One of the first things that will happen after you file your initial insurance claim in a personal injury case is receiving a settlement offer from one or more of the insurance companies involved. They know you have a lot of expenses, probably reduced or no income, and may be eager to settle your case.
Don’t do it. You don’t want to let them take advantage of your emotional and physical state to get you to accept their first lowball offer. Instead, consider what the offer is – its likely a lowball offer. Check first with a personal injury attorney to make sure you are being treated fairly.
Insurance Companies are in the Business of Making Money
It’s important to remember that no matter how compassionate and upbeat their advertisements may seem, insurance companies make money by collecting premiums and paying out less on claims. The truth – they are not on your side. Insurance companies make money by paying out less in claims than they take in in premiums. This principle means that their business model requires a large staff of lawyers and claims adjusters whose job it is to get you to accept the lowest possible payout on your claim. Instead, contact your own advocate, an experienced lawyer who has lots of experience working on getting the highest possible payout on your claim. Better yet, contact an attorney who used to represent the insurance companies and understands their tactics.
Insurance Company Tactics
Insurance companies and their personnel have numerous ways to ensure that you accept a lower offer than you might otherwise deserve. We consider some of these tactics below.
Lowball Initial Offers
Insurance claims adjusters and attorneys know that you are likely unfamiliar with the injury claim process, and perhaps need some financial help while you miss work from your injuries. They understand that you are in pain and that you are spending a lot of money on your accident. They also know that it’s more likely than not that your income has also been reduced due to the accident. So, the lowball initial offer is a subtle attempt to get you to settle quickly but unwisely. Unfortunately, this first offer is usually not enough to even pay off basic medical expenses.
Misrepresenting Your Legal Rights
Insurance company personnel don’t have to tell you the truth in all cases. They aren’t under oath, and they aren’t on your side. One of the ways they do this, relying upon your belief in their expertise and friendship, is to misrepresent your legal rights in the case. They question the claim in its entirety by stating their driver wasn’t negligent. They may also try to argue that some action of yours constitutes contributory negligence. If the latter is true, then in North Carolina, they will owe you nothing. They will explain their lack of legal liability while pressuring you to take a lowball settlement; this is an effort to get you to accept the lowball offer. Don’t do it, remember they are in theper business of making money, not helping you.
Minimizing Your Injuries
Your physical and emotional injuries, along with your property damages, comprise the basis for your claim. To bolster its lowball offer, the insurance company will downplay your injuries and the compensation you expect for them. Because they do this for a living and you don’t, you are likely to accept their valuation of your claims more readily. You should not rely on their evaluation of your claim. One of the most valuable results of having your own personal injury lawyers is that you now have an expert on your side with professional experience valuing claims. Personal injury attorneys understand the nature and extent of the damages resulting from an accident and will guide you through the process each step of the way.
Pressuring You to Provide a Recorded Statement
Insurance company lawyers and claims adjusters may attempt to get you to make a recorded statement. This statement is a question-and-answer session conducted by your insurance company and its lawyers or those of the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Recorded via machine and then transcribed, statements in this recording can be used against you in your claim or any later litigation. North Carolina law does not require you to give a recorded statement under any circumstances. Your own insurance policy may require that you make a statement for them, but the other side can never force you to do so.
Advising You Not to Get a Lawyer
Insurance company staff will often encourage you not to retain counsel. They will indicate their willingness to settle with you – haven’t they already made an offer? – and will remind you that an attorney may take a large percentage of any settlement you receive. Yes, a lawyer working on a contingency fee will receive a portion of your settlement. However, that attorney’s knowledge and skill are also likely to ensure that you receive a larger overall settlement than you would have without the attorney. Personal injury cases are complex, and the damages for which you may receive compensation are equally complicated and varied. Having an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney can only help your case.
How a Lawyer Can Help
As we said above, having an experienced attorney with knowledge and skill in handling personal injury cases makes it far more likely that you will receive a large and comprehensive settlement of your claims. Attorneys know how to value a case, lead the other side to a settlement, and, if necessary, how to file a suit if it becomes necessary.
Call Us Today to Speak with a Wilmington Personal Injury Attorney
If you have suffered a personal injury in North Carolina, contact us right away for a free initial consultation and case evaluation. We will be pleased to discuss your case and its value with you and serve as your advocate to receive the best possible result in your personal injury claim.
How much does an attorney cost?
Most personal injury attorneys handle cases on a contingency fee basis. Contingency fees mean, essentially, that you will only owe attorneys’ fees if your case reaches a successful conclusion via settlement or litigation. Contingency fees may be net or gross of expenses and range from twenty to forty percent of your overall award.
Can I settle my case on my own?
You can certainly settle your case on your own, but you should not do so unless it is an extremely simple case like a car accident with very little property damage and no injuries. You do not bring the understanding and experience to a settlement that an attorney will and may greatly reduce your ultimate settlement by declining the services of someone who will be your advocate.
When should I call a lawyer?
You should call a lawyer as early as possible after your injury. If there are extensive damages or injuries, the lawyer can ensure that you do not lose rights or advantages because of the mishandling of your case. Even in a simple case, you can walk away from an initial consultation with confidence in your ability to settle your case for the right amount of damages.