What Can I Do If I’m Unhappy With My Settlement?
An accident can cause drastic losses, including property damage, medical expenses and lost wages. Moving on from an accident often requires obtaining financial compensation to make up for these losses. Whether or not an insurance provider offers a fair settlement, however, depends on the case. If you are unhappy with your settlement, you may be able to negotiate for a better outcome – but only if you act quickly.
Before You Accept: Submit a Counteroffer
It may be possible to change your settlement if you have not yet signed a settlement agreement and release of liability form. The release of liability form effectively ends your case. It is your consent to a tradeoff: you are taking the money offered in exchange for forfeiting the right to hold the defendant further liable. Once you sign the agreement, it may be impossible to change your settlement. This is why it is extremely important to be certain the settlement offer is fair before you say yes.
Work with a personal injury lawyer for assistance determining the fairness of an offer. A lawyer can review the settlement provided by the insurance company for inconsistencies, such as an amount in medical coverage that will not adequately pay for your future health care needs. If your lawyer agrees that the settlement is too low, he or she can help you negotiate before you sign a contract.
Your lawyer can submit a fair counteroffer, then go back and forth with the insurance company until the lawyer is satisfied. If the settlement is never enough for your losses, your lawyer can take your personal injury case to trial. A personal injury trial comes with greater risks, including the chance that you will lose the case and receive nothing; however, if the trial ends in your favor, you could receive greater compensation than you would have with a settlement.
If your lawyer strongly recommends taking the settlement offer, consider this advice even if you think the settlement sounds low. A lawyer will want to maximize, not minimize, your recovery. If a lawyer believes a settlement is fair, you can trust his or her opinion. However, you have the right to seek a second opinion from a different attorney, if desired. First, you will need to fire your first lawyer. Then, you will need to find new representation to help you progress through the claim.
After You Accept: Your Options Are Limited
Once you say yes to an insurance company’s settlement offer, it can be difficult to go back and renegotiate. An insurance company wants the client to settle for as little money as possible. After the client has said yes to an amount, the insurance company may not be as willing to increase its offer. If you have not yet signed a release of liability form, however, you and your attorney may still negotiate with the insurance company for a better outcome.
As soon as you sign the release form, you will no longer have the ability to negotiate. You sign away this ability when you agree to accept the settlement offered. You cannot renegotiate an accepted settlement even if you find out that your injuries are more serious than you thought or that you will need further medical care. Once completed, a settlement is a settlement, generally with no legal recourse to pursue additional damages.
You can rarely reopen a claim against a defendant after you officially accept a settlement. If you do not agree with the insurance company or defense attorney on the terms of the settlement, however, it may be possible to reopen the case and change things. If your case went to trial, your lawyer could file a motion such as an appeal. Work with a personal injury lawyer from the very beginning of your case for the best odds of achieving a successful settlement the first time around.