Settlement Offers: What Should You Expect?
At Clark and Steinhorn, LLC, we recurrently see clients who tried to represent themselves in car and truck accident claims and are shocked by the low offers they routinely receive. This phenomenon is not exclusively the province of pro se litigants as victims of car and truck accidents regularly get grossly inadequate offers even when represented by experienced counsel.
While it impossible to distill every possible claims settlement offer scenario into this blog, it is fair to say that certain issues tend to repeat themselves.
Prior injuries or subsequent injuries will serve as a basis to undercut the value of your claim.
Insurance companies are the beneficiaries of a vast claims database, that will outline your claims history including auto or truck accidents where you made no injury claim whatsoever. The adjusters are trained to actively and aggressively question any injury you allege came about from their claim. This is part of a scheme to make low offers and yet still seem to be acting fairly.
If you have an injury to a particular area of your body and that area has been the source of problems before the collision, you can rest assured that it will be utilized to suggest that some or all of your present treatment wasn't made necessary by the present crash claim. Similarly, if you hurt the same body part in a later accident, any treatment that you receive after the new incident will be questioned strongly.
Delay in Getting Treatment is an excuse to question your injuries and offer less.
Auto accidents don't wait to happen when it is convenient for you to go to the hospital or a doctor. The fact is vehicle collisions happen when you are on the way to work, or on the way to pick up your kids, or on the way to school and getting necessary medical care can be tricky. If your kids are in the car and seem unhurt you probably want to get them home or to school even if you need medical attention.
Insurance companies routinely blame the car crash victim if they don't get timely medical care. If you are hurt it is essential that you document your injuries fully with a healthcare provider within a week of injury or you will hear " If you were hurt so bad why didn't you go to the doctor?"
Too Much Treatment is bad too
You can't win sometimes. Insurance companies use computer programs and hand-chosen doctors to assert that you got too much care and that is wasn't "medically necessary." If you have received more than eight weeks of physical therapy and don't have a demonstrable structural injury from a bad crash, you can anticipate some sort of reduction in your settlement for "over-treatment."
Gaps in Treatment
Sometimes treatment is not as effective as hoped or life circumstances make steady treatment impossible. Sometimes there is no money or insurance to pay for treatment. The bottom-line, victims of car and truck crashes often have breaks in their care and insurance companies always cite these gaps as a justification for excluding some treatment or treatment expenses or lost wages from consideration.
Too Little Vehicle Damage
An insurance industry favorite, the old, "your car doesn't look so bad you can't be that hurt", is used at every opportunity. The fact that a four thousand pound object isn't substantially damaged but the 200 pound you is damaged, is scientifically sound but in court, science doesn't enter into it. Judges routinely allow pictures of vehicles into evidence for jury consideration as though the car represents the human. Engineers will tell you that there is little correlation between vehicle damage and human damage but vehicle damage photos will still be used to mislaead jurors.
Unsupported Lost Wages
While there are a number of recurrent lost wage issues there are two that cause the most problems. The first involves people who work for cash. Many people have serious injuries that preclude them working but because they are paid in cash, they can't document what they would have made, as they have not declared the cash income with the IRS. You can rest assured that the insurance company will want to see your tax records ( Probably Even President Trump's) if you are claiming lost income.
The second issue involves medical documentation for time lost from work. It is essential that your doctor or other healthcare provider, provides you an "off-work" slip, in order to obtain compensation for lost wages. The concept is that your injuries must result in it being "medically necessary" that you not work either to facilitate your recovery or to not endanger others due to the effects of medications you are taking.
The Bottom Line
Many factors are utilized to undercut the value of auto and truck crash cases. Skilled attorneys can help guide you to fair compensation and anticipate problems before they occur. Lawyers can't change the extent of the property damage or how soon you went to the doctor or hospital, but they can deal with problems head-on and clarify issues to reduce the impact of the matters discussed in this article.
If you have been hurt in a crash, get a copy of our book, it is FREE and talks in greater detail about each issue discussed here. Contact Clark and Steinhorn, LLC at (301) 317-1001 or Maryland-Law.Com and we will help you if we can.