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What to Know When You’re in a Car Accident and the Insurance Company Gives you an Initial Offer

Founding Member of Moshes Law, P.C.
During his years of practice, Yuriy has concentrated in litigation and real estate transactions as his areas of expertise.

first settlement offer car accident

If you’re like most people, you’re probably like Mike.

“I had grown up in New York City all my life and knew my way around like the back of my hand. I was 30 at the time, and was headed home and coming from work, when I parked my car at the red light. The light turns green, and so I move forward, and I’m in the middle of the intersection, when outta know where, this other guy runs a red light and flies into me out of nowhere, t-boning me on my driver’s side.

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My car does a 180 and I’m hurt bad, suffering whiplash, broken ribs after my air bag deployed, and I end up missing work for about two weeks. While I’m recovering, I get a call from the insurance company, telling me that they wanted me to give me a car accident settlement offer.  They tell me not to hire a lawyer because I’ll just end up with the same amount of money I would anyway after my lawyer gets their fee, and that I should just accept this first settlement offer. Being out of work, having a family to support, and wanting this over quickly, I start to consider the offer.”

Mike discusses the offer with his family and friends, but Mike is unsure of what to do.

“Logically, it didn’t make sense to just accept the first offer given to me. However, I didn’t know how to go about evaluating my case and whether the offer was good or not. I was stuck and didn’t know what to do.”

Instead, Mike contacted a car accident personal injury attorney who provided him with a free consultation.

“Contacting my attorney was the best thing that happened to me. My lawyer reviewed my case and told me what my options were. In my case, he explained to me that he felt he could help me and that he would work on a contingency fee, meaning that I would only have to pay him if he won or settled my case. In the end, he got me more money and I didn’t feel like I was in the dark or alone fighting the insurance company myself. This was my first time with something like this, and my lawyer was on hand to explain step-by-step what he was doing and what was going on.”

Accepting the first insurance settlement offer, in general, is never a good idea. The job of the insurance company is to pay you as little as possible. They are relying on your insecurities and ignorance that you will accept their initial offer to avoid paying you as much as possible. Accordingly, in this article, we shall be addressing the following:

  • Who and When Makes the First Settlement Offer After Car Accident?
  • Why You Shouldn’t Accept the First Insurance Company Settlement Offer ?
  • How to Reject a Low Ball Settlement Offer
  • What Types of Damages Should You Claim to Receive the Highest Amount in a Car Accident Settlement?
  • Five Useful Tips to Receive the Best Possible Settlement Offer From an Insurance Adjuster
  • How a Car Accident Personal Injury Can Help You

Who and When Makes the First Settlement Offer After Car Accident?

If you are in a car accident, you’re probably asking yourself, “When will the insurance company offer me a settlement?” If you have a good case, meaning you can prove that you have solid liability against the other person and you can show that you’ve endured vast damages and pain and suffering. The insurance company will most likely try to reach out to you as soon as possible and make you an insurance settlement offer before you hire an attorney and become represented. The reason for this is because once you hire a personal injury attorney, the insurance company is prohibited from contacting and discussing the case with you.

Once the insurance company is aware that you are represented, all communication, including any settlement negotiations, must then be directed to your attorney. Since an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury car accident attorney will know how to evaluate your injuries, your accident, and how best to present it, the insurance company will try to get you to accept their insurance settlement first offer as soon as possible. This is why it is very important to contact a competent car accident attorney right away after your car accident, so they can advise you of your case, counsel you on the car accident compensation first offer, how to proceed, and to act as an intermediary between yourself and the insurance company.

More importantly, a car accident attorney will be aware of the car accident insurance claim time limit, or what is also called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the time limit for a claim to be filed in court. If the statute of limitations expires, you will not be able to proceed with your claim. In general, the statute of limitations in New York is three years for a car accident claim.

Why You Shouldn’t Accept the First Insurance Company Settlement Offer?

In general, when it comes to a car accident insurance claim settlement or car insurance settlement offer, you’ll always encounter a situation where the insurance company wants to settle, but the car insurance payout offered is too low.

Although we all want to think of the insurance company as being helpful and on your side, in reality, the insurance company is advocating for its own interests. Accordingly, the insurance company will assign an “adjuster” to defend the claim against you, and the adjuster knows that their initial insurance offer, almost always, is not what your injuries are actually worth but will offer it to you anyway. They will hope that you will accept it and not hire your own advocate / attorney and “lawyer up.” Almost all of the time, the insurance company’s offer will not be up to par. Furthermore, the offer is often given when you’re still treating for your injuries and are still in quite a bit of pain. Since your damages and pain and suffering is based upon your medical treatment, it would make little sense to accept an offer at this early stage since, especially if you are still actively treating and not at maximum medical improvement, or MMI.

Accordingly, if you are given an offer by the insurance company and you haven’t hired an attorney yet, you should discuss this offer with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. They will be able to evaluate your claim, including your liability and damages exposure, and provide you advice on whether the offer given is truly representative of your claim.

How to Reject a Low Ball Settlement Offer?

The first settlement offer a car accident insurance adjuster makes will most likely be a low ball offer. When you are given such an offer, you’ll want to not only reject their first offer in writing, but you’ll want to respond back to the insurance company with a counter demand and explain why their offer is too low, what your counter demand is, and the evidence you have in support of your counter demand.

