During your personal injury claim, it’s more than likely that the insurance company will want to negotiate a settlement. In fact, most accident victims will eventually settle their claims. However, unless you’re careful, it’s easy to make costly mistakes that can reduce your settlement’s value.
Are you considering filing a personal injury claim? Rather than make a decision that you’ll regret later on, it’s always best to consult with an experienced Virginia injury lawyer before you start settlement negotiations. Here’s a quick introduction to personal injury settlements in Virginia.
The Insurance Company Does Not Have Your Best Interests at Heart
No matter how sympathetic an insurance adjuster seems, they are more concerned about their employer’s profitability than giving you fair compensation. Many insurance companies offer their adjusters incentives and bonuses when they close cases, especially when the number is below a certain threshold.
For this reason, you should never respond to an adjuster’s offer until you consult with a lawyer. Once you accept a personal injury settlement, you typically cannot go back and demand additional compensation—even if your condition worsens over time.
3 Tactics Insurers Use to Decrease Your Compensation
Insurance companies use a variety of tactics to try to reduce a settlement’s value. Understanding these common strategies can help you maximize your compensation and protect your legal rights.
Claiming Contributory Negligence
Virginia applies a theory of contributory negligence law in injury claims. Under this rule, you are not eligible for compensation if you are even partially responsible for an accident. In other words, if you were hit by another vehicle, but the insurer can prove you were not paying complete attention to your surroundings, they may claim you were partially at fault and are not entitled to compensation.
The only effective option for contesting an unfair contributory negligence defense is to work with an attorney to prove that you were not at fault.
Questioning the Severity of Injuries
The insurance adjuster will review your medical records, looking for inconsistencies. If you do not have sufficient documentation to back up your claims, the insurer will argue that your injuries were not severe and do not merit a large settlement.
To counter this, you need to build an evidentiary record that links your injuries to the accident and clearly documents your limitations. We encourage everyone to seek medical treatment immediately after their accident, follow all their doctors’ orders and recommendations, and keep all medical documentation.
Offering a Quick Settlement
Another tactic insurers use is to offer you a quick settlement immediately after your incident. They will try to convince you that it is not necessary to hire an attorney because they are willing to pay you. However, the compensation they offer will be significantly less than what you deserve.
Instead, compare the offer against your estimated losses and contact an attorney to maximize your compensation either through a court case or a settlement offer.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Basics of Virginia Auto Insurance: What You Need to Know
How to Calculate Your Injury Settlement
Calculating your settlement value comes down to three primary factors.
Probability of Winning a Trial
The strength of your legal claims will significantly impact the value of your case. When we assess the value of our clients’ claims, we consider the credibility of their witnesses, whether there is conflicting evidence or legal precedent, and how strict juries are in their area.
The Extent of Your Damages
Every injury claim is different and will involve varying levels of damages. Depending on your circumstances, your damages may include compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and property losses.
At Phelan Petty, we use sophisticated methods to calculate our clients’ damages. This includes compiling their bills, consulting with vocational and long-term care experts, and estimating their future medical needs with help from their doctors.
How Much Insurance Coverage Applies to Your Claim
If the at-fault party is uninsured or underinsured, you may have a hard time getting fair compensation. That’s why our injury lawyers carefully investigate their clients’ cases, trying to identify every at-fault party and insurance policy that may apply to their claims.
If this process sounds complicated, you’re right. Rather than struggle through your own calculations, it’s almost always in your best interest to schedule an evaluation with a lawyer.
How to Negotiate an Injury Settlement
Insurance companies will always offer less than what you deserve, which is why your initial settlement offer should be considerably higher than what you hope to get. In a successful negotiation, offers will be tossed back and forth until you eventually agree on a settlement figure.
Most personal injury cases are settled during negotiations, but what happens if the insurance company or the defendant’s attorney refuses to offer up an acceptable settlement amount? Your lawyer may suggest alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation.
Mediation is an informal process where a neutral third party, called a mediator, listens to both parties and tries to find common ground. We’ve found that mediation can be very effective when settlement negotiations stall. However, some cases require a trial.
Phelan Petty: Experienced Virginia Trial Attorneys
Insurance companies will do everything they can to minimize your compensation or avoid having to pay your claim altogether. Don’t let them deprive you of fair compensation. Phelan Petty’s injury lawyers have built a reputation for their aggressive litigation strategies and sophisticated approach to settlement negotiations.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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Michael Phelan is a Virginia trial attorney who practices with a special focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases, pharmaceutical and medical device claims, product liability cases, and truck accidents. Michael’s peers have consistently recognized him for his excellence as a trial lawyer, and his clients have praised him for his commitment to deep research, his outstanding communication skills, and his sincerity and dedication.