It is not uncommon for folks to try to resolve their personal injury claim (whether resulting from car wreck or 18-wheeler accident) directly with an insurance company. Not surprisingly, the insurance almost never disclose the full consequences of the settlement offer to the injured person. If you receive a settlement offer from an insurance company, you should ask yourself some serious questions before you sign....
1. How much money was paid for my medical treatment?
If any money was paid or is owed for medical treatment, you should understand that the doctor, hospital, or your own medical insurance may have a lien or subrogation interest against your settlement. What does that mean? A lien on a personal injury case is similar to a mechanics lien. Simply put, the lien holder (the hospital or the insurance company) may be legally entitled to payment before you receive any money. If you don't pay the hospital or insurance company, you may find yourself in a serious pickle. Seriously consider hiring an attorney if your medical expense are more than $1,000 and certainly consult with an attorney if your medical expenses are more than $10,000. The lien and subrogation laws are tricky and an experience personal injury attorney can work through the process for you. One word of caution, if you don't deal with the lien before you spend the money, don't be surprised when the hospital or your insurance company comes knocking!
2. Is this a good offer?
If you are not sure, talk to a lawyer. Injury lawyers work on car wreck cases all day and are likely in a better position to know whether an offer is should be accepted or rejected. Some lawyer, like us, are happy to visit with you during a free initial consultation and can advise you about your options. If you are not sure about whether to take the offer, you are probably better offer at least talking to a lawyer.
3. I'm not hurt.
Not surprisingly, the value of a personal injury case depends on the seriousness of your injuries. If you don't have any medical expenses, didn't miss any work, and you are not hurt, then the value of your case is probably low. These types of cases can sometime be handled without a lawyer; however, it is always a good idea to discuss your case with an experience injury attorney before you sign the settlement agreement.
4. Is the signed settlement agreement final?
Most of the time. There is a little bit of wiggle room in settlement agreements; however, you should expect your signature on a settlement to be final and should expect that you will never receive any more money for you injuries.
The bottom line is that there are injury attorneys that would be happy to discuss your case with you during an initial consultation--free of charge. Take advantage of the free initial consultation before you sign away your rights and your case.