Since it is uncommon for personal injury cases to make it to trial, chances are good that your car accident claim will end in a settlement. The at-fault driver’s car insurance company will likely foot the bill for your injuries, not the defendant. Insurance companies are notorious for making quick settlement offers to injured victims, usually for much less than car accident claims are worth.
You do not have to accept the insurance company’s initial offer. Your car accident lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company to make sure your settlement is fair. If negotiations are no successful, your case may go to trial, but it is still likely that your car accident claim will end in a settlement.
How Many Car Accident Claims End in a Settlement?
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that approximately 96% of personal injury cases (“torts”) end in a settlement. Insurance companies usually push injured victims to accept settlement offers soon after car accidents happen. This is because:
- Payouts are usually substantially lower when quick settlement agreements are reached.
- Trials involving car accident cases are not predictable. The insurance company could be ordered to pay substantially more if the case goes before a jury.
- Car accident litigation is expensive. When you include expenses for expert witnesses, court costs, depositions, and travel, costs can skyrocket.
Should You Accept a Car Accident Settlement?
If you have been injured in a car accident, it’s important to talk to an experienced car accident lawyer before you accept a settlement offer. Your lawyer will calculate your economic and non-economic damages to determine the approximate value of your case. Your car accident attorney will take into account all of your medical expenses, lost income, rehabilitation costs, and pain and suffering to estimate what a fair settlement will be.
The lawyer can also explain the importance of reaching “maximum medical improvement” before you accept a settlement. In a car accident insurance claim or lawsuit, maximum medical improvement (MMI) means:
- The injured party has recovered completely from his/her injuries caused by a car accident
- The injured party’s condition has stabilized, giving doctors a clear picture of necessary ongoing medical care
- The doctor can clearly assess the injured party’s physical limitations and the cost of his/her ongoing medical care
You should not accept a settlement offer until you reach MMI and have a clear understanding of the extent of your injuries. If your car accident claim ends in a settlement before you reach MMI, you may be on the hook for the costs of worsening injuries and any complications that arise.
What Happens if the Insurance Company Fails to Offer a Fair Settlement?
If the car insurance company fails to offer you a fair settlement, your attorney’s first step is to determine why. In many cases, insurers offer lower amounts because they assert that victims’ injuries are not as severe as they claim. In other cases, however, the fault for the accident is not cut and dry.
Car accident claims and settlements are complicated and unpredictable, especially when they involve multiple defendants. Multi-car accidents and those involving defective vehicle parts are examples. Although it may seem simple to prove who’s at fault for the accident, that isn’t always the case.
Determining fault in an Illinois car accident usually involves various layers. Law enforcement, accident reconstructionists, and professional investigators will investigate the scene of the accident. Investigators may talk to eyewitnesses. They may gather video footage from dashcams or nearby surveillance cameras. They may also work with medical experts to review your medical records to evaluate the severity of your injuries.
If there is doubt about who contributed to causing your crash, the insurance company may offer you a low settlement just to make the case go away. Alternatively, they may point fingers at you or other parties, and deny liability for the car accident altogether.
Recovering compensation after a car accident is based on an at-fault, or tort, system. The driver or other party who caused the accident must pay damages to the injured victims. If it is determined that you or another party was responsible for your accident, you may still be able to sue the insurance company, however. Under comparative negligence laws, your role in the accident will determine how much the insurer will need to pay you.
Why Insurance Companies Push for Your Car Accident Claim to End in a Settlement
It’s cheaper for the insurance company if your car accident claim ends in a settlement that is reached out of court. Cases that involve litigation include lawyers’ fees and expenses, court costs, formal depositions, payment to expert witnesses, and possible travel expenses. A court process is often costly and takes a long time to conclude. When an accident victim accepts a settlement offer, the case is usually resolved in half the time it takes to settle a court case.
Litigation is expensive, and car accident lawsuits can go on for months or years. However, some settlements can also take a long time due to questions by insurance adjusters and necessary settlement procedures that include:
- Reviewing accident reports
- Determining fault for the accident
- Gathering evidence
- Investigating injuries and medical reports
- Talking to witnesses from the accident scene
- Calculating a settlement value
When you’re injured in a car accident, waiting on compensation to pay for damages can be stressful. Your injuries may have caused expensive medical treatments, a loss of income, physical pain and impairments, the need for walking aids, and a necessary change in your daily activities. Serious car accidents often result in life-threatening injuries, head trauma, emotional problems, temporary or permanent disabilities, and job loss.
If you’re concerned about why your car accident settlement is taking so long, you may want to consult a personal injury lawyer who can help you speed up the process. Most injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t have upfront costs to get started with your case. An injury lawyer in your corner can help ensure your car accident claim ends in a settlement that’s fair.