A settlement is when the parties in question can negotiate and resolve their case themselves. The injured party (the plaintiff) agrees to accept a certain amount of money from the other party (the defendant). In return, the plaintiff agrees to drop the case against the defendant. This might be tempting because no third parties are involved.
Or maybe you filed a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. They processed your claim and offered you a fairly decent sum of money. This scenario might seem pretty tempting. You could definitely use the money with all the bills coming in from doctors’ offices and physical therapy.
But you’d actually be making a big mistake if you settle your case without talking to a lawyer first. Why exactly is this such a bad idea? After all, you might get things over with quickly and have cash in hand sooner than if you get other parties involved. There’s nothing inherently wrong with settling, and you may indeed get things wrapped up more quickly. But did you get the best deal? Probably not.
Here’s why you shouldn’t settle without the counsel of a reputable Pittsburgh car accident lawyer.
Your insurance company does not have your best interests at heart
Sure, the insurance company might have a smiling spokesperson and a catchy, little jingle. They’re a household name, and you truly feel your company is here to help you. You pay into your plan with them, knowing they will have your back if you’re involved in an accident.
But the truth is that they may not be there for you when you need them – and the other driver’s insurance company? They owe you even less. At the end of the day, it’s all just a good marketing campaign. They’re a red-blooded business, and they’re out to turn a profit, not to worry about you.
Here’s how the insurance companies try to fleece you when you need them the most.
The insurance rep is trying to trick you
The agent seems very nice and sympathetic when you call to report your claim. They’re asking you basic questions to document what happened and open your case. But there’s more happening here than meets the eye. They’re trying to find a reason to give you the smallest payout possible — or maybe no payout at all!
They may lead you in a certain direction in the way they ask a question. Instead of asking you to give a full list of your injuries, both mental and physical, they may say something like, “You sound good. You’re not experiencing any pain right now, are you?” If you answer and say you’re doing pretty good right now, this can minimize what you’re going through and can actually hurt your chance for a successful claim.
It’s also not capturing the full picture. You may have complications that haven’t developed yet. You may suffer from mental issues like post-traumatic stress disorder if your accident was extremely distressing. You probably won’t volunteer that information if you’re not specifically asked about your mental well-being. Maybe you haven’t even realized yet how upsetting the accident was and the seriousness of its impact on you at a subconscious level.
A doctor or mental healthcare specialist might ask you more targeted questions to tease it out of you. They might ask if you are having trouble sleeping or are having nightmares where you constantly relive the accident. An insurance agent will not be asking you these types of questions to capture the accident’s whole toll on your physical and mental health.
Take a few minutes to compose yourself before you talk to an insurance company after an accident to make sure you say the right things.
Four things you should never say to your insurance company in Pittsburgh
There are other ways the insurance rep may try to lead you in their line of questioning. Avoid saying the following phrases at all costs.
- “I’m sorry. It was all my fault. I wasn’t paying attention.” Never say this or anything like it. Your lawyer may look at other details about your case to try to establish the cause of the accident. But if you’ve already implicated yourself, there might not be much that he or she can do for you.
- “All right, that sounds good.” Never accept the first offer the insurance company gives you. Your personal injury lawyer will be able to tell if they are trying to lowball you with their offer.
- “Yes, I’ll provide you with my statement.” The other driver’s insurance rep may try to get you to give a written or recorded statement. There is no legal reason you need to do this. In fact, anything you say in a statement may actually be used against you when it comes time to talk about money.
- “From what I remember, I think that…” Never engage in any guesswork with the insurance company. Just say that you don’t know the answer. They may try to push you into an answer, but stick to your guns and say, “I don’t know.”
Be careful what you say to anybody about the accident as they could be interviewed about what they saw and heard. When in doubt, ask your lawyer for advice on what and what not to say about your accident — and who you should or shouldn’t say it to. Comply with police questioning, but don’t tell them it was your fault or speculate on anything like the speed you were going or that you might not have seen a sign or signal.
What can an attorney do to help me deal with my insurance company?
The insurance company can no longer talk to you directly once you have brought a lawyer into your case. This means they don’t have the opportunity to lead you into answering questions in ways that are in their best interest and not yours.
An insurance agent is trying to minimize the company’s losses, but a lawyer will fight for the best possible outcome for you. An experienced Pittsburgh car accident lawyer can evaluate the ins and outs of your insurance policy and interpret the wording in your favor.
Carmody and Ging,
Call our offices or contact us today to get a free consultation on your personal injury case.