You are driving to work one morning, and it looks like it’s going to be a great day. Then, out of nowhere, a pickup truck runs a red light and t-bones you. In the blink of an eye, your whole world is turned upside down. Suddenly, you are looking at mounting bills for medical treatment, weeks missed from work to recover from your injury, untold physical pain, and the uncertainty of not knowing when (if ever) your life will return to normal again.
This is a typical scenario for someone who is injured in an automobile wreck. And one of the most common concerns for injury victims is getting reimbursed for their losses. Unfortunately, it is very rare for the party responsible for the accident to freely admit fault and write a check to cover these losses. In the vast majority of cases, you will be dealing with their insurance company.
Obtaining full and fair compensation from an insurance company typically involves a series of back and forth negotiations. Insurance companies may publicly promote themselves as “good neighbors” or “good hands people”, but, oftentimes, that is just a television commercial slogan and, when it comes to paying an injury claim, they are anything but that. In fact, they are often adversaries. Their goal, after all, is to maximize their bottom line, which is accomplished by paying out as little as possible when a claim is filed. As such, their interests are not aligned with yours.
Another thing that it is important to know about insurance companies is that they are good at negotiating. Their adjusters handle injury claims week in and week out, and they know all of the tricks of the trade. This puts an injured party at a serious disadvantage when trying to negotiate a full and fair settlement. This may be the main reason why it is always a good idea to retain the services of an experienced auto wreck attorney to represent you.
What Can I Expect during the Negotiation Process?
If you choose to deal directly with the insurance company during the injury claims process, obtaining a settlement may take as little as a few days or as long as several months or more. Early on in the process, it is not uncommon for the insurer to present a quick settlement offer. Insurance companies know that injury victims are usually out of work and that their finances are tight, and they often look to take advantage of that situation.
In general, it is not a good idea to accept the first offer that the insurer gives you. Usually, this offer is for far lower than your claim is worth. And in many cases, it is impossible to know how much your claim is really worth this early in the process, because you may not even know the full extent of your injuries yet.
If you decide to turn down the insurer’s lowball settlement offer, your next step is usually to prepare a demand letter with a counteroffer. Your counteroffer should factor in not only economic losses such as medical costs, lost wages, and lost earning capacity, but also non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life. Again, it may be a while before you can come up with an accurate figure (for all of your losses) to put into the demand letter.
Once your demand letter is sent, the insurance company might accept your offer, or decline it and give you a counteroffer of their own. The insurer may try to devalue your claim by saying your injuries are not as serious as you allege, or they might even try to pin some of the blame for the accident on you, which, in a state like Alabama, could cost you your right to recover any compensation at all.
After a series of back and forth negotiations, you will hopefully arrive at a figure that both you and the insurance company can accept. Throughout the process, however, be mindful of the statute of limitations – the amount of time after the accident that you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. In Alabama, the statute of limitations for most cases is two years.
Insurance companies know that if you miss this deadline, you lose your opportunity to take legal action against them. If you delay long enough and get to close to this deadline, it may take away their incentive to offer or agree to a fair settlement. While it is always better to have an experienced lawyer advising you throughout the process, if you are approaching the expiration of the statute of limitations and it does not look like you are close to settling, get a hold of an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
How an Accident Injury Lawyer Can Help with Negotiations
Negotiating a full and fair settlement in an injury case can be a complex and confusing process, particularly if you have never been involved in a case like this before. There are numerous pitfalls that can potentially trip you up and cause you to end up with far less money, or in some cases, no compensation at all.
A seasoned personal injury lawyer can often help get you a fairer deal from the insurance company than you can get on your own. Here are just a few of the ways an attorney can assist you with the negotiation process:
- Your attorney can help you properly value your claim based on a thorough investigation of the facts and evidence of the case, their extensive legal knowledge, and the opinions of expert witnesses (when necessary);
- Your attorney can locate and preserve important evidence and witness testimony;
- Your attorney can deal directly with the insurance company, handle all the complexities of the negotiation process for you, and aggressively advocate for full and fair compensation;
- If the insurance company chooses not to negotiate in good faith, your attorney will have the proven ability to pursue full damages through litigation.
Injured in an Accident? Contact the Law Offices of Troy King for Strong Legal Guidance
When someone is injured in an accident, the last thing they should have to worry about is having to negotiate with a trained adversary just to recover the full and fair compensation they deserve. At the Law Offices of Troy King, we understand this, and we are there to fight for every dollar of compensation you are entitled to.
To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at (334) 215-4440 or message us through our online contact form. You may also visit our Montgomery location in person at your convenience, or we will come to you.