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Can you get a “quick settlement” from the insurance company after an auto accident?
If you’ve been injured in a car wreck, you are probably feeling overwhelmed – your car needs to be repaired or replaced, you’ve spent time in the ER, hospital, or doctor’s offices, and the bills are piling up.
You aren’t going to hear from any plaintiff’s attorneys unless you call them, but, sure enough, an adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company is calling you. Will they pay your claim in a quick settlement without an attorney getting involved? They say they just need a recorded statement from you to make it happen…
Below, we will explain why a quick settlement that fully pays your bills is probably not something that is going to happen, including:
If the insurance company offers you a settlement soon after your car wreck, it is not because they are doing the right thing and paying your valid claim.
It is because they are trying to get out of paying your claim by either 1) getting you to make a statement they can use against you or 2) paying “nuisance money” to get you to waive your claim before you talk to an attorney.
“Nuisance value” is the least amount of money that an insurance company can pay to get you to sign a release before talking to an auto accident attorney. They can give you a small check upfront, get you to sign a release, and then they don’t have to pay 1) their defense lawyers or 2) the full value of your claim…
Why would they do this?
Insurance companies are in business to make money. Period. Full stop. You are not in good hands with Allstate, and State Farm is not there when you need them. They will do everything possible to deny your claim or to limit the amount that they must pay because that is how they make money.
Insurance adjusters are trained to find ways to deny or limit your claim, and accident victims are cheated out of fair settlements every day because they don’t contact an attorney before dealing with the at-fault driver’s insurance agents.
How do they do it?
One way is by keeping you in the dark about what your rights are and what types of damages you are entitled to.
Attorneys cannot contact you for 30 days after an auto accident – it is prohibited by the ethics rules that govern lawyers. Rule 7.3(b)(3) says that an attorney cannot contact an accident victim when:
(3) the solicitation concerns an action for personal injury or wrongful death or otherwise relates to an accident or disaster involving the person solicited or a relative of that person unless the accident or disaster occurred more than thirty (30) days prior to the solicitation.
Why is that?
The comments to the Rule say that contact from an attorney after an accident is “an intrusion on the personal privacy and tranquility of citizens” that causes “outrage and irritation with the legal profession engendered by crass commercial intrusion by attorneys upon a citizen’s personal grief in a time of trauma.”
That may be true for many people, but the hidden effect of the Rule is that insurance adjusters have 30 days to contact accident victims, mislead them about the value of their case, and attempt to get them to make damaging statements, accept a quick settlement, and sign a release before they know what their rights are and what they are entitled to receive in a settlement.
Insurance adjusters will tell you that they just need to get a recorded statement from you before they can pay your claim.
Sounds reasonable, right?
Except, they are trained to ask you questions that could:
The statements that you make to an insurance agent will 1) affect any settlement that they offer and 2) be admissible against you in court if you file a claim.
Be aware that your property damage claim is separate from your personal injury claim, and there should be a separate insurance adjuster that handles each type of claim.
You can get a quick settlement of your property damage claim, including repairs to your vehicle, replacement of your vehicle, diminution in value caused by the crash, and the cost of a rental car while yours is in the shop, and you can sign a release solely for the property damage claim without affecting your personal injury claim.
In most cases, insurance companies will not pay the full value of your claim if you are not represented by an auto accident attorney. Why would they pay if there is no threat of trial when they refuse to pay?
Also, why would they pay the full value of your claim when they know that you don’t know what you are entitled to?
The insurance company will refuse to pay or tell you that you are only entitled to a small settlement because there are liability issues in your case. For example:
You weren’t wearing a seatbelt – failure to wear a seatbelt is not comparative negligence in SC, it does not prevent you from recovering full and fair compensation, and it does not hurt your case.
You were speeding, you didn’t use your turn signal, or you were given a ticket – although this could mean you are liable, you should consult an attorney before you believe it. Although you may be comparatively negligent, you may still be entitled to recover the full value of your claim, or your recovery may be reduced by the percentage of negligence assigned to you by a jury.
For example, if you were speeding, but the other driver ran a red light and hit you, the other driver is probably liable for the accident and your injuries.
You stopped too quickly, causing the other driver to hit you from behind. No. In most cases, if a driver hits you from behind, they are liable and you are entitled to the full value of your claim.
You were in a parking lot, so no one is liable. No. Although parking lot cases must be examined closely, the rules of negligence apply, and the negligent party is responsible for paying your damages. If an insurance adjuster tells you that you cannot recover damages because the accident was in a parking lot, they are lying.
The insurance adjuster is not going to tell you the full extent of damages that you are entitled to receive after a car wreck.
You are entitled to full and fair compensation after a car wreck, and that includes:
Once you accept a quick settlement and sign a release, in most cases, you cannot go back and ask for more money to cover additional medical expenses that you did not anticipate – this is why your attorney will not settle your case until you 1) have finished treating your injuries or 2) get an expert opinion on your future medical expenses.
Don’t leave money on the table, and don’t allow the insurance company to sabotage your damages claim.
To estimate what your auto accident case is worth, you will need to know whether liability is clear or contested, all your past and future medical expenses, your non-economic damages, and whether there is a possibility of a punitive damages award at trial.
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