Five Things to Know About Car Accident Settlement Agreements
Under Florida’s no-fault insurance laws, you can sue an at-fault driver for compensation of damages if your injuries meet the serious injury threshold.
You could receive compensation for damages that are not covered by your no-fault insurance (PIP coverage). Many of the liability claims filed by accident victims are settled with a car accident settlement agreement.
The insurance company for the other driver may offer you a settlement for your personal injury claim.
However, that settlement is not always in your best interests.
Insurance companies often undervalue car accident claims, especially if the victim is unfamiliar with personal injury laws and has not hired a car accident attorney. Before you rush to settle an injury claim involving a car accident, take the time to learn more about these cases from an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Before you accept a settlement offer or sign any documents for the insurance company, it is important to know these important things about car accident agreements:
1. Your Settlement Offer May Be Lower Than Your Claim is Worth
The initial settlement offer from an insurance claims adjuster is generally much lower than the personal injury claim’s value. The insurance company is trying to limit its liability. It will not tell you the actual value of your car accident claim.
Therefore, if you are not familiar with how to calculate the value of damages in a car accident case, you could receive a settlement amount that is much lower than the amount you are entitled to receive.
You have the right to have a personal injury lawyer review the settlement to determine if the offer is fair. You also have the right to negotiate a higher amount of compensation for your claim. You are not legally required to accept the first settlement offer or any settlement offer from the insurance company.
If you do not agree with the amount of compensation being offered to settle your injury claim, you can file a personal injury lawsuit. However, your time to file a lawsuit is limited by the Florida statutes of limitations. Therefore, do not wait too long to seek legal counsel if the insurance company refuses to compensate you for the full value of your car accident claim.
2. The Insurance Company May Not Be Compensating You for All Damages
A common way to undervalue a claim is not to include all damages when calculating an injury claim’s value. Accident victims are entitled to compensation for their economic damages and their non-economic damages. An insurance company might try to short you on one or both types of damages.
Economic damages are the financial losses related to the accident, your injuries, and your recovery. They also include future damages if you sustain a permanent impairment that requires ongoing medical or personal care or results in a loss of income.
Examples of economic damages include:
- The cost of all reasonable and necessary medical and personal care, including in-home care
- The loss of wages, commissions, salaries, bonuses, benefits, and other sources of income
- Travel expenses to and from medical appointments
- Future damages for long-term care and disabilities
- Decreases in your earning capacity because of a disabling condition
- The cost of modifications to your home or vehicle because of a disability
- Special medical equipment or prosthetics
In addition to your financial losses, you are also entitled to compensation for your emotional, mental, and physical pain and suffering. You should also receive compensation if you sustain scarring, disfigurement, or permanent impairments. The loss of enjoyment of life or quality of life caused by the accident or your injuries is also compensable in a personal injury claim.
3. Car Accident Settlement Agreements Are Final and Binding
Car accident settlement agreements are legal documents. When you sign a settlement agreement, you agree to the terms and conditions outlined in the document. If you fail to abide by any terms, the insurance company can seek enforcement of the agreement through the court.
One specific term is that the agreement is a final resolution of your claim. You cannot decide that you want more money after signing the settlement agreement and receiving the settlement proceeds. Even if you discover that you must have surgery again or you will not work because of a disability, you cannot try to get more money from the insurance company.
Because car accident settlement agreements are final, you should not enter a settlement agreement until you complete your medical treatment. Your doctor cannot give you a final impairment rating or prognosis until you complete treatment.
However, if you sustain catastrophic injuries that require long-term care, it is wise to consult a car accident lawyer to discuss your claim. You do not want to allow the deadline to file a personal injury lawsuit to pass because you are still receiving treatment for car accident injuries.
4. Settlement Agreements Release Other Parties and Claims
In addition to being a final agreement with the insurance company, the settlement agreement releases all parties and claims. The release includes claims and parties that are known and unknown.
Therefore, if you enter a settlement agreement and discover a few months later that another party could have been partially at fault for the cause of the accident, you might not be able to pursue that claim. It would depend on the terms of the settlement agreement.
For example, you discover that a defective airbag contributed to the severity of your injuries. You could have a product liability claim against the manufacturer. However, if the settlement agreement released all claims, you could lose out on additional compensation for your damages and injuries.
Because the agreement is a final resolution of all claims against all parties, you may want to have a lawyer review the agreement. Releasing all claims and parties may not be in your best interest at this moment.
5. The Insurance Company Has a Team of Lawyers Working for it
You can be sure that the insurance company has a team of lawyers and other professionals working to protect its best interests. The company hires highly skilled and trained investigators and claims adjusters to search for evidence that it can use to deny your claim or lower the value of your claim.
Anything you say to these individuals could be used to hurt your case. If you give a recorded or written statement, your words could be used against you if your case goes to trial. The company may try to allege that you were partially at fault for the cause of the accident to lower the value of your claim based on your answers to questions or your official statement.
Going up against an insurance company alone can be risky. You are not only dealing with one claims adjuster, but you are also dealing with a company that has unlimited resources to fight your claim. You can even the odds by retaining a law firm to handle your case.
If you have questions about a car accident settlement, do not sign any documents without talking to a lawyer. Our experienced car accident attorneys aggressively fight to protect your best interests. Recovering fair and just compensation for all your injuries, losses, and damages is our top priority.
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