In the aftermath of a car accident, you will have to deal with insurance companies to get the compensation you deserve. Based on the facts of your claim, you may be entitled to significant compensation – and the insurance company will know that it won’t be able to deny the claim completely. Insurance companies seek to pay out as little money as possible by dragging their feet and pushing your claim through the litigation process. When faced with the certainty that your claim deserves a big settlement, which you will likely get if the claim goes to trial, the insurance company may shift tactics and pressure you into accepting a settlement right away.
Getting your compensation as quickly as possible can sound extremely tempting. Having your money to pay for your damages and medical care can be a huge stress relief, and the insurance company is counting on you feeling that way. The problem is that these initial settlement offers are lowballs – far less than what you really deserve.
Why You Should Not Accept The First Insurance Settlement Offer
The insurance company intentionally leads with a lowball offer, much like a used car buyer may lowball while haggling the price of their desired vehicle. While negotiating the price of a vehicle is all well and good, lowball settlement offers are predatory, targeting you at your most vulnerable. When the lowball offer is made, there is a very good chance that you will still be in the middle of your medical treatment with no knowledge of how much longer you will be out of work, if your injuries will carry permanent consequences, or even how much your final medical bill will be. You need and deserve adequate compensation to move forward in your life after an accident, and the insurance company hopes to convince you that you deserve far less money than you actually do.
Accepting a lowball settlement signs away your right to pursue any further compensation for the accident. If your injuries never heal enough to return to your workplace, or if you require surgery after accepting the settlement, you can no longer reopen your claim and seek the compensation you still need. It doesn’t matter how much your life has been impacted by the accident or how little money you accepted in the lowball, the insurance company is legally off the hook and will refuse to reopen your claim.
Lowball Settlement Tactics Insurance Companies Use
During negotiations, the insurance company will try a variety of tactics to explain why the lowball offer is the most amount of money your claim deserves and why you should accept the offer immediately.
1. Denying/Limiting Liability: Questioning your right to a claim
The insurance company’s quickest and easiest path out of compensating you fairly is to call the claim itself into question. They may deny your claim entirely, arguing that the person that hit you wasn’t negligent in the collision and so they aren’t obligated to compensate you. Insurers often make this argument when offering the lowball settlement, to convince you that you aren’t actually entitled to any money and should take the settlement offer and let the matter drop.
Insurance companies may also argue that you were contributorily negligent in the accident and limit liability. This means that they will claim the accident was partly your fault and that you should have paid better attention or reacted sooner to avoid the collision. By arguing that you were partially at fault, they will try to limit the amount of money that you can recover in the claim, making the lowball settlement look more attractive.
2. Downplaying Injuries: Arguing that your injuries are exaggerated
During the litigation process, assume that the insurance company will have access to your medical records and that they will be looking closely at them. When they make the lowball offer, many insurers will argue that your injuries don’t entitle you to as much money as they actually do. They may argue that your injuries are not as severe as they really are, or that the treatment you underwent for them was unreasonable, unrelated, or unnecessary. Insurance companies will also question the effects that your injuries have had in your life, such as the pain and suffering you experience in their aftermath.
Pain is a very tough thing to measure, and even more difficult to attach a monetary value to. The insurance company may argue that the constant pain from your injuries is really not that bad, and so shouldn’t entitle you to any money. Or that giving up a favorite hobby or having to find a new job are not factors that you deserve money for.
3. Medical History: Arguing that past injuries are the real cause of your pain
Another area that insurance companies like to use to convince you to take the lowball offer is taking a look at prior injuries you may have had. Legally, the insurance company is only liable for injuries that occurred due to their client’s negligence. They will often try and argue that injuries you have had in the past, that are totally unrelated to the accident, are the reason that you are experiencing pain now, and that your accident caused minimal or nonexistent injuries. The good news is that the insurer is required to compensate you for any pre-existing injuries aggravated by the accident.