SKILLED INSURANCE LAWYERS
INSURANCE COMPANY NOT OFFERING YOU WHAT YOU DESERVE?
Suffering an injury can be a traumatic experience. However, if you have insurance, or if the party who caused your injuries maintains liability insurance, then you will likely take comfort in this fact. Indeed, most people who file insurance claims, especially when they are not to blame for their injuries, assume that an insurance company will offer them what they deserve.
But this is rarely the case. On the contrary, insurance companies typically lowball settlement offers, especially when a claimant is not represented by an attorney. A lowballed insurance settlement offer is not something that you have to accept; instead, consider the following about how to reject and respond to a low insurance settlement offer, and how our lawyers can help.
WHY ARE YOU BEING OFFERED LESS THAN YOU DESERVE?
Knowing that you have been injured by the fault of another party, you have been a responsible person who has maintained insurance coverage and always paid your premiums on time, or both, and that you have suffered serious injuries that have changed your life, yet are being offered less than you deserve can be downright maddening. Why would an insurance adjuster do such a thing?
The primary reason that insurance adjusters lowball claim offers is based on the fact that insurance adjusters have the responsibility of saving the insurance company money. If an insurance adjuster sees a way to reduce the value of your claim and keep more funds in the company’s coffers as such, you can almost guarantee that they will act on it. It is especially easy for insurance adjusters to reduce the value of a claim when a claimant isn’t represented by an attorney and is unaware of the value of their claim or their right to negotiate their claim, as well as situations where a claimant seems desperate for compensation – an insurance adjuster may offer less knowing full well that the claimant is likely to take whatever they can get.
Tactics Insurers Use to Reduce the Value of Your Claim
Insurance adjusters may use a variety of tactics to reduce the value of your claim. These tactics include:
- Disputing the extent of your injuries. When you are injured in an accident, it is critical that you seek medical care immediately and keep thorough documentation of that medical care. What’s more, you may need to get medical experts to offer testimony about the extent of your injuries and the limitations that you face as a direct result. If not, the insurance adjuster may agree that you are indeed injured, but question the degree of your injuries and the extent of related damages as such. An insurance adjuster may even spy on your or use evidence from social media to make this claim.
- Alleging fault. Another way that an adjuster may reduce the value of your claim is by alleging that you were actually partially at fault for your injuries, and therefore your claim should be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault, per Ohio’s contributory fault law found in Ohio Revised Code Section 2315.55.
- Claiming your failure to do due diligence. When you are injured and are making a claim for damages, you have a duty to do due diligence to heal to the extent possible. Something such as not following your doctor’s orders could be considered a breach of this obligation, and could be the cause of your insurer reducing your settlement check as such.
- Questioning causation. An insurance adjuster may be in agreement about how an accident occurred and fault, and may even believe that the injuries you’ve suffered are genuine and severe, but may doubt causation – that is, that that the accident in which you were involved was the proximate cause of your injuries.
Using bad faith insurance tactics. Sometimes, an insurance company will turn to bad faith insurance tactics, which are not only unethical, but prohibited by the law, too. Some examples of bad faith insurance practices that may be used against you to diminish the value of your claim include taking an unreasonable amount of time to process your claim (resulting in you giving up/giving in), failing to investigate your claim, misrepresenting policy language, using deceptive practices (like failing to tell you about time limits relevant to your claim), or even making threatening statements. If you think that bad faith insurance tactics are being used, you should not hesitate to contact a lawyer.
DO I NEED TO ACCEPT MY INSURANCE COMPANY’S LOWBALL INSURANCE OFFER?
No. A settlement offer is just that: it is an offer. You always have the right to negotiate for a better deal. When you accept an offer, you are agreeing to resolve your case in exchange for the stated amount. Unfortunately, large insurance companies frequently make unreasonable offers.
According to a report from the Consumer Federation of America, more and more insurance companies are finding ways to “increase profits by reducing the amount paid to consumers who file bodily injury liability claims.”
