In today’s blog, I will answer three frequently asked questions about settling a car accident claim in Burlington, Vermont.
I talk to a lot of people who’ve been involved in motor vehicle accidents and, far and away, the most common questions I get are these:
- How does an insurance company value my case?
- When should I settle my claim? and
- Should I wait to settle?
Let’s dive in.
How do insurance values settle personal injury claims?
First, let’s talk about how insurance companies value your claim. Most auto insurers use specialized computer applications to assign a value to your claim. The software basically calculates a set of risks based on the insurer’s needs, and bears no relationship at all to what a jury would do if presented with evidence in court.
Insurance adjusters take your medical records and some other pieces of information like the crash report, and thel plug all of this information into the software, which then assigns a range of numbers that the adjuster is allowed to use to settle your claim.
In our experience, the first number that the adjuster offers is rarely the top dollar, and adjusters expect that some negotiation will take place before a final settlement is reached.
When you should consider settling your claim
Next, let’s discuss the best time to settle your personal injury claim.
The easiest decision to make is when the insurance company agrees to pay you the full amount of the policy available. This is what we call a tender of the policy limits and that’s a good thing.
The policy limit really is the most an insurance company will agree to pay to settle your case under almost all circumstances.
But if your injuries are severe and you’re offered the policy limit from the other driver’s insurance, you better know whether you have other coverage available, like under-insured motorist coverage or an insurance policy from someone else who might be responsible to pay because you’ll need the consent or approval of those insurance companies before you can accept the money from the first driver’s insurance.
If the insurance company offers you anything other than the full policy, you and your lawyer (if you have one) will have some decisions to make. While every claim is different, there are some issues that are common to most cases.
Proving your injuries
One factor you must consider is how easy it will be to prove your injuries. Here are some questions you should ask yourself, and your lawyer:
- Are my injuries obvious like broken bones?
- Are my injuries hard to see, like a brain injury or maybe a spinal injury?
- How close is the offer to the actual policy limit?
- Will I wind up spending more money to get the case to trial than I could ever hope to recover in a jury verdict?
- How good is my evidence and how effective will my witnesses be?
- How long will it take to bring my case to resolution in a court of law?
It’s important to know it can be two or more years from the time you file a lawsuit until you get a jury verdict. Is that an amount of time that you can wait?
Maybe, maybe not. That will be up to you.
Each of these factors is very particular to you and your case, but the better each of these factors is, the closer you’ll want your settlement to be to that policy limit.
When you shouldn’t settle your Burlington accident claim
Finally, let’s talk about when you shouldn’t settle your injury case. Believe it or not, you can settle your injury claim too quickly.
Repaying insurance companies
The first thing to consider is whether you will be required to repay insurance benefits you received out of your settlement. If you had medical care paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, or some private insurance companies, you’re going to owe them money out of your settlement. If you settle your case too quickly, or without a letter confirming the amount you owe, you may not know the total that you owe before you settle your case. You could end up owing more money at the end than you recover from the other insurance company.
Only one chance to settle an injury claim
The second reason why you don’t want to settle your injury claim too soon is that you only get one chance to do it. Unlike other types of insurance claims – like medical insurance, unemployment, even workers’ compensation – there’s only a single personal injury settlement, and it’s meant to cover all of the harms and losses: past, present, and future.
If there’s still a chance that you need injury-related medical care in the future, and in particular, something serious like surgery, then it is best to wait until you’ve had that care or that surgery and see if you recover. And if you don’t wait, then you’ll at least want to have a doctor who will go on the record to say that, more likely than not, you’re going to need that surgery or other medical care and this is how much it’s going to cost.
That’s important evidence to have because you can now include the cost of this future medical care as part of the settlement of your claim.
Summary: 3 Burlington Accident FAQs
Remember that many insurance companies use computer software to determine the value of your case and most of the information that they get comes from your medical records.
Don’t ever take the first offer because they’re always prepared to negotiate.
It can be easy to settle your case if your injuries are severe and the insurance adjuster offers you all of the money that’s available ( “the policy limit”), but keep in mind that you may also have under-insured motorist coverage or some other kind of coverage that might be available to you for which you’ll need to get consent before you can accept that policy limit.
In most cases though, you’ll have to make some choices and these choices will be based on the specific circumstances of your case, including the quality of your evidence and the timeframe that you have in mind for recovery.
In most cases you don’t want to settle your case if you’re still actively treating for your injuries. Unless you’re careful, you’ll lose the right to recover for future harms and losses.
Contact Us Today
If you want to work with experienced Vermont, personal injury lawyer Drew Palcsik about your personal injury claim, feel free to call our office or send us a message using our contact form. We serve clients at offices in Burlington and Middlebury, Vermont, and Plattsburgh, New York.