There are pros and cons to accepting an insurance company’s settlement offer. The advantages are that you can forego a lengthy trial which may incur large costs in court, but the disadvantage is that you could be accepting less than you’re entitled to receive.
What if the Insurance company offers a settlement and I accept?
If you decide to take the insurance company’s settlement, there are a few things you should consider.
1. The first thing you should consider is the amount of the settlement that you’re willing to accept.
2. In coming to a settlement amount that you’re comfortable with, you can start off with a simple formula that considers the following:
i) medical care, physiotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and any other care you have required as a result of your injury
ii) Emotional damages resulting from the injury (this includes depression, PTSD, trauma, etc)
iii) Missed work and loss of income
iv) Future loss of income
v) Pain and suffering
vi) Permanent physical disability
vii) Loss of amenity (ie: you can’t play golf, basketball, or any other hobby you had) prior to sustaining injuries from the accident
While it is difficult to put a monetary amount on pain and suffering and loss of amenity, a personal injury lawyer can help you determine these costs.
3. Once you have come to a final figure in the amount that you and your lawyer believe you’re entitled to, now you must submit your offer to the insurance company, in what is known as the demand letter.
4. The insurance company will either agree with the amount if your offer, or offer you a lower amount, depending on the type of injury you have, and the extent of your injury.
5. If you are not happy with the amount given to you by your insurance company, you can counter-offer with a lower amount than your original offer.
6. At this point in time, the insurance company will either accept your new offer or refuse to go any higher than their original offer. If you accept the offer, this concludes the settlement.
If the insurance company is not willing to budge on the amount they’re offering you, your next course of action is to proceed to option (2) by proceeding to trial and filing a lawsuit.
If I reject the offer and proceeds to trial, what happens?
If you decide to reject your insurance company’s offer, there are a few things to consider before filing your lawsuit.
i) There are time limits for filing your claim. Tennessee has a statute of limitations that determines how long you have left to file your case after an injury. In Tennessee, you have one year after the date of the accident to file your lawsuit. This means that if you require doctor’s records or freedom of information records (which can take several months), you should request these documents right away.
ii) Damages in personal injury cases may be limited by state law. This means that if you were injured by a drunk driver and you suffered paralysis as a result of the accident, the total monetary amount that you can claim may be limited.
Now that you have considered the time limits and additional requirements required to proceed with a personal injury lawsuit, you’re ready to go through the steps of proceeding with your claim.
1) The first step is to determine whether the person who is liable for your injury has insurance. Whether the person liable was a dog owner and you were bitten by a dog, whether you were injured at work, or whether you were struck by a motorist, it is important to determine whether that person has insurance coverage that will kick in to cover an injury claim.
• It is important to determine whether the liable party has insurance because this will determine whether you can collect damages in the event that the jury sees the accident in your favor.
• Even in the event that the liable party does not have insurance, if your injuries are significant, and it’s clear that the accident was their fault, it is still important to proceed with the lawsuit.
2) An exploratory investigation on your injuries and the other party’s characteristics (ie vehicle, shop, merchandise, etc) are then carried out.
3) After the investigation is concluded, the file is served on the defendant. The defendant can be an insurance company, a shop owner, a motorist, a manufacturer, etc.
4) The Defense hires an attorney to respond to your claim. If the defendant is an insurance company, the insurance company will most likely have their own in-house council that they use.
5) Prior to the trial, both sides (you and the Defendant) will ask each other for evidence and witness information. This period before the trial is called “discovery.” You should keep in mind that the discovery process can take several months; this can also set the trial date back if either party has a reasonable reason for making a request.
6) Once the discovery process has completed, and the trial dates near, both parties put the final touches on their arguments.
7) Finally, the trial begins and the judge or jury will determine whether the defendant is liable for your injuries. The judge/jury will also determine how much you are eligible for in damages if the defendant is required to pay.
8) After the trial, either party can appeal the decision, which can take several months.
9) After the appeals process is no longer viable, the losing defendant is required to pay the damages established in trial or on appeal.
Whether you choose to settle with the insurance company or you decide to proceed with a lawsuit, it is important to remember that an attorney will always advise you on your best options.