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Should You Turn Down That Settlement Offer?


While each situation has its own variables, and there’s no right answer for everybody, one thing holds true: it takes two to tango (two to dance or two to get a deal done).  Settlements can only occur when the wrongdoer or wrongdoer’s insurance agrees to pay an amount enough to resolve the case.  What is the right amount?  Should I take that offer?  When the parties can’t agree, the judge or jury decides.  However, turning down an offer and filing a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to trial. By refusing to back down and having your attorney prosecute your case, the case may resolve at a substantially greater amount and get you closer to what you deserve.

An Unforeseen Injury

Say we have Sally Wood, a young woman in a hurry to get to her next appointment.  Sally’s exceeding the speed limit and chooses to run a red light, well it was yellow just before she entered the intersection, according to her later.  Sally drives her car into the intersection and collides into a small car driven by Gavin, a fourth-grade school teacher on his way to the gym after school.  The impact smashes his driver’s door and snaps his left arm.  Paramedics rush him to the hospital where he undergoes emergency surgery.

Gavin didn’t ask for any of this to happen.  Sally broke the safety rules of the road and caused serious injury to another driver who had reasonable expectation other would follow those rules.  Gavin hires an attorney to make sure all T’s are crossed and I’s dotted.  He doesn’t want to deal with the insurance companies alone.

Gavin’s primary concern rests on getting better, returning to work, and back to his normal way of life, doing those things he’s passionate about and enjoys. A well-experienced attorney will counsel Gavin that the time for settlement lays a way down the road.  His attorney will need to investigate all the potential wrongdoers or liable parties.  In this case, Sally was on-the-job, so her employer would be responsible for her actions.  This fact greatly increases the amount of insurance coverage available.  Further, Gavin’s attorney needs to determine if the employer had properly hired, trained, and supervised its employees, including Sally.  If not, the employer may have additional liability, which could further assist Gavin.

When Should You Settle?

Timing of settlement remains a crucial consideration.  Presuming there’s sufficient insurance or means to compensate the injured person, one should never settle his or her case until all the past damages and future probable (more likely than not) damages can be known.  This would include items like past and future pain and suffering, past medical expenses and lost income, and future medical expenses lost income and earning capacity likely to be incurred in the future.  Additional items could consist of property damage, rental and tow expense, loss of use, and decreased value to your property, if not already resolved before treatment concluded.

Should I Hire an Attorney?

Insurance companies find unrepresented individuals easy prey for premature settlements.  Countless times trusting people accept offers from adjusters they presume can be trusted, only to discover later they should’ve never settled without knowing the full extent of their damages.  How any adjuster could push an offer where the injured person’s continues to treat for his injuries is extremely upsetting.  It’s a common practice to obtain, before one even sees a doctor, a release of all claims for chump change.  The targets are the desperate, or the unsuspecting who act before they truly consider the ramifications of their actions.

Gavin, on the other hand, hired an attorney so he doesn’t have to deal with that tomfoolery.  Gavin’s arm did heal, but not to 100%, leaving him with some permanent pain and disability because of nerve damage.  His doctors believe he will need future surgery in five years at an estimated cost.  Gavin’s attorney gets Gavin’s doctors to put all his current condition, prognosis, and future needs in the proper format so, along with all the past damages, he/she can present a settlement demand package.  Now, whether the case will settle is in the hands of the corporation or its insurer.

How Does Hiring an Attorney Make a Difference?

Settlement offers received before litigation has begun, in other words before a lawsuit has been filed and the defendant is served, are often conservative (i.e., low).  In this day and age, those responsible will do everything to avoid responsibility.  Let’s be clear what responsibility is.  Responsibility is what we taught our kids or we were taught ourselves.  The baseball example remains a perfect way to explain.  When Lauren hits that ball through the neighbor’s window and breaks not only the window but the vase and table, her responsibility is to admit fault, be remorseful, and pay for EVERYTHING she caused.  Insurance companies seek to blame the victim, the victim’s past medical history, the doctors for charging too much, and the inability for the victim to heal fast enough.  Further, those responsible want to pay as little as possible.  No duh, right?  One way to accomplish this is to see who will take the money and run or turn down an unreasonable offer and proceed to court.

Gavin prepared himself for months and possibly years of litigation because this was a wise investment of his time.  He was fortunate that his attorney would advance all the costs.  Gavin had his key to the courthouse since, although he didn’t have the money to hire an attorney like Sally’s company could, his attorney would push forward as long as it took on a contingency fee basis, recovering his fee only if the case was successful.  The low offer before litigation convinced Gavin going to court was his only option.  Sometimes we are tested – is there bite behind the bark?

How Much Is My Case Worth?

A case is worth what you’re willing to accept and they’re willing to pay.  When these two match up, cases resolve.  However, no good settlement comes without hard work, and all the information considered.  Tomorrow is so much longer than yesterday when you have your whole life in front of you.  While it does take two to tango, sometimes your dancing partner is the courthouse.

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Nevada and are unsure about the offer you’ve received from your insurance company, please call our firm immediately. We offer a free consultation and can help you make the right decisions for your future. Bertoldo Carter Smith & Cullen of Las Vegas, NV (702) 505-8115.

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