The cost of recovering from an accident-related injury can range from a few thousand dollars to millions. If the accident was not your fault, you have the right to seek compensation from the other driver’s insurance company. In Houston, TX, most injured people choose to work with personal injury lawyers to secure a settlement. So, what if the insurance company has already given you a settlement offer?
I’ve Been Offered a Settlement: Do I Still Need a Lawyer?
If you received a settlement offer before having the chance to speak with a lawyer, it is still in your best interests to get professional legal representation. There is a big difference between accepting any settlement offer and receiving a payout that truly reflects the cost of your accident. Having your own lawyer can help you tally all of your damages and negotiate for full compensation.
What Is a Settlement Offer?
A settlement offer is a way for the insurance company to fulfill its obligation to honor its policy without incurring a costly court battle. Essentially, the settlement offer is a promise to pay you a stated amount of money if you agree not to pursue matters related to the accident in court. In order to accept the settlement, you must sign a document relinquishing your rights to sue. Once the settlement is finalized, it cannot be reopened.
A well-negotiated settlement offer can work in everyone’s best interests. It allows both you and the insurance company to avoid the extra legal fees and time needed to prepare for a trial. However, if the insurance company senses that you do not fully understand your right to be compensated for all the eligible damages that apply in your case, they may try to make an offer that is too low.
Why You Should Not Accept a Settlement Offer Without Reviewing It With a Lawyer
Until you look over a settlement with someone who understands personal injury law, there is no guarantee that the amount offered is fair. Insurance companies make their profits by minimizing the money they spend on settlements, so it is in their interests to try to persuade you to accept less than your claim is worth. By contrast, your lawyer is bound by professional standards set by the bar association to represent your interests exclusively.
You may be surprised at how quickly you receive a settlement offer from the insurance company. Fast offers are used to tempt injured parties into accepting low payouts before talking to a lawyer. If you accept the insurance company’s first offer, you may find later that it won’t cover all of your medical expenses, much less lost wages and noneconomic damages. In that case, you will need to pay for a portion of the accident out of pocket.
What Should a Settlement Offer Include?
Even a small accident yielding minor injuries can be more expensive than you would expect. By the time you and your lawyer are finished reviewing all of your applicable damages, you might find that you are entitled to much more money than the insurance company initially offered you. Here are the most common accident-related damages:
Your medical expenses include all the costs to treat your injury, like:
- Ambulance costs
- ER visits
- Being seen by your PCP and/or specialists
- Diagnostic tests
- Treatments and surgeries
- Medical equipment needed for your home
- Prescription medications
- Transportation to and from medical facilities
A minor accident may only require an initial trip to the ER, some treatments, and a few follow-up appointments. If the course of your treatment is determined to be relatively short, your lawyer may advise you to seek compensation after you are recovered and your medical expenses are fully known. If you expect to need a lengthy course of treatment or lifelong medical care, your lawyer can help you argue for future medical expenses.
When you need to take time off work to recover from an accident-related injury, the income you miss out on can be added to the value of your claim. By law, your lost wages can include forms of compensation other than your hourly wage or salary, such as vacation days and 401K benefits. If you could not earn a promotion or a bonus as a result of your injury, those losses can increase the value of your settlement, as well.
Like medical expenses, you could be eligible for future lost wages if you suffered a severe injury. If you are going to seek future lost wages, your lawyer might bring an accountant and an economist in to help with your case. Careful accounting is also necessary to come up with a reasonable estimate of the lost wages of individuals who are self-employed.
A fair settlement should compensate you for all of your accident-related losses, including non-monetary, or “noneconomic” damages. Your noneconomic damages could include the pain and suffering you experienced from your injuries as well as the emotional stress of dealing with the accident. Disfigurement, loss of consortium, and the inability to pursue activities you once enjoyed can also factor into your claim.
How Will Your Lawyer Work to Increase Your Settlement?
Fighting for the true value of your accident claim is a matter of understanding all the damages allowed by personal injury law, speaking persuasively on subjective points like noneconomic damages, and negotiating with the insurance company using evidence. Having a lawyer shows the insurance company that you are serious about being treated fairly and that you will not give in to tactics that assume you don’t understand your rights.
What If I Need the Money for Medical Expenses Right Away?
If you have considerable medical expenses, you may worry about getting the treatments you need while negotiations with the insurance company are underway. Your lawyer can help you review your insurance policies and speak with your providers to understand how to get the costs covered without feeling rushed into accepting a low settlement offer.
In most cases, an injured person’s health insurance will cover their medical expenses until the settlement is finalized. You may also be able to use the personal injury protection offered through your auto insurance. When efforts to get insurance to front the costs fail, your lawyer may be able to help you persuade your providers to defer the medical bills until the settlement is resolved.
How Can You Find the Right Personal Injury Lawyers in Houston, TX?
It is important to choose an experienced lawyer who will leverage every aspect of the settlement process to your advantage. Usually, a lawyer’s track record is a good indicator of their future success. Most lawyers offer free consultations during which you can present your grounds for compensation, ask questions about the process, and get a feel for the lawyer’s professionalism.
Take Control of the Settlement Process
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to settling an accident case. Our attorneys understand how to argue personal injury cases, from collecting viable evidence to listing applicable damages to anticipating the insurance company’s strategies. To discuss your settlement offer with our personal injury lawyers in Houston, TX, contact Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner.