In general, humans are wired and encouraged to resolve conflicts and uncertainties as soon as possible. In personal injury accidents, however, such a predisposition is often harmful and extremely counterproductive to the injured party. Yet you will never find the insurance companies complaining about that because they are almost always the ones who benefit from too early of a settlement. This post is intended to outline the main reasons as to why one should never settle their car accident or slip and fall accident too early.
In situations where liability and fault are clearly established, insurance companies often attempt to bombard the injured party (specifically those who are not represented by an attorney) with phone calls and letters all aimed at either having them accept a small amount to settle the case or to have the injured party say that they are basically fine and that there is nothing wrong with them. The big problem with that is that in personal injury matters, the full extent of the injuries are often not clear until weeks or months after the accident. And since insurance companies know that full well, they will pull all stops to have those that were involved in a serious car accident agree to accept a nominal amount (usually $500.00) to settle their claim in full.
Our office alone has seen dozens of clients who have unfortunately accepted such amounts early on, only to later find out that the entire settlement would not cover the cost of one MRI, let alone any follow up treatment or surgeries. Worse yet, there are many situations where an individual (again often unrepresented by an attorney, or represented by attorneys who are looking for a quick settlement, a quick buck and the next case) settles months after the accident but without really ensuring the injury has significantly improved.
Several years ago, I represented a young woman, who injured her knee. Like most of my clients, this lady wanted the case resolved amicably and quickly. The only problem was that her knee was not really healed. Six months after the accident, her medical bills were approximately $6,500.00 and the insurance was offering her approximately $18,000.00 for her injury and pain and suffering. Knowing full well that her condition may remain or even deteriorate, I insisted that we wait and obtain a second opinion from an orthopedic doctor. As it turned out, this client needed to have surgery in her knee to repair a portion of her damaged cartilage, the cost of that surgery alone (without further treatment and therapy) was approximately $20,000.00! All said and done, this settlement for this client was a six figure settlement. Although this case vividly illustrates the point, it is by no means unique; there are countless others like it every day.
This is not of course to say that every case should (or does) take years to settle, the typical case does not. The bigger point, however, is that one should be very cautious against settling a claim when the full extent of the injury and the scope of its treatment are not healed. This is so because once a settlement is reached with the insurance company, their and their insured’s obligations are totally and completely absolved. This means that the injured party cannot come later and say, my injury is much bigger than I thought, and therefore, I need more money to treat myself. Their answer will inevitably be: tough luck. And if one thinks that insurance companies (regardless of who they are) are these nice corporations who will do the “right thing”, they have most likely never dealt with them in a serious matter before.
Along the same line, it is very common for us at Law22 (like other law firms) to encounter clients that are injured (most often with soft tissue injuries like back, neck and knee pain) who do not wish to see a doctor, get treatment, or take time off. On the one hand, I truly and wholeheartedly respect people who are tough and do not feel like they have to sue or run to the doctor anytime anything happens. Yet on the other hand, I know that the system as its currently set severely punishes and short changes people like that, and it (sad to say) rewards those who take the time to examine themselves, make sure that they are okay and who do not go to work when they are experiencing significant pain or discomfort.
Insurance companies (which are of course running a business driven by only one thing: the bottom line) LOVE tough people! This is so because they use every single attempt by the injured person to deal with the issue themselves without seeking treatment or missing work, against them. If Law22 was given a dime every time we heard the insurance companies tell us things like: “If your client was really injured, why did she go to work the next day?” or “If your client was really in pain, why did they not go to the doctor until a week after the accident?” then we would all be millionaires. Yes, the simple truth is that insurance companies punish those who seek to be tough or whose first instinct is not to do anything or see a doctor.
Lastly, my experience has taught me that injured people tend to almost always understate or minimize how their injuries have or continue to effect them. Oftentimes, I find myself having to ask my client numerous questions before they ultimately disclose to me things like: “I am fine, but I just cannot run or play basketball anymore” or “I am perfectly fine except that I get bad back pain every time I carry something over 10 pounds!” The average person does not know that the responsible party in a car accident or any kind of motorcycle or slip and fall accident have to make them whole, in other words, they are responsible to have you be in the same condition that they were in prior to accident (to the extent possible and feasible by law).
To recap, here are some key takeaways:
1) When involved in a car accident or a personal injury accident do not settle too early;
2) By all means, avoid speaking with the adjuster from the other insurance company until you are rested, collected, and have considered the possibility of retaining an attorney;
3) If something hurts, get it checked it out;
4) If you are experiencing serious discomfort or pain, do not go to work, especially if your work aggravates the pain or discomfort in any way;
5) Do not presume that the pain will disappear by itself over time, sometimes it does, other times it does not;
6) Go to a doctor that you like or trust to get checked out, if you do not feel comfortable with the doctor go somewhere else, the same applies to your attorney;
7) Don’t be too quick to dismiss your pain or injury, it could be serious.