After you’ve suffered injuries or property damage in a truck accident, the trucking company’s insurer may contact you to extend a settlement offer. You might find it tempting, since it can help with medical bills, repair work, and lost earnings. But carefully evaluate the first offer you receive from the insurance company before you accept it. Better yet, consult an experienced lawyer immediately.
There is a good chance that the first offer minimizes the insurer’s liability. They likely owe you much more than the amount they’ve offered, and hope you will accept it before you realize that.
With an experienced Tacoma truck accident attorney to negotiate a settlement on your behalf, you stand a better chance of recovering the full amount you deserve. They can protect your rights by calculating the value of your claim and advising you as to whether a settlement offer provides fair compensation.
What Does the First Offer From the Insurance Company Involve?
Following a commercial truck accident, you or the trucking company might file a claim with the company’s insurance provider. The trucking company’s insurer will investigate the crash and determine whether it thinks the trucking company bears liability for the accident, your injuries, and your subsequent losses.
If it believes the company is, it may contact you, perhaps with a settlement offer. This process might play out even if you have yet to file a formal claim with the insurer.
The insurance company’s first offer will usually contain a letter detailing the results of the insurer’s accident investigation, the factual basis for the offer, and the amount of compensation it will offer to settle the case. The insurance company’s offer letter might also contain information about how you can submit additional information, request reconsideration, or appeal the insurer’s decision.
You should carefully review any settlement offer extended by the insurance company. The insurer’s first offer likely will not provide all the money you need to recover from the life-altering injuries or property damage the truck accident caused you.
Although you might have provided the insurance company with bills and invoices for expenses you’ve already incurred, the insurer’s offer likely won’t include money for expenses you will incur in the future.
You should consult a truck accident attorney before accepting any settlement.
First, they will know if the offer is fair and, if it is not, how to negotiate for a better one. Furthermore, once you’ve settled your truck accident claim, you cannot demand more compensation from the trucking or insurance company if you incur additional expenses or financial losses in the future. A trucking accident lawyer can protect you from this common mistake.
Gathering Documentation and Evidence
Your lawyer will launch their own investigation of the accident in order to determine whether the first settlement offer is fair. The insurance company will base its determination of fault on the facts and evidence it gathers during its investigation. However, you may possess other facts or evidence that might change the insurance company’s analysis.
Your lawyer will also look for documentation to support your claim of injuries and losses. This may involve medical records, treatment notes, and expert reports from your treating provider or other medical professionals who have examined you or reviewed your medical records.
They might also obtain reports from medical and vocational experts to explain your injuries’ long-term or permanent effects on your ability to work or quality of life and the future medical or home health care you might need.
Gathering evidence to support your claim for future expenses or losses will help your lawyer determine whether the insurer’s offer is acceptable and, if it is not, push back during negotiations.
Evaluating the Insurance Company’s Offer
Your attorney will consider many factors when determining whether an initial settlement offer provides fair compensation for your truck accident-related injuries and losses.
First, consider the current stage of your medical recovery. Your lawyer will want to determine whether the first offer includes money for future treatment, rehabilitation, or long-term care you will need in the future if you haven’t yet reached maximum medical improvement for your truck accident injuries.
Your attorney will also consider whether your injuries have required you to miss time from work or whether medical restrictions imposed by your injuries have affected your earning capacity.
Any settlement offer should include compensation for your lost earnings and job benefits, including if you need to transfer to a lower-paying, part-time, or modified-duty position due to medical restrictions or permanent disabilities.
Finally, your attorney will consider the effects your injuries and disabilities have had on your personal life. While subjective, the physical pain or emotional distress caused by injuries and medical treatments are very real indeed.
Your settlement should reflect these losses as well as the more straightforward ones like medical expenses, repair bills, and lost earnings.
Making Counter offers
Although the insurance company’s offer letter might include language that sounds like the insurer has made a final offer, you can always counteroffer if you believe they have not provided fair compensation for your ongoing and future losses or needs.
Although you might worry about making too high of a counteroffer, remember that insurance companies sometimes low-ball initial settlement offers to induce lower counteroffers from the injured accident victim.
A strong counteroffer should include compelling evidence or documentation to support your requested figure. You can make a high counteroffer if you have facts to back that up, such as medical evidence of your injuries and the prolonged or permanent disabilities they might cause, or expert testimony regarding future physical limitations or financial losses you will suffer.
