement, you’re essentially letting everyone involved in the accident off the hook for any future problems related to the incident. There are two significant problems with this.
First, you might be leaving money on the table. If the settlement doesn’t cover all your costs, they’re in the clear because you’ve already accepted the settlement.
What’s more, signing the agreement means you’re giving up any right to come back for more money. It doesn’t matter if you later discover you need more medical treatment or surgeries or if you find out about additional injuries. You can’t ask for more money to cover those costs.
What if you realize that your injuries are worse than you initially thought and you can’t work because of a permanent disability? If you’ve signed a settlement – you’re out of luck. The settlement is their guarantee that you can’t ask for more money.
When you sign a car accident settlement agreement, you’re closing the book on your claim, no matter what unexpected issues might arise in the future. So, it’s critical to approach these agreements with caution, ensuring that they truly cover all your needs, both current and potential future costs.
Because of this, it is important to have an experienced Florida car accident lawyer review your claim and settlement offer. Your attorney can tell you how much your accident and injuries are worth and whether the insurance company’s offer is fair. You should wait until you complete medical treatment or reach maximum medical improvement before you sign any settlement offer.
A Settlement is a Legally Binding Contract
A settlement agreement is a legally binding contract. Once you’ve settled your car accident claim, it’s not something you can simply undo. If you have a change of heart, the insurance company can take legal action to compel you to abide by the terms of the agreement.
So, to look out for yourself in this situation, it’s smart to have a personal injury lawyer check over the agreement before you put your name on it. This goes for any paperwork related to your car accident – having an attorney review it prevents you from accidentally giving up your rights.
If you hire an auto accident lawyer to handle your car accident settlement, your attorney plays a crucial role. They will meticulously inspect all documents before your signature hits the page. They’ll break down the contract terms and ensure you understand how signing this settlement may affect your legal rights. They’ll also explore any alternative options that might warrant consideration before you decide to accept the settlement offer.
Your Settlement Amount Might Not Be Enough
Before you sign a car accident settlement agreement, you must know what your claim is actually worth. In many cases, the initial offer from the insurance company falls short of the true value of your claim. These insurers aim to pay the least amount possible to settle your personal injury case. Their main goal is to get you to settle for far less than you deserve – and need.
Here’s the catch: if you’re not fully aware of the kinds of compensation you’re entitled to for a car accident claim and how much those compensations are worth, you might end up with a settlement that’s thousands of dollars less than what your claim is genuinely worth.
So, how can you make sure you’re not shortchanged? Document your financial losses carefully to ensure that every expense you’ve incurred is accounted for in the settlement amount. This includes keeping tabs on all your medical bills, lost income, travel expenses, personal care costs, and any other money you’ve had to shell out because of the accident.
One way to do this is by asking your medical providers for detailed statements that break down the exact cost of your treatment. Hang on to copies of all invoices and bills related to your car accident claim. Keep those receipts safely tucked away when you pay a bill or purchase over-the-counter medications or supplies related to your injuries. They serve as concrete proof of the expenses you’ve had to cover.
Keep copies of your pay stubs or time cards and calculate how many days you’ve missed of work. Be sure to obtain copies of your benefits, especially if you used sick or extended leave time. By being diligent and keeping records, you can be sure you’re not leaving money on the table regarding your car accident settlement.
Beyond the straightforward financial losses, you’re also entitled to compensation for what they call “non-economic damages.” These are things like:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Emotional distress
- Permanent disabilities and impairment
- Mental anguish and trauma
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Psychological injuries like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Putting a dollar value on these kinds of damages can be tricky. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula to figure it out. Insurance companies consider how severe your injuries are, how long it takes to recover, and whether you end up with any long-term disabling conditions to determine the value of your non-economic damages.
Any settlement you receive must account for ALL your damages and suffering, not just tangible medical costs.
You May Not Get Your Money Upfront
When it comes to how you get paid after a car accident settlement, many injured accident victims believe that they will receive a one-time lump sum. It’s a straightforward deal, and this is how it works for many car crash victims.
But here’s the catch: some insurance companies might try to make things a bit more complicated by spreading out your payments over time. This might not be what you want, and it’s generally not the best setup for most accident victims.
As mentioned earlier, you’re locked in when you sign the settlement. If you sign it without going through the fine print, you could end up with a payment plan that doesn’t work well for you.
Don’t assume you’ll get your money upfront in a lump payment until you read that agreement from top to bottom, every single word. If you come across something you don’t quite get, make some notes about it and jot down any questions to ask your attorney.
Your car accident attorney won’t let you sign a settlement that isn’t in your best interest. That’s why it pays to have someone looking out for you and your future while you go through the legal process.
It Is Rarely Their Final Offer
The initial settlement offer you receive after a car accident is often way lower than you deserve. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to say yes. Even if they say it’s their final offer, it’s rarely their final offer. Instead, you’ll want to counteroffer and start a back-and-forth negotiation for a fair settlement.
To make a fair counteroffer, you need to know the actual value of your damages. This is crucial because your counteroffer should aim high but still within the range of what your damages are genuinely worth. This way, you leave some room for negotiation without shortchanging yourself.
Second, you should clearly know the absolute minimum amount you’d be willing to accept to settle your car accident claim. Offer a sum higher than that minimum when you make your counteroffer. This higher figure provides some wiggle room for the insurance company.
Negotiations with insurance companies can take some time – weeks or even months. To bolster your position, keep rock-solid documentation of your damages. This might include medical bills, lost income records, and any other expenses that have piled up due to the accident.
Your best chance of receiving maximum compensation after an accident is to hire a Florida car accident attorney. Your attorney knows how to negotiate with insurance companies. They also know how to collect evidence and document damages. Let them handle the ins and outs of the legal process so you can focus on rebuilding your life after a motor vehicle crash.
Contact Our Florida Car Accident Attorneys For a Free Consultation
We know how to evaluate car accident settlements and can tell you if your offer is fair. Do not sign anything without first talking to our experienced Florida car accident attorneys.
Call the dedicated auto accident attorneys at Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys, PA. We know that you need someone in your corner who can fight insurance companies and obtain a fair settlement for you! We can do just that!
For help understanding how much your case should be worth and what your best path to compensation is, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation. Our number is (305) 694-2676.