Insurance companies prefer to settle injury claims as quickly and as economically as possible — settling a claim fast and out of court costs far less than a lengthy litigation process. But this may not necessarily be in your best interest. It depends on the type of injury you sustained and the treatment needed to bring you back to health.
If you’re involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault and you suffer injuries, it’s possible that the at-fault person’s insurer may immediately contact you to settle the claim. Be careful dealing with the company, and if you feel it is needed, consider hiring a personal injury lawyer. The complex language of insurance policies and the hardball tactics used by some claims adjusters can leave you feeling that you are not getting all to which you are entitled.
Be careful what you say
It’s always a good idea to handle negotiations for a claim in writing — especially a complex or large claim. Oral statements, if they are not recorded, are subject to the memory of both parties, and it is all too easy for either party to “change” their version of events in statements. In addition, insurance companies hire claims adjusters to work over the telephone and handle claims usually to the advantage of the insurance company. Be sure that any agreements you make will restore you to your full health or cover any long-term costs for your health care and loss of income.
Every state has statutes of limitations and procedural requirements that put deadlines on how a claim must be handled by the insurance company and when a claimant can file a lawsuit. Statutes of limitations vary by state and depend also on the nature of the claim. Therefore, if you are not satisfied with the way your claim is being handled or the offered settlement, you may need an attorney before your time limit runs out.
When to seek an attorney
If you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you should always retain an attorney. An attorney can help you navigate this process without losing money to which you may be entitled. The two main questions to ask yourself before retaining counsel are: “What settlement will I be happy with?” and “Am I going to do better or worse with an attorney?” The first question is easy to answer. The second is unforeseeable. The case’s jurisdiction (the laws where your case is based), your individual circumstances and your willingness to settle are all factors that make the outcome of any case impossible to predict.