For many people, it’s tempting to try to settle their car accident cases on their own. They think by saving the legal fees and getting their money quickly, that they’ll come out ahead. Unfortunately, too many accident victims realize after the settlement that they made a mistake – often a big mistake.
In short, no – you should not attempt to settle your own car accident case, especially if you are injured. In most cases, you are entitled to a much bigger award that would have properly addressed your medical, income, property damage, and pain and suffering rights.
In Tennessee, car accident victims will end up being covered by different insurance policies at different times. For example:
- Initially, your own collision insurance company will pay for the repairs to your vehicle, or for the vehicle if it is totaled.
- Initially, your own health insurance will pay for your hospital surgeries, doctor visits, physical therapy and other health needs.
However, you will have the right to hold responsible drivers and owners liable for the damage to your car and your medical bills. To the extent these bills were prepaid, those insurance companies may have the right to reimbursement. Therefore, if you have any outstanding bills, those bills will be paid before you receive the remainder of your award.
You will also have the right to hold liable parties accountable for any future medical bills and your lost wages. You will also have the right to demand payment for all your physical pain and emotional suffering.
The dangers of negotiating with the insurance carrier(s) for the responsible parties
The main dangers of trying to settle your case without legal counsel are these:
- You may not understand what additional bills you face. This can force you to take a settlement that is perilously low, just so you can keep your head above water – and end up costing you much more over time. An experienced car accident lawyer can work with your doctors and health providers to defer having to pay them until after your case settles or goes to trial. This alleviates the need to accept an unfair settlement.
- Your medical condition may be more serious than you first think. Until you have a complete diagnosis and prognosis, you won’t know the extent of your injuries, nor what additional medical treatments you’ll need. Some injuries never heal completely, leaving you in chronic pain. If you settle early and then find that your pain and medical needs will need more care, you won’t be able to come back and ask for more.
- Insurance companies will use your own words against you. If the negotiations fail, then any statements you made about your case can be used against you in court. These include statements about how the accident such as “maybe I was distracted” or statements about your health, like “I didn’t think I was hurt.” When you work with an attorney, you don’t have to talk to the insurance company on your own.
- By focusing on settlement, you won’t be preparing your case. Experienced lawyers work to investigate the accident site, speak with relevant witnesses, and examine the damage to your car. We work with your doctors to detail your complaints and medical needs. We also advise injury victims how to document and support their pain. It often includes speaking with family members and co-workers who can support your claims. Investigations include examining police reports and speaking with any eye-witnesses, conducting discovery, and submitting written questions to the driver who struck you.
- You may affect your rights to uninsured and underinsured coverage. If the insurance company for the responsible driver says the driver only had $25,000 in coverage and your case is worth $75,000, and if you settle for less than the $25,000, you won’t be able to demand that your UM/UIM carrier pay the difference up to $75,000.
Insurance companies are motivated by making a profit, not paying out claims. They are trying to pay you as little as possible. At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, we’ve been fighting for injury victims for more than 20 years. We demand every dollar that you deserve. We focus on your long-term needs and your short-term needs.
For help with your car accident claim, call us today at (865) 428-8780 or use our contact form to make an appointment. We represent injury victims who reside in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee areas.