An unfortunate reality of our lives is that accidents happen around us every day. While most of these accidents are thankfully minor, some can cause serious damage to your body or your property. After certain accidents, such as car accidents, you may be able to file a claim with an insurance company for reimbursement for the damage you or your property sustained in the accident. However, these insurance companies have every incentive to low-ball you with their offers so that they can save money. Below, our experienced Baltimore personal injury lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras explain why you should never accept the first offer and why you made need to file a civil lawsuit to get what you are owed.
Why You Should Never Accept the First Insurance Offer
In some car accident cases, you will have the option to file a claim with the defendant’s insurance company to get compensation for your injuries, medical bills, and lost wages. The company will then do everything it can to argue against liability and limit their payout so it is as low as possible. This is especially true for less tangible damages, such as damages paid out for your pain and suffering. Even though the first offer might seem like a lot of money, it is rare that the offer is nearly as high as the company is willing to pay to settle the matter.
As such, you should never take any offer from an insurance company – especially a first offer – without first consulting with an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney like those at Rice, Murtha & Psoras. We can assess the strength of your case and make our own counteroffer based on how much we think you could collect at trial.
Often, you can claim higher damages in a civil lawsuit, where the potential of expensive pain and suffering damages granted by a jury looms. This means that the threat of a civil lawsuit can often convince the company to make a much higher second offer. Negotiations can continue from there, and your lawyer can work to drive up the settlement offer until it hits a fair value. If we cannot reach a satisfactory settlement after continued negotiations, and we believe the evidence is strongly in your favor, then it may be best to take the case to trial and fight for a large jury award.
If you decide that the best way to collect the highest amount is to forego a settlement and file a civil suit against the individual or corporation responsible, your lawyer will work to prove that the defendant’s negligent actions or lack thereof directly caused your injuries. Negligence is proven by showing that four things exist: a duty to do something, a breach of that duty, that this breach was the cause of the accident, and that damages resulted. If we have the evidence to prove these elements, a lawsuit might be the strongest way to recover fair compensation
Can an Insurance Company Retract their First Settlement Offer?
While it is possible for insurance company to retract their offer if you do not accept it immediately, this is rarely the case. In practicality, the company hopes you will take their low-ball first offer, but it expects you to counter with a higher offer. Furthermore, if they do choose to retract their offer, there is always the option of taking the case to trial where an even higher payout is possible. There is no requirement for an insurance company to make an offer in the first place, and there is never any requirement that you have to take their offer. Even if the insurance company has made fair offers, you are always free to reject an offer and fight the case in court with the help of an injury lawyer.
Damages from Insurance Settlements vs. Damages from Civil Suits
Payouts from successful personal injury suits are almost always higher than whatever you might have received from the insurance company in a settlement, even under good circumstances. Most of the time, initial settlement offers include only economic damages to cover the cost of your medical bills, physical therapy, and lost wages. In a civil lawsuit, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering damages come into play. By threatening to sue in court, we can sometimes get them to increase their offer based on their calculation of what they will likely owe at trial.
In many cases, insurance payouts are still likely to be less than what we can get from a jury. This is largely due to what are known as “pain and suffering” damages. Pain and suffering damages are more abstract and not as easily documented in economic terms with bills and financial records. For example, pain and suffering damages can include damages for harm to your mental health and well-being, past and future pain and anguish, humiliation or embarrassment associated with disfigurement and scarring, inconvenience, loss of consortium, physical impairment, and many other things. While some settlements might include these damages, most insurance companies do not pay for these damages at all.
Because there is no set formula that juries use to calculate pain and suffering damages, the jury may award you large sums of money. The only limits on damages in a trial are the state caps on non-economic damages: $875,000 for non-death cases and $1,312,500 for wrongful death cases. Since jurors are told to make each award reflect the victim’s particular situation, two people injured in the same way could end up receiving vastly different sums of money depending on the strength of the arguments heard from both sides. This is why it is vital to have an experienced personal injury lawyer work with you on your case to craft the most persuasive arguments and convince the jury that you deserve a large amount of pain and suffering damages for all that you have gone through.
At trial, the benefit of having a neutral third-party determine your final damages is often beneficial, as compared with settlement negotiations where it will always be your side against the at-fault driver’s side making the decisions.
Call Our Baltimore Car Accident Injury Lawyers Today for a Free Case Consultation
Taking the first settlement offer you receive from an insurance company is never a good idea, especially without first consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney like those at Rice, Murtha & Psoras. Many times, we can use the threat of a civil lawsuit to negotiate the defendant up to a more reasonable settlement after an initial low-ball offer. If they are still low-balling you, our seasoned trial attorneys are always ready and able to file a negligence suit on your behalf and fight your case at trial. For a free consultation, call our office today at (410) 694-7291.