Getting the full and fair insurance settlement that you deserve can be a long and potentially frustrating process. That being said, patience often pays off in the end. Not only can you reject lowball offer, you should reject a lowball insurance offer. As you navigate the confusing world of insurance claims, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Understanding the Process: Insurance Settlements are Negotiations – Above all else, the insurance company is focused on protecting its own financial interests. In fact, the big insurance companies put a tremendous amount of resources into training their adjusters and representatives to look out for the company’s profit margins. Of course, as this is an adversarial process, the insurance company’s interests are opposed to your own.Keep this important fact in mind whenever dealing with insurance adjusters: the goal of the company is to settle your claim for the lowest dollar value possible. Ultimately, an insurance settlement is simply a negotiated agreement. The insurance company gives up something (financial compensation), and injured victims give up something (their right to file a lawsuit). When a settlement is fair, this is the best result for both parties.Sadly, big insurance companies — which handle thousands of cases — are simply viewing you as another number in their system. The company does not care about your bills or how your accident is impacting your life. If they can get you to agree to take less, they will do it. Do not play along: You are never obligated to accept an insurance company’s lowball settlement offer. You can and should negotiate a better deal.
- Know the Value of Your Claim – In order to get a full and fair settlement offer from the insurance company, you need to know how much your personal injury claim is actually worth. One of the best things that you can do to protect your legal rights and financial interests is to consult with an experienced Toledo, OH personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. Your lawyer will be able to conduct a detailed review of your claim, assessing the true value of your case.The insurance company is counting on you not knowing the value of your own case. Under Ohio law, you have a right to financial compensation for economic and noneconomic damages. This can include everything from medical bills and lost wages to pain and suffering and disfiguring scars. Valuing a personal injury claim is not easy — especially if you are likely to have future medical bills, were forced to miss time at work, are dealing with severe pain, or have long-term scars or impairments. Sadly, the insurance company will undoubtedly try to take advantage of the situation and will offer you less than full value for your damages. Before you accept an insurance settlement, make sure you know the value of your personal injury case.
- Be Patient: Get a Full and Fair Insurance Offer – Following a serious accident, most people simply want to get a settlement so that they can pay their bills, focus on their physical and emotional recovery, and move on with their life. No one wants to spend a substantial amount of time going back and forth with insurance adjusters. Unfortunately, the insurance company knows this and they will try to exploit this. One of the core tactics insurance companies use is offering quick, but unfair initial settlement amounts. They want to take advantage of the fact that injured victims are typically eager to reach a settlement.One of the keys to getting a full insurance settlement is patience. Although it can be stressful and frustrating to wait on an insurance company, you need to make sure that you are getting full and fair value so that you can pay off your medical bills and provide adequate financial support to your family. Do not let the insurance company pressure you into accepting a quick, but lowball settlement offer. Always be sure to take your time, so that you can understand the full value of your claim and submit a strong and compelling response.
HOW TO RESPOND TO A LOW INITIAL SETTLEMENT OFFER
Being offered less than you deserve can be a frustrating experience. The good news is that there are reliable steps that you can take to put yourself in the very best position to get the maximum insurance settlement offer. Here, our Toledo, OH personal injury lawyers highlight the seven steps that you should take when responding to a low initial settlement offer from the insurance company.
What To Do If You Are Low Balled By the Insurance Company?
- Remain calm, understand the situation. Receiving a lowball settlement offer can be annoying, discouraging, stressful, and even downright insulting. In some cases, insurance companies lead with offers that are patently absurd. Every experienced personal injury attorney can tell you stories in which injured victims were initially offered egregiously unfair amounts — sometimes as low as ten percent of the true value of their case. If you believe that you received a bad initial offer, the first step is to stay calm and to carefully assess the situation. Do not take it personally. It is normal to want to complain, even to want to give the company a piece of your mind — but, this could be a mistake. One of the worst things you can do after getting an unfair settlement offer is to call an insurance adjuster. Do not accept the offer, and do not fire back with an emotional response. Lowball insurance offers should be responded to by an attorney, in writing.
- Have the settlement reviewed by a professional. It is not easy to put a value on a personal injury case. A fair insurance settlement should account for the complete value of your damages, including your out-of-pocket costs, your loss of income, and your pain and suffering. Before you make any decision regarding whether to accept or reject a settlement offer, you should think seriously about consulting with a legal professional who can calculate the value of your claim and review the settlement to ensure that the settlement is reasonable based on your damages. A Toledo, OH personal injury lawyer who has extensive experience handling settlement negotiations will be able to make sure that you are getting every dollar that you deserve.
