Insurance companies are really, really good at making money. One of the ways they hold onto that wealth is by looking for ways to deny claims against your policy.
After you file a car accident claim, your insurance company wants to make sure it only pays for what it absolutely must. No matter how well you document your accident and how fair you are in your ask, your insurance company will fight you.
The question is: when should you accept a car accident settlement, and when should you fight it?
Take a deep breath and keep reading to learn more.
What is a car accident settlement?
When you get in a car accident, you have the legal right to ask for compensation through the civil court system.
In most cases, your first point of call isn’t the judge. It’s an insurance provider because all drivers are legally required to keep up-to-date insurance coverage. Uninsured drivers are a different story and usually require filing a personal injury case.
When you sue after a car accident, the defendant is typically an insurance provider – not the other driver.
The insurer will almost always offer you a car accident settlement both initially and at various points before trial. Why? Because going to court is expensive and wastes the insurance company’s resources. And if you have a solid case, then they will likely end up paying anyway.
Settlements cut the time in half and allow the insurer to remain in control of the solution – lest the judge decides to award you more than you ask for.
But when should you accept the check? And when should you reject it?
These Accidents Are Best Settled
There are some accidents that aren’t worth fighting for over the long-term.
If you got in a minor accident and the damage is worth claiming but isn’t severe, your insurer will offer to pay the mechanic’s bill and nothing else. You probably won’t get any more out of them for a scratched car or dented bumper, and it might not be worth trying.
It’s also a good idea to settle if you have made a claim in the past two years, and you caused the accident in an at-fault state. (Georgia is an at-fault state.) If you decide to make a claim, then you are better off accepting what the insurer gives you.
Most people also find that it’s fine to settle if you weren’t injured in the accident. By the time you start the claims process, you have a good idea of the extent of any injuries. If there were anything you could claim for, then you’d likely know in the first 72-96 hours.
Finally, many people choose to settle quickly to get the check quickly. Some feel they can’t afford to bring a case, and others don’t realize they can.
But not everyone who accepts a settlement gets what they are genuinely entitled to. Here are some cases that show when you should be fighting for a claim.
When Should You Avoid Settling a Claim?
In most cases, settling isn’t a good idea when the accident was both severe and when you weren’t at fault.
The one time where it’s never smart to accept an early car accident settlement is when you get injured. If you go to the hospital with injuries and you are still receiving treatment, you don’t know what the future looks like yet. You also don’t know how much those injuries are going to cost you over time.
Any time you get injured in a car accident, you benefit from calling a lawyer before you even file your claim with your insurance company. Even if you don’t want to file a personal injury suit, they can help you negotiate the car accident claim process to make sure that you get the coverage your policy allows right away.
You should also avoid settling if your accident was the result of a third factor, like if the road is very poorly maintained or if there was a bus involved. In any instance where there are contributing factors to the accident, you benefit from having an attorney at least look at your claim before filing it.
When Should You Go to Trial?
The vast majority of car accident claims end in an out-of-court settlement.
Going to trial is risky because it racks up your legal fees and could even end in a loss. However, it is necessary in rare cases.
Why might you decide to go to trial after a car accident?
If you were injured and the insurance company won’t budget and won’t say why, it might be worth going to trial. In these cases, you need to present enough evidence to warrant the settlement you’re asking for. However, the discovery process also provides access to the insurance company’s evidence, so you might find out what’s happening at the insurance company.
You might also choose to go to trial if the insurer has the material facts wrong. For example, if the insurance company won’t pay because it says you caused the accident and you didn’t, then you may need to bring the conflict to a judge.
Will you settle? Ask your attorney for advice.
Insurance companies make their money by offering low initial settlements whenever people make claims. It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.
If you’re unsure about whether to accept a car accident settlement, the best thing to do is consult an attorney. They can review your case and let you know if you have a claim that’s worth much more than what the insurance company offered.
In this case, you can continue negotiating with the insurance company to get a fairer settlement or even take the case to trial if you need to.
Were you injured in a car accident and now facing an unfair settlement? Get in touch today for a free case evaluation and to learn whether you should settle your accident claim.