In a nutshell: you should NOT automatically accept the initial insurance company settlement offer after a car accident. Remember that the insurance company is a private for-profit enterprise. They don’t make money year after year by paying maximum value settlements. The way they make money is to pay out fewer claims than they take in premiums. In their view, paying the least amount in the fastest amount of time will be enough to pacify most customers, meet their basic obligations, and bring in a profit.
What Happens After A Car Accident
You’ve just been hurt in a car accident. While you’re recovering from your injuries, you get a call from the insurance company. They seem friendly enough, asking how you’re doing and offering to help put this matter behind you as quickly as possible – which you very much want – but they’re also asking you to sign some paperwork to accept their offer right away. Or they may try to pressure you over the phone on a recorded call. They might say you shouldn’t bother contacting a New York City car accident attorney because “you’ll receive the same amount anyway, but it’ll take twice as long.” It seems like an okay sum of money, but should you agree?
Are You Willing to Sign Away Your Rights So Fast?
What insurance companies don’t tell you is that signing to accept an offer also waives your right to any future claims against the policy. Sometimes insurers offer to send you $500 “to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses like copays and medications.” Unbeknownst to the claimant, accepting this money and signing on the dotted line can mean the end of what compensation you receive – even if your injuries cost much, much more.
Have You Reached Maximum Recovery Yet?
If you’re still recovering, there is no way to tell how much money your injuries will ultimately cost or how long you’ll be out of work. It’s best to wait until you reach what doctors call the point of “maximum recovery,” so you can get a more accurate prognosis. Even seemingly minor soft tissue injuries can turn out to be worse-than-expected later. Some car accident victims even develop symptoms of anxiety, depression, or PTSD down the road. If so, you want to make sure your counseling is covered.
Did You Meet the Serious Injury Threshold?
By law, New York allows accident victims the ability to step outside the traditional no-fault system to hold the other driver liable for an accident when the victim meets the criteria for the “serious injury threshold”:
- Significant disfigurement
- Permanent limitation of a body organ or member
- Significant limitation of the use of a body function or system
- Disability for 90 out of the first 180 days
In these cases, you can pursue more than just money for medical bills and lost wages – but compensation for pain and suffering, as well as payment for future payments and losses too. A good lawyer will work with a forensic economist to accurately determine what your injuries will cost in the future.
Was There a Liability Dispute After the Crash?
New York is a no-fault insurance state, meaning that your provider covers your injuries in the event of an accident, no matter who caused the accident. However, the moments following a crash can become heated. If you think that the other party might point the finger of blame at you and try to sue, it’s best to work with a lawyer from the start, rather than an insurance company, in case you need to produce documentation proving your innocence.
Isn’t Your Pain and Suffering Worth Something?
Even if your no-fault insurance covered the majority of your medical expenses, you may be entitled to additional “special damages” compensation that insurance typically does not cover. If you lost a loved one in the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for loss of services. This compensation can make the difference between barely covering your medical expenses and recovering hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to provide for your future.
It’s worth calling a New York City personal injury lawyer for a free consultation to inquire about your eligibility to pursue pain and suffering damages in civil court.
Contact Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, & Green
Call or fill out our online form for a free case review by an experienced New York personal injury lawyer. We work on a contingency basis, meaning you owe us nothing unless we secure a settlement or jury award on your behalf. Most cases settle outside of court in a reasonable timeframe. New York allows accident victims the ability to sue within three years – as long as they haven’t signed their rights away with the insurance company ahead of time.