With the said, the question becomes, “How much do I ask for in a car accident settlement?” A settlement and the value of your case is based upon two main factors. The first factor is proving liability. Just because you were involved in a car accident and were injured, and even suffered severe bodily injuries, does not automatically mean that you are entitled to money for your damages. Liability must be established, which in the case of a car accident, is often proving that the other party was negligent. In order to prove negligence, you must show that the other party had a duty of care to you, breached that duty, and that as a result of that breach, you sustained injuries. Oftentimes, this is shown if the other party was given a ticket or cited for a traffic violation. Negligence can also be shown through the use of witnesses and photographs.

insurance settlement offer

The second factor is damages or pain and suffering. Once you prove liability, you then have to show that your damages are strong. In order to prove damages, the factors considered are the amount and degree to which you received treatment for your injuries, lost wages, and any permanent disability. Traditionally, your medical bills are the main factor in establishing damages, which would mean that theoretically, the higher your medical bills, the higher your pain and suffering.

Once you are able to determine and show evidence of your liability and damages, you should present this evidence to a lawyer to determine how much to ask for. A general rule for some car accident lawyers is to ask for three to four times your medical bills; however, each case is different.

What Types of Damages Should You Claim to Receive the Highest Amount in a Car Accident Settlement?

In order to obtain an auto insurance payout after an accident, you’ll have to undergo the car insurance’s settlement process, which means that the adjuster will strictly scrutinize the damages that you are claiming. In order to best present your damages, you’ll be expected to present your medical treatment records and your medical bills, not just what was paid or what is unpaid, but what the bills were. Ideally, the bills will have insurance codes to each date of service. This is something that insurance companies may require when calculating the amount of money you’re due and how much they want to offer.

If you’re claiming lost wages, you’ll want to include a statement from your employer of the dates you missed and the pay rate that you were receiving when you missed work. This may also include the need to provide several years of tax returns.

Finally, you’ll want to present evidence of any permanent disability, if any. For example, if you have nerve damage, a bulging disc, or some type of physiological condition that is permanent in nature, like an aggravation to your arthritis or some sort of preexisting condition, you’ll want to indicate as such by providing medical documentation.

Five Useful Tips to Receive the Best Possible Settlement Offer From an Insurance Adjuster

The number one tip you should know about if you are in a motor vehicle accident in New York is to hire an attorney. Do I need an attorney after a car accident? The answer is a strong yes. Hiring a car accident lawyer nyc will give you an edge to your case. Not only is an experienced auto accident lawyer nyc aware of the laws related to injury law, but will also be knowledgeable about how to best present your evidence. They will also know how to evaluate your case and what is or what is not a good settlement.

The second tip for you is that you should provide your attorney with extensive documentation and evidence of your claim. This includes evidence relating to liability, witness statements and contact information, police reports, photographs of the accident, and videos. Also, providing evidence relating to damages, which may include photographs of your injuries, statements of witnesses who can testify to your current physical condition, and medical records. The more you provide your attorney, the more ammo they will have to get you a better settlement, not only bigger, but faster too.

The third tip is that you should seek care for emotional distress to prove your damages. If you are also claiming mental and emotional trauma, then you should seek treatment from a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. You should not just seek treatment with your primary care physician. You should indicate your concerns to your physician and ask to be referred for mental health treatment. By being treated by a mental health professional, you’ll be properly diagnosed for any mental disorder as a result of the car accident, such as post traumatic stress disorder.

The fourth tip is to make sure the adjuster justifies their offer. If the adjuster provides you an offer, you’ll want to question them on how they arrived at their numbers. By providing you an explanation, you’ll be able to address their reasons when you provide them with a counter demand.

The fifth tip is to сonfirm the accepted offer in writing. All offers should be in writing. This way the adjuster can’t rescind their offer and say that they never offered it. By having everything in writing, ideally, including any correspondence, you have a clear record of any negotiations and what was said or not said.

Bonus: New York’s No-Fault Car Insurance Laws

Under NY no-fault laws, after a car accident, your own car insurance coverage (specifically, your “personal injury protection” or “medical benefits” coverage) pays for medical treatment and other out-of-pocket losses incurred by anyone covered under the policy, up to the coverage limits, regardless of who caused the accident. But with a no-fault claim, you can’t get compensation for your “pain and suffering” and other non-monetary damages stemming from the accident.

In order to step outside of the no-fault system and file a third-party insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver (so that “pain and suffering” and other non-economic losses are on the table) your injuries must meet certain thresholds set by New York law.
In order to step outside of New York’s no-fault car insurance claim system and pursue a claim against the driver who caused your car accident, the car accident injuries you suffered must qualify as “serious” under the threshold set by state law. That means, as a result of the car accident, you’ve experienced any of the following:

  • significant disfigurement
  • bone fracture
  • permanent limitation of use of a body organ or member
  • significant limitation of use of a body function or system, or
  • substantially full disability for 90 days.

If your injuries qualify under this definition, you’re not limited to a no-fault claim under your own policy. You can hold the at-fault driver responsible for the accident via a third-party car insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit, and you can pursue compensation for all categories of losses, including pain and suffering and all other available non-economic damages (which, again, aren’t available in a no-fault claim).

How a Car Accident Personal Injury Can Help You

Having an experienced and knowledgeable car accident personal injury attorney in your corner is the best thing you can have to maximize your settlement. Not only will they be familiar with how to analyze and present your case, but in case your case does have to be filed in court, they will know how to navigate it through the court system and to a jury, if need be. Handling the case on your own will only put your case in jeopardy and could diminish the amount of money you could potentially receive by making statements that you didn’t intend to make or presenting evidence that is damaging to your claim.

Law Office of Yuriy Moshes

When it comes to auto accident settlement amounts, the Law Office of Yuriy Moshes will help you resolve your auto accident issue and make sure that you’ll receive a proper compensation. Law Office of Yuriy Moshes help victims in the greater New York City area including all of its boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island) as well as Northern New Jersey, Long Island, and Upstate New York.

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