Your lawyer should issue their counteroffer as a prompt response to the first offer. They might draft a letter stating that you find the insurer’s first offer unacceptable, refute any inaccurate factual assertions contained in the first offer letter, assert an acceptable settlement figure, and cite evidence and documents supporting that figure. They should do so politely but firmly, without any angry or accusatory language.
Unfortunately, no one can predict how many rounds of counteroffers you might need to settle your truck accident claim. The insurance company’s response to your first counteroffer might indicate their willingness to settle.
For example, if the insurer comes back with a figure much closer to your initial counteroffer, it might indicate the insurance company’s openness to settlement. However, you should expect the insurer to make smaller increases with subsequent counteroffers.
Pursuing Alternative Dispute Resolution
If informal negotiations fail to move your case toward a settlement, your lawyer might consider pursuing alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration to secure compensation.
In mediation, parties participate in a more structured negotiation facilitated by a neutral third party called a mediator. The mediator does not make any decisions or rulings. Instead, they work with the parties to help them understand the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases and suggest solutions for a settlement.
Arbitration involves a trial-like procedure before an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators. Both parties must agree to proceed to arbitration instead of going to trial.
During arbitration, the parties present evidence, testimony, and arguments to the arbitrator or panel. After each party presents its case, the arbitrator or panel will issue a ruling finding in favor of one party or the other and award the injured party compensation if the injured party wins the case.
Alternative dispute resolution offers several potential benefits over traditional court litigation. Mediation and arbitration typically involve fewer legal costs and result in a quicker resolution.
Moreover, a trucking company may value the fact that mediation results in a private settlement, which may allow the company to avoid a public determination of fault at trial.
However, ADR also has some drawbacks. Mediation does not always result in a settlement, as parties retain the right to leave the negotiating table. Parties who lose in binding arbitration also have limited options for challenging the arbitrator’s or panel’s ruling.
How Does Subrogation Affect an Insurance Company’s Settlement Offer?
An insurance company’s first offer might include a waiver of subrogation. Subrogation refers to the process by which your own insurers can recover compensation for benefits they’ve paid you for injuries and losses from an accident caused by another party. However, an at-fault party or their insurance party might request a subrogation waiver to avoid further claims or litigation relating to the accident.
Consult a truck accident attorney if the insurance company asks you to provide a waiver of subrogation. Your insurance policies might require you to obtain your insurer’s approval before agreeing to one. If you fail to do so, you might become liable to reimburse your insurers for the benefits they paid you for the truck accident.
What Happens if the Insurance Company Doesn’t Make an Offer?
In some cases, a trucking company’s insurer will determine that their client does not bear responsibility for a crash and deny the injured truck accident victim’s claim.
If this happens to you, do not panic. You might have options for continuing to pursue compensation for your injuries and losses, which an experienced attorney can explore on your behalf. Some insurance companies have procedures that allow claimants to request reconsideration of a claim denial or to file an internal appeal.
To contest the insurance company’s denial of your claim, your lawyer must present evidence or documentation that refutes the insurance company’s reasons for denying your claim.
Simply disagreeing with the insurer’s factual determinations without providing additional facts or evidence may not convince the insurance company to change its mind.
Finalizing a Settlement
Once you and the insurance company have agreed on the main terms of a settlement, your lawyer must create a written final settlement. The final written settlement should indicate the compensation paid for the settlement, payment terms, confidentiality requirements, and a release of future claims.
In most settlements, the parties agree to release all claims against one another.
After obtaining compensation from an insurance settlement, you might have further obligations to satisfy medical liens or repay other insurance benefits you’ve received. An attorney can help you with any outstanding liens or tax implications of your settlement, so you receive a full financial recovery.
Seek Experienced Legal Counsel When You Get a Settlement Offer From the Insurance Company After a Truck Accident
Before you accept a first settlement offer from an insurance company following a truck accident, consult a lawyer to evaluate it carefully. If you do not and simply accept it instead, you could leave substantial money on the negotiating table.
A seasoned truck accident attorney can review the facts and circumstances of your claim, and then advise you on whether the insurer has made a reasonable offer. You have the option of making a counteroffer, which your attorney can do on your behalf.
Your attorney will support their counteroffer by investigating your claim to secure additional evidence that supports your argument for a larger settlement. They will then use what they find to negotiate for a fairer offer so that you have the financial security and peace of mind you deserve.