At some point, you may be the victim of personal injury, due to the negligence or malicious actions of another person. There are many types of personal injury to consider, such as getting involved in a vehicular accident, being injured at work, or being attacked by an unleashed dog, but all of them share some basic principles — at least in the legal sense.
If you’ve been injured as a direct result of someone else’s actions or negligence, you’ll be entitled to compensation; the responsible party will often be required to not only pay for your medical bills and ongoing treatment, but also compensate you for the subjective pain and suffering you experience throughout the endeavor.
As you begin your legal case, and sometimes before you even contact a lawyer, you may be offered a settlement. The person responsible for your injuries, their lawyer, or their insurance company may reach out to you with an immediate cash offer; for example, they may offer to cover all your medical bills and give you $1,500 extra. In exchange, you likely won’t be able to pursue legal action.
Is it good to accept this settlement?
The Basics of Settlements.
Settlements can take many forms, so it’s tough to reach a general, overarching conclusion. However, when you choose to accept a settlement, that’s usually the end. Once you sign that you accept this offer, you won’t be able to take additional legal action against this person or entity, and you won’t be able to renegotiate your rate (at least in most situations).
If you don’t immediately take the settlement, you’ll have more options. You’ll have the chance to negotiate the settlement so you can receive more money (or alternate forms of compensation). And if you can’t reach a reasonable price, you’ll have the option to take matters to court.
The Problem With Settlements.
At first glance, the offer you receive may seem attractive — especially if you weren’t sure whether you’d get one. However, it’s important to know that insurance companies and the people they represent are intentionally operating in their own best interests. They have a team of lawyers and underwriters helping them calculate the lowest possible price they can pay you; in other words, they’re trying to minimize their expenses as much as possible. If you blindly accept this offer, you’ll miss the opportunity for more robust coverage.
Settlements are also problematic because the average person doesn’t fully understand how many costs they face from the personal injury. Medical bills are easy to understand, but what about the future physical therapy you’ll need? What about the psychological therapy you’ll need to resolve the trauma of the incident? What about the work you missed, or the opportunities you missed while you were recovering? Most initial settlements are low-ball offers, so they don’t take factors like these into account.
Variables to Consider.
Does that mean you should always reject an initial offer? Not necessarily. There are several variables to consider, including:
The extent of your injury. Obviously, the more serious your injury is the more skeptical you should be of the initial offer. If you slipped and fell, but only wound up with bumps and bruises, a decent settlement may be plenty to account for your medical care, pain, and suffering.
The complexity of the case. The complexity of the case is also worth considering. If the case is straightforward, it may be a simple matter to consider whether or not the offer is worth accepting. If there are multiple confusing variables in play, such as how fault is split, it may be better to seek legal help.
The amount of the offer. The average compensation for personal injury cases is $52,900, with typical amounts ranging from $3,000 to $75,000. If you receive a lucrative offer that more than covers all your conceivable costs, it may be worth accepting.
Your time and effort. You should also consider the amount of time and effort you might have to put in to fight for more money. Entering a negotiation could add weeks, if not months to the time it takes to complete the transaction. If you go to court, you could end up spending months to years fighting this battle.
Talk to a Lawyer.
The bottom line here is that if you’re the victim of personal injury, it’s in your best interest to talk to a lawyer before you accept or reject a settlement. A legal professional with experience will be able to dissect the settlement offer, analyze your situation, and determine what the best course of action is. Best of all, most lawyers will offer an initial consultation for free, so you won’t need to worry about covering a fee.