I’ve been in a car accident and the other driver’s insurance company is offering me money, what should I do?

We quite often hear stories from our clients who have been in car accidents about how, within days of the accident, an adjuster from the at-fault driver’s insurance company has called offering money to settle the claim.  In some cases, the insurance adjuster has even sent a check, or even showed up at their house with a check.  Insurance companies are very good at making money, and you can bet that if the insurance company is trying to pay money so quickly after a car accident, it is in their best interest to do so.  However, in most circumstances, it is not in your best interest to accept such a settlement.

Have you ever heard the saying that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”?  Well, in the world of personal injury law, there is no such thing as free money either, because there is always a catch.  While an offer of $500 or $1000 from the other driver’s insurance company may be appealing at the moment, most people do not understand everything they are giving up by accepting such an offer.  In exchange for the check, the insurance company will require you to sign what is called a “Release”.

A Release is a legal instrument that acts to terminate any liability that a wrongdoer may have to another for any damages that wrongdoer has caused.  If you sign a Release, you are, therefore, giving up your right to collect certain damages from the at-fault party.  These damages may include compensation for: (1) past medical expenses; (2) future medical expenses; (3) past wage loss; (4) future wage loss; (5) past pain, suffering, and emotional distress; and (6) future pain, suffering, and emotional distress.

Signing a Release so soon after the accident is problematic because there is no way to accurately assess the full nature and extent of your injuries at that point in time.  You probably don’t know the full nature, extent and permanency of your injuries; what your medical bills will be; or how your injuries may affect your future earning potential.  Often times, doctors won’t be able to answer these questions until several months after your accident.  The insurance company knows this.  They also know that if they are able to settle the claim within days of the accident for a small amount of money, they will not be responsible for these long-term damages, which may turn out to be substantial. Insurance companies also know that most people are tempted by the quick offer and because they haven’t consulted an attorney, are not fully aware of their rights.  It is unfortunate, but also a fact, that insurance companies make great profits by preying on people’s lack of understanding of their rights.

If you have been in a car accident, and any insurance company is offering you “quick” money, it is in your best interest to consult to an experienced personal injury lawyer before accepting any offer. Only an experienced personal injury lawyer can counsel you on your rights and what you are giving up by accepting a settlement and signing a Release.

Call one of the experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson Personal Injury today for a free consultation.