Filing a personal injury claim can be a stressful and expensive endeavor to undertake—especially given the uncertainty of securing the best accident settlement possible. While we believe that victims of serious accidents should be fully compensated for their injuries, the unfortunate reality is that insurance companies and defense attorneys alike will take every possible measure to ensure that they have to pay as little compensation as possible to you, no matter how serious or life-altering your injuries may be.
Medical bills, emotional damages, and potential wage loss are just a few of the many costs following an accident that can quickly spell financial ruin for those who cannot pay off these expenses themselves.
At Otway Russo, P.C., we are fully committed to working with our clients to ensure that their needs are met during such a trying time. Decades of experience seeking compensation for our clients’ injuries has helped us identify five key tips we use while negotiating for receiving the largest personal injury settlement possible.
- Know your worth. At the start of the negotiation process, some insurance adjusters may come right out and offer a “take-it-or-leave-it” settlement. Not knowing the correct answer to this question could result in a settlement insufficient enough to truly cover the costs of your injuries.
When preparing your settlement demand, it is important to keep two amounts in mind—the range of what you believe your claim is worth (as indicated in your settlement demand), and the minimum amount within that range that you would accept (kept to yourself). Your “minimum” may adjust over time depending on factors and evidence that can strengthen or weaken your claim, but knowing your bottom line is a major step in securing the largest settlement possible.
- Avoid lowball offers. In a similar vein to the above point, some adjusters may offer you an initial settlement much, much lower than your minimum might. This is a common tactic used as a way to gauge your background knowledge of the claim and try to settle your claim as quickly (and least expensively) as possible.
If an adjuster makes you a lowball settlement, do not accept it—even if you are not sure of the value of your claim. Instead, ask your adjuster for the specific reasons why your settlement offer is so low, and work with an experienced personal injury lawyer to address these concerns and re-approach the negotiating table with solid answers to each of their claims.
- Substantiate your claim. When making a claim of any kind—especially for a personal injury claim—it is necessary to prove that the extent of your tangible injuries is commensurate with the amount of damages you wish to recover. Having a paper trail documenting everything from medical expenses to reduced wages gives you more leverage against an insurance company seeking to lower your settlement.
From the moment of the accident to the moment negotiations begin, be sure to document every cost incurred and provide these to your attorney as evidence of your injuries. This may include receipts of emergency transportation and treatment expenses, long- and short-term medical costs, prescription/medicine bottles, as well as paycheck stubs (demonstrating a loss of wage due to your injury) as well as any applicable documentation that could be used as non-quantifiable assets (such as pain and suffering damages/emotional turmoil) in your claim.
- Understand the Statute of Limitations. Generally speaking, there is a “deadline” for filing personal injury claims in all fifty states known as a Statute of Limitations. In Maryland, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is 3 years after the initial accident, in most cases. If you do not file a claim within two years after the date of the accident, you will no longer be able to pursue a claim and recover damages for your injuries.
To avoid your claim “timing out,” begin putting your case together as soon as possible after an accident. Don’t wait until enough time has passed that you are scrambling to gather witnesses and evidence years later—secure witness contact information and photographs of the incident as soon as it occurs, and get in touch with witnesses again when you file your claim and begin negotiating a settlement.
- Hire an attorney. While you could theoretically negotiate a settlement on your own, hiring an attorney is usually in your best interests for securing a higher settlement as it shows an insurance company that you mean business. With an in-depth knowledge of how best to present your case, advice on the best courses of action to take, and the ability to negotiate with adjusters on your behalf, hiring an attorney maximizes your claim’s chances of success and ability to recover the amount you deserve.
In order to increase the odds of receiving the largest claim possible, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon after sustaining an injury as possible and begin building your claim today. With more time to adequately gather evidence in support of your claim, as well as the maximum amount of time needed to substantiate your claim and recover a larger settlement, you can rest easy knowing that your case is in good hands.