After a motor vehicle accident, you might be approached by an insurance adjuster for the other driver’s insurer. They may tell you that they take full responsibility for the accident, or even offer you a settlement. Is it a good idea to take this initial settlement offer?
In almost every case, you should not accept this offer. Insurance companies are in business to make money – not to give you the money that you deserve for your injuries. An experienced Charleston personal injury lawyer will fight for your right to full compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other losses.
At Johnstone & Gabhart, we are committed to helping injury victims get a fair settlement after an auto accident. We offer free consultations and handle all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. To learn more or to talk to a car accident attorney in Charleston, WV, give our law office a call.
Signs of a Lowball Offer
Most people are fortunate enough to not be in multiple car crashes in their lifetime. While this is a good thing, it also means that you probably don’t know when an insurer is making a lowball settlement offer.
There are a few signs that you can watch for that may indicate that the initial offer isn’t fair. First, if the offer comes too quickly, it probably isn’t enough to cover your losses. While an experienced attorney will work to resolve your case as soon as possible, when an offer comes too fast, it is probably a lowball settlement offer.
Personal injury claims often require significant documentation to prove liability and damages. A typical case may include:
- Medical records
- Witness statements
- Police or accident reports
- Photos or videos
- A timeline of events
- Receipts, invoices, bills, and other proof of damages
When insurance companies make an offer before they have enough evidence, the amount will probably be less than what you need to fully cover your losses. For example, if you haven’t completed medical treatment yet, then this initial offer may not even pay for all of your medical bills. You should always talk to a seasoned WV car accident lawyer before accepting any settlement offer.
Second, if an insurance adjuster is pressuring you to settle, it is a good indication that their offer isn’t any good. Remember: insurance companies are in business to make money. They know that if you have time to seek out legal representation, they will probably be on the hook for a much higher amount.
Don’t let the insurance company tell you that you don’t have time to talk to a lawyer. Under West Virginia law, you typically have 2 years to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. That is more than enough time to consult an attorney before signing any paperwork or agreeing to a settlement.
Third, if the adjuster questions your injuries, that is a sign that they may be offering a lowball settlement offer. Insurance companies often argue that an accident victim’s injuries were pre-existing and that they are not liable for them as a result. If an adjuster is challenging the extent or severity of your injuries, then they probably won’t offer you fair compensation for your insurance claim.
Fourth, if an insurer dismisses or ignores evidence – like photos or videos of the accident scene – they are probably not planning to give you a good offer for your personal injury claim. They may be trying to justify a lowball insurance settlement offer by arguing that you were partially at fault (comparative negligence) or that their insured wasn’t at fault.
Fifth, when insurance companies won’t explain the math behind their offer, it probably isn’t a settlement agreement that you should sign. Most insurers use software programs to come up with offers for accident claims. They often try to minimize the amount that they pay out for non-economic damages like pain and suffering or emotional distress. If they can’t provide a breakdown of their offer, don’t sign anything.
Ultimately, almost any offer made by an insurance company when you don’t have legal representation will be a lowball offer. Insurance companies make billions of dollars in profit by denying or underpaying valid claims. The best way that you can protect yourself is by working with a Charleston, WV personal injury attorney.
Don’t Accept the First Offer
A good rule of thumb for all injury victims is to never accept the first settlement offer made by an insurance company. It will almost certainly be far less than what you are entitled to – and may even be less than what you need to cover your losses.
An insurance adjuster may be really nice. They may express sympathy for your situation and talk about how they want to help you get the money that you need. But at the end of the day, they work for the insurance company. Their goal is to resolve each and every personal injury claim for as little money as possible.
Many accident victims are in a bad financial place, or at the very least, are experiencing some financial strain after being hurt in a collision. You may be out of work, facing big medical bills, and dealing with huge estimates for car repairs. In this situation, you may be tempted to take whatever money the insurance company is willing to give you.
Doing so would be a mistake. An initial settlement offer may not include the full range of damages that you are entitled to, including:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Future medical treatment
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
It almost certainly will not include punitive damages in cases where you may be entitled to them, such as a drunk driving accident. If you accept this lowball insurance offer, you may quickly discover that you don’t have enough money to pay for all of your accident-related expenses.
When you sign a settlement agreement, you give up your right to file a lawsuit. This means that if you discover that your losses were greater than what you originally thought, you will be out of luck. For this reason, you should never sign any paperwork or accept any settlement offer before you have the chance to talk to a seasoned Charleston, WV injury attorney.
How an Attorney Can Help
In West Virginia, lawyers are obligated to represent your best interests. Unlike insurance companies, an attorney doesn’t want to get rid of your case for as little money as possible. Instead, their goal is to help you get maximum compensation for your personal injury claim.
Studies show that people who are represented by counsel recover an average of 40% more than people who represent themselves. The reason why is simple: insurance companies take advantage of people who don’t have lawyers, and payout unfair settlements to resolve these claims. In some cases, insurance companies may even engage in bad faith insurance practices to get you to settle a case for as little money as possible.
An experienced personal injury attorney will protect your rights throughout the process. They understand the true value of your case based on the facts and WV law and will fight for you to get top dollar for your legal claim. Your lawyer will handle all communications with the insurance company on your behalf, putting an end to any attempts by insurance company representatives to pressure you.
Having a lawyer will also help you level the playing field. Most insurers are massive corporations, with teams of lawyers and adjusters at the ready. A skilled attorney will stand up to the insurance company and get you the money that you deserve for your losses.
The process starts with a free consultation, where we will explain your rights and options for pursuing a claim. If you decide to hire our law firm, we will get to work right away, investigating the accident, researching the law, and developing a strategy for your case. From there, we will put together a claim for damages and will begin negotiating with the insurance company.
Most personal injury cases are resolved without going to court. However, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit and take the case to trial if the insurance company won’t give you a fair settlement for your losses. Our experienced trial attorneys will guide you through the process, giving you peace of mind in knowing that your claim will be handled with skill and compassion.
Can I Afford to Hire a Lawyer for My Car Accident Case?
Yes. Personal injury cases are generally handled on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay nothing upfront, and you only pay a fee if your lawyer recovers money for you. The fee is based on a percentage of the total recovery.
This type of fee arrangement means that you don’t have to have thousands of dollars in the bank to hire a personal injury attorney. It also aligns your interests with your lawyer’s, as you both want to settle the case for as much money as possible, as quickly as possible. Reach out to Johnstone & Gabhart for a free consultation with a Charleston personal injury lawyer.
How Can I Find Out How Much My Case Is Worth?
When the insurance adjuster approaches you with a settlement offer, you may be wondering if it’s a good offer. The best way to find out is by consulting with a skilled WV car accident attorney. The value of your case is based on a number of factors, such as the severity of your injuries, whether you will be permanently disabled, and even the limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. A lawyer will evaluate these factors and give you a ballpark estimate of the value of your case.
This is the only real way for accident victims to find out if the insurance settlement offer is fair. An initial consultation is free, so there is no risk in meeting with a lawyer. In Charleston and beyond, call Johnstone & Gabhart to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our legal team.
We’ll Fight for Your Right to Fair Compensation
When you are hurt in a car accident, the last thing that you want to do is battle it out with the insurance company. You don’t have to do it alone. Our law firm is here to help.
Based in Charleston, Johnstone & Gabhart represents injury victims throughout West Virginia in all types of personal injury claims. We aggressively advocate for our clients, working hard to get the maximum compensation. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a Charleston car accident lawyer, give us a call at 304-343-7100 or fill out our online contact form.