The question of when to settle your personal injury claim is a tricky one to answer. In general, the best time to settle is once you’ve received an offer from the other party that is in line with previously decided or reported cases that are similar to yours. The settlement amount should account for medical expenses and other monetary and non-monetary damages that arose from your injuries. For instance, it should cover your lost wages and pain and suffering.
However, the defendant’s insurance company will likely try to offer the lowest settlement they can. While an initial offer can seem enticing, especially when you require finances to cover your costs, you should take your time to assess your claim’s value. Remember, if you settle for a low amount, you will have to pay for any future complications that are related to the injuries from your own pocket.
Here are some insights to help you settle at the right time:
What Do You Need To Build Your Case?
Determining what your injury claim is worth can be quite complicated, depending on the situation and the parties involved. For instance, if you were involved in a bus accident, you’ll need to hire an experienced bus accident attorney to conduct a thorough investigation to prove liability. Determining fault isn’t always straightforward. It requires considerable evidence to prove the fault was that of the other party.
You’ll also need to know the value of your claim. Your lawyer will be able to estimate the value of your claim and help you investigate your case. Assessing your medical and financial records will help you determine the best value. You will also need to have at least reached MMI (Maximum Medical Improvement) for you to have a fair claim.
Navigating Settlement Negotiations
It is your lawyer’s job to determine the initial compensation amount to request, as well as the lowest threshold of what you can accept. Of course, the threshold amount is typically kept private from the other party, so knowing it will help you negotiate like a pro.
In general, the defendant’s attorney will start with a low offer to begin the negotiations. This amount may be high or low, depending on your injury. The initial offer can help you understand the willingness of the other party to pay. Low counter-offers are meant to lure plaintiffs who might jump at an initial offer. When negotiating, your lawyer will then likely lower your initial asking price, to continue the process of arriving at a settlement.
When Not To Settle
If the amount being offered isn’t fair enough for a settlement, do not accept it. At the very least, you should have reached MMI to accept an offer. You will have reached MMI if you are completely healed from the injuries, or your future health is predictable. Do not settle if:
- You are anticipating to recover from your injuries six months from the date of the offer
- The doctor suggests reexamination at a later date to determine symptoms that they can’t identify in your current state
- Treatments and therapies suggested by your doctor are yet to be completed
- You are dealing with multiple injuries, each with different recovery timelines, with some yet to heal completely
The only time to settle in these situations is if you have a clear picture of your future health. Some cases could call for interim payments to be made.
Settling Through Interim Payments
The full extent of your injuries might take some time to understand, but you may need some of the settlement to help pay for immediate needs. For example, you may require medical attention that must be paid up front, rehabilitation, or even making your home accessible after the injury.
Instead of settling the claim prematurely, you can ask for interim payments to help offset these burdens as you proceed with negotiations. These payments are typically deducted from the expected total value of the claim.
Settling a personal injury claim isn’t always straightforward. You might live with the adverse effects of the accident injuries forever, which is why you need fair and full compensation. Otherwise, settling prematurely could complicate your financial future and recovery process.