Settling a Personal Injury Lawsuit after a Car Accident
Anyone who has been involved in a car accident knows how difficult it can be to pursue the at-fault driver for damages in the court system.
What many people may not realize — until it is too late — is with most car accidents, the driver who caused the accident will not necessarily need to get a lawyer because his or her insurance company will be involved.
Fighting an insurance company can be a long and drawn-out process. This leads many victims of reckless drivers to settle their cases for far less than they need to cover their damages caused by the accident.
There are a few things to know before settling a personal injury claim, especially if the accident was caused by a drunk driver.
The Settlement Game
As heartless as it may sound, settlement negotiations after a car accident are merely part of the insurance company’s strategy to reduce the amount of money their client is liable to pay.
There will be behind-the-scene discussions of the cost-benefit analysis for each sides. They will take into account how expensive it may be to take a case to trial versus what victims will accept for their claim to “put things behind them.”
What many accident victims also fail to realize is that some types of settlements are taxable and others are not.
While paying taxes is a factor over which the insurance company has no control — it is within the purview of the IRS — a point of discussion during negotiations is how the settlement may be characterized. That is, compensatory or punitive damages — and this may affect whether or not a settlement amount is taxable.
Support The Facts With Evidence
Every car accident case is different. Every injury is different. Every individual responds differently to a treatment plan even for similar injuries.
The facts of a particular situation should be used to determine what a fair settlement amount should be. To be prepared for settlement discussions, it is best for a victim to be well-versed in the facts of the situation by knowing:
- What evidence is available to support their recollection of events
- Who witnessed the accident and what they reported seeing
- Whether a fault determination was made in a police report
If an accident was caused by a drunk driver, the police department responsible for investigating the accident should have information about the reckless driver’s blood alcohol content and other evidence from the accident scene.
Bringing facts and evidentiary support to settlement negotiations can give an accident victim the needed leverage to obtain a fair settlement offer. Such an offer would compensate them for the losses incurred by the accident.
How to Negotiate Your Settlement
As a general rule of thumb, the first offer is not necessarily the best one you will get. Usually it is the lowest possible offer from the at-fault insurance company. It is often much much less than the value of your claim.
Insurance companies are in the business of making money by paying out as little as possible in claims. Unless you counteroffer, you will never know the entire amount they were prepared to pay you.
With that in mind, don’t take the first offer. When you get the offer, ask them what it is supposed to cover. Get an itemized list of those costs. Compare it with your claim. Determine what is missing. For example, if they outlined only some, but not all, medical bills, find out if they are missing and obtain them. If they didn’t mention time off work and you took time off, get proof of that missed time.
Once you are prepared, make a counteroffer and provide more proof of your injuries to get the best offer.
What Will Happen to My Case?
Roughly 85% of personal injury cases settle out of court, as most defendants are covered by insurance. Most compensation is paid to personal injury victims based on a settlement negotiated with an insurance company. In a settlement negotiation, the parties balance risk and reward.
However, there is no precise formula to determine the value of your case. An experienced personal injury lawyer can give you an estimate of the ranges of compensation you can expect.
If there is significant disagreement between both sides, it’s possible that your case may go to court.
If both sides refuse to settle, then the case will go to trial. Going to trial means that it could take months or even years for you to receive compensation, and you may have to deal with depositions, discovery, medical examinations and testifying in court. If a case does go to court, that the jury might award an amount lower than the defendant (or the insurance company) would have agreed to.
In some cases, a jury might even find that the victim was wholly responsible for his or her own injuries, and thus award zero damages.
We Can Help Get You a Fair Settlement
While it is not necessary to obtain a lawyer to negotiate a settlement agreement after a car accident, it is vital to arm yourself with all the information you need to fight for a fair settlement.
The professionals at the Thompson Law Firm, LLC are standing by with answers to any questions you may have about settlement and your legal rights after a car accident.
Contact us for a free consultation if you have any questions about your settlement.