- Formally reject the settlement. Remember, if you receive a lowballed settlement offer, you do not have to accept it. Instead of signing a release of claim, you should exercise your right to reject the settlement. Rejecting an insurance settlement offer is something that should always be done formally, in a professionally drafted response. One of the major mistakes that many people make when responding to lowball initial settlement offers is rejecting the settlement over the phone. This is not recommended. You want to be sure to get every aspect of the negotiations in writing. In addition, it is simply not in your best interests to talk directly to insurance company representatives. When they can get away with it, the insurance company representatives will try to use your own words against you. Instead of making a call, you should always handle discussions, correspondence, and negotiations with insurance adjusters through your Ohio personal injury lawyer.
- Work with an attorney to build a strong case. The insurance company is looking out for its own profits and interests. If they can resolve your claim for less, they will do it. That is just a simple fact of the personal injury claims process. Of course, this raises an important question: How do you get a full settlement offer from the insurance company? You can do so by presenting a strong, compelling, persuasive, and well-documented personal injury case. When representatives of the insurance company see that you will be able to hold them liable should the case go to court, they will begin to take the settlement talks far more seriously. You need a top-rated legal professional on your side. If you were injured in a car accident in Toledo, OH, it is imperative that you hire an experienced auto accident lawyer who has the skills and legal knowledge to prove liability and to build a successful claim that establishes the complete value of your losses.
- Demand a different amount and negotiate. When you reject a settlement, you can also issue a demand letter for a greater amount than you were offered. This will open the issue for negotiation, which can take weeks or months to conclude depending upon the value of your claim and other factors. A ‘demand letter’ or ‘demand package’ is one of the most important elements of personal injury settlement negotiations. In essence, a demand letter is a brief overview of your case. Among other things, a demand letter typically includes; your account of the accident, an explanation of the defendant’s liability, an overview of your damages, basic documentation of your damages, and
a specific request for compensation. A demand package should always be put together by an experienced professional. To get your case resolved as quickly as possible — and for the full amount that you deserve — you need to work with a personal injury lawyer who knows how to present your case in an efficient, effective manner.
- File a personal injury lawsuit. In the event that a settlement cannot be reached outside of the courtroom, you maintain the right to file a lawsuit to recoup damages. However, filing a lawsuit, while often effective, is a last-resort option; lawsuits are expensive, time-consuming, and often emotional. Many people do not realize just how many claims are settled outside of a courtroom. According to data published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), more than 95 percent of tort claims are settled prior to litigation. That being said, there are many exceptions. It is entirely possible that your case will prove to be one of those exceptions. Should you need to file a lawsuit to get full and fair compensation, it is essential that you hire a lawyer. Your lawyer will make sure that you comply with all relevant rules and regulations, including specific court procedures and filing deadlines. Remember, you only have a limited amount of time to file an official legal claim. For example, under Ohio law (ORC 2305.10), plaintiffs generally have two years to file a car accident injury lawsuit.
- Be ready for more settlement negotiations. Even if you do need to file a lawsuit, that does not necessarily mean that your case will be headed to a jury trial. Quite the contrary; many personal injury lawsuits are eventually settled in the months, weeks, or days leading up to the trial. Indeed, in the vast majority of cases, additional settlement negotiations will take place after the lawsuit has been filed. Your personal injury lawyer may even meet with representatives of the insurance company for face-to-face settlement negotiations.
Do You Have Specific Questions About How to Respond? We Will Help
Personal injury claims are complicated. Whether you were injured in a motor vehicle collision or hurt in a slip and fall accident at a Toledo area business, you should be ready to seek professional guidance.
If you were already offered a lowball settlement by the defendant or their insurance company, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm for a free, no obligation initial consultation. We will assess the settlement offer, review your case, explain the next steps to you, and help you take action to get a maximum insurance settlement offer.
DO I NEED AN INJURY ATTORNEY?
If you have suffered serious injuries due to the negligence of another, hiring a personal injury lawyer in Ohio as soon as possible is recommended, even before you file an insurance claim. If you have been offered less than you deserve and need to negotiate a settlement, working with an attorney is a must.
At the offices of Groth & Associates, our lawyers are all-too-familiar with the underhanded practices that insurance adjusters use to reduce valid claims, and can guide you through how to respond to a low insurance settlement offer. We are skilled negotiators with years of experience, and are ready to work for you. Call us today for your free consultation.