The insurance company quickly sends you a settlement offer for your car wreck. You need the money desperately. Should you take it?
Something seems wrong…
You got in a car wreck. And the Insurance company couldn’t be more helpful.
They found out about the motor vehicle collision. They made you an offer. And they will even overnight the check to you at their cost.
Oddly, they seem to be in a real rush to get this taken care of.
Why don’t insurers act this way any other time you have a problem?
If you find yourself in this situation, you’re wise to follow your instincts. No matter how much you need the money, and no matter how good it looks, you’re probably not getting a fair offer.
It doesn’t always mean the insurance company is up to no good. Sometimes they give you a fair settlement offer.
But most of the time, they’re giving you a lowball offer. And if they can get you to accept it by offering you a small chunk of cash now, they might save themselves thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars later on.
So, if you get an offer from your insurer, and they also promise to send the check to you overnight, what can you do if you don’t feel comfortable with the whole situation?
First, Understand How This Works Legally
Insurance companies have no legal obligation to treat you fairly. It is perfectly legal for them to make a ridiculously low offer.
If you accept it, then you can’t pursue compensation for this particular accident ever again, even if you get ripped off.
What if you find out you have whiplash or a traumatic brain injury? Such injuries may not show up until weeks or even months after your wreck.
Also, in Texas, you have the statute of limitations on your side. That means that you have two years from the date of your collision to pursue your claim in court.
So, no matter how urgent the insurance company makes the situation appear, you have absolutely no obligation to act quickly.
And resist that urge, even if you really need the money now. This low offer could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run.
You Can Negotiate Every Detail of Your Claim
Insurers like people who act like sheep. Simply follow what they say, let them clean out your wallet, and everything’s going to be just fine (at least for the insurer anyway)!
For starters, you don’t have to give a recorded statement to a claims adjuster. Remember, they represent the insurer, not you. And they have years of experience in negotiation, which means they know what to do to pressure you into accepting an offer not in your best interest.
Their job is to make the insurance company money. They get promotions (or not) based on how well they do that.
You don’t have to sign any agreements the insurer provides. You don’t have to (and you shouldn’t) take your car to the auto repair shop the insurer recommends.
Typically, they have contracts in place with repair shops to keep repair costs low. So, these repair shops will use cheap parts, or avoid doing certain repairs entirely, to help out the insurer.
If the insurer totals your vehicle, you can appeal that decision. They do this when damages exceed about 70% of your car’s value. The value is supposed to be based on your vehicle’s fair market value in your area (not the Kelly Blue Book value).
Basically, you can negotiate nearly every aspect of your claim with the insurance company.
Attorneys Don’t Cost You Any Money Up Front
Finally, if you don’t want to deal with all this, or if you just want to show the insurer you’re not messing around, consider hiring a personal injury attorney.
They offer free consultations. So, you can find out if you should accept the insurer’s offer.
And, they also don’t charge anything until after you win your claim. So, you can afford to hire the best personal injury attorney you can find!
You have plenty of tools at your disposal if you don’t like the insurance company’s offer. They won’t let you know about any of those.
But you can absolutely defend yourself. And you can find help in a personal injury attorney if you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed.
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Shane V. Mullen is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas for the general practice of law, and the Managing Partner at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm in Dallas, TX. His firm focuses exclusively on personal injury law and has been in business for 40 years (since 1983). Before becoming a lawyer, Shane worked for his father as an accident injury claims investigator.