After a car accident that is the fault of someone else, a settlement can help you get back on your feet financially and move on emotionally. With a fair settlement, you can pay your past medical bills, future medical bills, cover any rising expenses due to lost wages, and be compensated for certain physical or emotional/mental damages.
Most parties prefer to settle car accident cases rather than go to court. However, the settlement process can be complex and tricky, especially when the accident was an emotionally straining experience. In this blog, we'll go over tips for smoothly negotiating a car accident settlement.
How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?
So how long does a car accident settlement take? The settlement timeline will depend on your case. It can last anywhere from a few weeks, to several months, and even years. It's best to expect that it will last at least a few months after the first offer is made. You may need to make a counteroffer, which the other side may then counter themselves, and so on. You may also need to present evidence to back up the amount you're requesting.
Once the settlement is agreed upon, it can take about 4-6 weeks to receive your settlement payouts from the insurance company.
How To Negotiate a Car Accident Settlement: 4 Smart Tips
Settlements are less stressful in many ways than going to court, but they are still no easy task. They can be especially daunting if this is your first attempt at a car accident injury settlement. Here are four smart tips on how to negotiate a car accident settlement and get the compensation you need and deserve:
1. Consider Letting a Car Accident Attorney Handle Settlement Negotiations
Our first tip is to not handle the settlement negotiations, at least not on your own. Instead, consider hiring an attorney who can handle them for you. Insurance adjusters are trained to look for weak points to exploit in your account of the car accident. They can easily twist your words in a way that you didn't intend.
Attorneys are not required for car accident settlements, or even for going to trial. However, your chances of success are much higher with an attorney than they are if you represent yourself (this is also known as pro se). Attorneys are also professional negotiators who are used to handling insurance companies. They bring a wealth of skills to the table and take the stress of preparing your negotiation plan off your shoulders.
2. Hold On To Your Medical Records
Other than property damage (to the car), your medical expenses are likely one of the first things you'll want compensation for in a car accident settlement. To justify the amount you ask for, you will need to bring a record of just what those medical expenses are. If you were unable to work for a period of time or you were disabled as a result of the accident, your medical records will also corroborate your account.
Make sure to hold on to all medical records, not just the initial emergency room invoice. If you have any follow-up appointments or ongoing care, you will also need to bring records for those medical expenses as well.
3. Write a Detailed Demand Letter That Includes a Fair Settlement Amount
The settlement process begins with a demand letter. In the demand letter, you can detail what happened in the case, as well as the expenses that you incurred because of the car accident. If, in addition to your economic damages, you also suffered non-economic damages, detail these, as well. They may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment in activities
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
In the letter, it is important that you are clear about the incident, the extent of your damages, and how they relate to the amount you are demanding. Once that is done, lay out the next steps you will take if not paid. In some cases, the responsible party may simply pay what you demand, ending the case. Most of the time, however, they will counter, which begins settlement negotiations.
4. Document All Communications and Make Sure Everything Is in Writing
Every part of your personal injury claim settlement should be recorded in writing. Not just in the settlement meetings, but any communications with the insurance company or the other driver over the phone should also be written down. Texts and emails are preferable for a legal record. This way, if the other side refuses to pay once the settlement is agreed, you will have a written record of what was agreed upon to show the court. Hopefully, it won't be necessary, but it's important to cover your bases.
What Is a Good Settlement Offer for a Car Accident?
That all leads to the question, "What is a good settlement offer for a car accident?" A "good" settlement offer for a car accident will depend on the particulars of your car accident claim. For instance, a wrongful death car accident will probably have a larger settlement offer than the average settlement for car accident back and neck injury.
Case-by-case details can impact the average car accident settlement, but there are a few hallmarks of judging typical car accident settlement amounts:
- Does the settlement offer compensate you for all or most of the costs you incurred because of the at-fault driver and their negligence?
- Is the settlement offer reflective of the amount of fault that the other driver bore in the accident?
- Does the settlement offer reasonably compensate you for the emotional or mental anguish you may have experienced due to the other driver's negligence?
Discuss with your car accident lawyer whether or not the settlement agreement is fair. Then you may accept it or counter it with your own offer. If the other side refuses to reach a fair settlement, you may choose to take the case to trial.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve
When you're negotiating car accident settlement offers and need an experienced car accident attorney, The Moore Law Firm is here to help. We have a track record of success with car accident settlements, helping our clients get the compensation they deserve. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a consultation.