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What you should consider when deciding whether or not to accept a settlement offer…

During the course of most personal injury cases, the opposing party will make a settlement offer.  In most cases, the opposing party will start with an offer that is lower than what they are really willing to pay.    Settlement negotiations generally involve some back and forth between the involved parties to see where the opposing party genuinely stands on the case.   The defendant of course wants to pay the least amount of money possible to resolve the case.   Your attorney will advocate for you to try to get you the highest amount of compensation possible for your injuries.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to accept an offer is solely up to the client.   When I convey an offer to my client, I do like to give them my opinion and some guidance on whether I think the offer is fair.   Here are some things that you should consider when trying to make the final choice:

  1. Would you be satisfied if you accepted the offer?
  2. Are there any particular factors in your life, financial or otherwise, that should play a part in whether you should accept a settlement or whether you can afford to wait a few more months or even a few more years before concluding your case?
  3. Are you willing to put the time into the case if you choose to decline the offer – for things such as interrogatories, depositions and potentially testifying at a trial?
  4. Do you feel that the offer is fair and reasonable based on the type of injury you suffered?
  5. Do you have any prior accidents or claims that may play an adverse role in your case if it were to go to trial?
  6. Have you asked your attorney about any further expenses that may be incurred if you choose to decline the settlement (sometimes the expenses can outweigh any slight increase in the settlement offer – making it smarter to accept the lower offer and not have to incur further expenses)
  7. Would you prefer a known outcome to your case  (the settlement offer) or would you prefer to have your case decided by a jury of your peers or a judge?

Think these things through before making your final decision.   If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your lawyer for more advice or information.

Why is it important to have attorney representation in a personal injury case?

Most personal injury cases involve insurance companies.    The first part of a personal injury case usually involves an attempt to settle the case with the insurance company.   If the insurance company’s adjustor realizes that he or she is dealing with an unrepresented party (someone who does not have an attorney), the adjuster will probably try to settle the case quickly and for the lowest amount of money possible.    It is important to hire an attorney as quickly as possible after an accident.    

Insurance companies also try to gather the information they want,  before an attorney is involved in a case.  This includes taking statements from the parties involved in the accident, taking photographs and speaking with witnesses in the case.     If you involve an attorney early in the case, he or she will be able to gather information and prevent the insurance company from obtaining information that they may not be entitled to.

Attorneys also have a lot more experiencing presenting a case to an adjuster in a clear and convincing manner.    Your attorney will also have a much better sense as to what a fair value is on a case and can guide you through settlement negotiations.  If the right attorney is involved, the adjuster will know that if the case does not settle, the attorney will not hesitate to file a lawsuit against the party they insure.   Of course if the case does not settle, your attorney can file a lawsuit and handle the case all the way through a trial, if necessary. 

If there is no insurance in a case, it is also important to speak to an attorney because he or she can find out if there are any other potential sources of money available to the defendant that could be used to pay for your injuries.    The bottom line is an experienced personal injury attorney has the experience and understanding of how to handle a case and get you the fairest settlement/judgment possible.

What does Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage Mean on My Insurance Policy?

If you have ever taken the time to review your insurance policy or the declarations page (the page with all of the policy limits spelled out) that your insurer sends to you, then you have probably seen or heard the terms UM/UIM or Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage.    Uninsured motorist coverage  (UM) is a provision in your automobile insurance policy that provides coverage to you the insured if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by someone operating another vehicle and who does not have any insurance on their vehicle.   In order to invoke the coverage, the accident needs to have been  the fault of the uninsured party.   

Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is a provision in your automobile insurance policy that provides coverage to you the insured, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by someone operating another vehicle –  and who does not carry sufficient insuranceto compensate you for your injuries.   As a general rule of thumb,  to invoke the underinsured coverage – your policy limits for your UIM coverage need to be greater than the underlying limits of the tortfeasor (the person who caused the accident).

Therefore, when you select the policy limit amounts, you should take into consideration that UM/UIM coverage is for your own protection in the case of an accident.

Are there time limits to bringing a personal injury claim?

Yes.   The laws provide something called statutes of limitation.   The statutes limit the time period within which you may file a lawsuit in order to recover from another party in a personal injury matter.  Generally speaking, the statute of limitations is two years for a personal injury case.   That is two years from the date that the act that caused the injury occurred.   In certain cases, it may be two years from the date the injury was discovered.  There are also some variations to the time limit depending upon the type of case.   For example, in a dog bite case, the statute of limitations is actually three years.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your case may involve a claim against a municipality or the state. This is important to keep in mind because the law requires that the municipality or state be put on notice of the claim.   The time period within which you must file the notice depends upon who you are making the claim against.  It generally ranges from ninety (90) days to six (6) months.   

Therefore, the best thing to do is seek legal assistance immediately.   This will provide your attorney with more time to investigate your case and provide any necessary notice to the defendant.  Further, it will help you to ensure that you are not barred from making a claim due to any time limitations.

What am I entitled to be compensated for?

In a personal injury case, the types of damages or compensation that you are entitled to are called economic and non-economic damages.   Economic damages mean specific financial losses that are quantifiable.  For example, economic damages include things like medical bills, lost wages, lost future income, etc.   Non-economic damages refer to things such as pain and suffering, an inability to perform activities of daily living, mental anxiety and stress.     

When an attorney looks at a case, he or she can come up with a figure representing the economic damages rather quickly.   However, it is the non-economic damages that are difficult to agree on and are subject to the opinion of the client, the claims adjustor and the attorney.   Everyone has a different opinion as to what someone’s pain and suffering  or emotional distress might be worth. 

In certain specific instances, you may also be entitled to something called punitive damages.   These are a type of money damage that are intended to serve as part of a punishment to the defendant.   For example, you may be entitled to punitive damages in a case where someone causes an accident because they were driving recklessly.    The type of damages you are entitled to really depend upon the specifics involved in your case.