Should I settle?
A porter for a major car dealership in town hit my daughter's car on his way to delivering the car to a client. He assumed guilt on the spot and their insurance paid for the car ($6,000). The Jeep my daughter was driving was a total loss. I took her to the emergency room and they did about $2500 worth of tests. The car dealership's insurance is offering $5,200 total compensation. I'm a school teacher in Dallas, Texas and my daughter is a 23 year old graduate student working on an internship in Washington, DC, so we don't have time to take this to court. All I want to know is, if that's a fair settlement. Please help. They are pressuring us to settle.
Hi there, Michelle here...
Thank you for your submission... as I am not an attorney, I can’t give you legal advice. What I can do is give you a few things to think about as you make your decision which should help you determine if this is a good settlement for your situation.
Before I give you my advice, and specifically as I am not an attorney, I want to give you a resource that maybe very helpful to your situation, I highly recommend you check out this book titled, How to Settle Your Own Claim
. ...simply scroll to bottom of page, to see the link.
This book is written by an attorney, it is a book I own and have used personally. It covers the legal issues you need to be thinking about, how to talk to an insurance company, how to write a settlement letter, etc...it's very complete, a low cost investment and may bring you some peace of mind.
First, you do not state when your daughter’s accident was. Every state has rules as to when an accident victim must close/settle their claim. Head to this page: State Information
and select your state, all your states rules are printed there for you.
So, if your daughter’s accident was say LAST September, and your state has a one year limit on when you are required to settle/close or sue on your claim, then you have to reach your settlement within the next few weeks.
If however, your daughters accident was 2 months ago, you are getting too much pressure too soon.
Secondly, all insurance companies use pressure to make folks who were in accidents feel that time is running out on their offer and if you don’t settle the offer will disappear. This pressure works magic on most folks who have been in accidents as the insurance company seems to be holding all the cards and all the power.
HOWEVER, you actually are holding all the power. The at-fault insurance company desperately wants to avoid a lawsuit; they want to avoid any chance that you will take the time to hire or consult an attorney. When you consult an attorney, the chances are the settlement the insurance company pays you will have to go up up up... if the insurance company can pressure you into settling fast, you won’t have time for these consultations nor will you have time to research and make a counter offer.
Third, I don’t know how injured your daughter actually is? Or if she is finished with treatment? Or if the accident was recent?
Why this matters: If you daughter was recently injured, the full extent of her injuries is not yet known. In most car accidents the injured person can have lasting pain, and problems for up to 6 months to a year. Very serious problems (disc issues, nerve damage etc) sometimes take a few months to show up in the body.
If you daughter has not had treatment, then it’s too soon to settle, UNLESS she is not injured. If your daughter was not injured, has no lasting pain and seems fine, and you are at least 3 months since the accident (enough time for any injury to show up), then yes it’s a fair settlement.
If on the other hand, she is newly injured, and has not had treatment, then no its much too soon to settle and likely her settlement will be higher as it will need to take into account how injured she is.
Another consideration, is the settlement they are offering you IN ADDITION to the reimbursement to your local hospital? Or INCLUDING the local hospital bill? This is crucial and often not clarified when settlements are offered.
So, is the offer $5200, of which $2500 is meant to be returned to the hospital for full payment, leaving you with $2700? OR has the hospital been fully paid and you are set to receive $5200?
This has been a lot of information. Here is my summary, if your daughter is newly injured, has not sought treatment then you are settling for too little, too soon. If you daughter is not injured and or has finished treatment the settlement is worth using as a starting point.
Dealing with insurance companies is a little bit like negotiating with a car dealership to get the best price. The first offer is rarely the final offer. Have you already negotiated, or is this their only offer?
You may choose to present a counter offer to them. Say you throw out a much higher number (again NOT legal advice), say for conversation you toss out $15,000. They will say no, but may bring up their current offer to $7000. They will always start at their bottom number to see if you will take it.
And finally, if you do not settle right now for this offer, this is not an automatic go straight to court and sue them situation. Rarely does a case go all the way to court. Rarely.
You have the right to consult an attorney. If you hire an attorney this still does not mean you are going to court. 90% of cases are settled out of court as the cost is just way too high for both parties to take these cases all the way into court.
An attorney evaluates your case and helps you decide if you will receive a better settlement with their services or if the settlement you have been offered is sufficient for your circumstances. This was a big accident and the dealership wants to protect themselves against a big claim.
Consulting an attorney is a NO COST visit. The attorney will review your accident information and will give you an idea if she or he can bring this case to a close for more money and less hassle than if you do so yourself.
I always recommend folks have an initial consultation at the very minimum with a personal injury attorney.
I sincerely hope this was helpful.