During a car accident case, an individual may need to choose between settling a lawsuit or going to trial. Without proper representation or experience in motor vehicle accident cases, an individual may unwittingly accept a bad settlement deal which may not cover the full cost of their injuries and damages. A knowledgeable attorney can assist you with settling your case. If you have questions, give us a call, we’re easy to talk to. [toc]
Determining the Settlement Amount
In a car accident insurance claim, the adjusters will generally determine the total amount of the settlement value and make offers to the involved parties based on this valuation. The defense attorneys may have the evaluation amount for the settlement, but typically report directly to the adjuster, so negotiations can depend on the insurance company on who best to negotiate with.
For some insurance companies, the defense attorney will have what is referred to as “settlement authority,” or a top dollar threshold amount that the attorney can settle the claim for. For example, if an attorney has an authority of $25,000, then they may be able to begin negotiating on their own and begin at $12,000 and work their way up to settle for as little as possible. Some insurance companies require all of the offers and counteroffers to go through the adjuster on each negotiation as the negotiations take place. Most of the time, the defendant’s insurance adjusters will negotiate the majority of the claims instead of the insurance defense attorneys.
The settlement value to the plaintiff is taking the total settlement amount minus the fees and costs, if an individual has an attorney, and subtracting any outstanding medical bills. If they had health insurance, then the health insurance may need to be reimbursed for what they paid on medical expenses related to the wreck.
The basic settlement math includes: Medical Bills + Pain & Suffering + Lost Income – Attorney Fees (if applicable) – Case Costs (obtaining records, court fees) – Medical Bills – Health Insurance Reimbursement = the net payment to the injured party.
Impact of Comparative Fault in a Settlement
Negligence on the behalf of the injured person can impact settlement amount. If the injured person was negligent in contributing to the wreck, the insurance company will evaluate the case differently. The company will argue over what percentage the person is at fault, and will generally attempt to base a higher percentage of the fault on what a jury would likely do.
Insurance companies have a large database on prior settlements, which means they have an idea of what settlement amounts a large percentage of consumers are willing to settle for. If the injured party was ten percent at fault and the insurance company thinks the claim is worth $10,000, then they would reduce their initial evaluation of the claim by ten percent.
An Attorney’s Role in Calculating an Oklahoma City Car Accident Settlement
A car wreck attorney can help you determine the settlement value based on their prior experience, similar to how the insurance company can evaluate claims based on prior settlements. Attorneys that have handled similar cases can give you a rough estimate of what a typical settlement range is on a case similar to yours.
If the insurance company is not willing to make a fair settlement offer, the next step is to file a lawsuit. Before hiring a lawyer, make sure the law firm is willing and able to take the case to trial. Lawyers that do not take cases to trial can easily be undervaluing cases. Most insurance companies track which law firms go to trial, and they often evaluate claims differently if the claimant and the attorney representing them are not willing to go to trial. Insurance companies often need juries to hold them accountable.