Often times, immediately after an accident and prior to the injured party talking to a lawyer, the insurance company for the at-fault party will approach you, the injured person, and make an offer of settlement. Typically, it is in the amount of $500.00 to $1,500.00 to resolve your injury claim. Progressive is notorious for doing this. It is part of their business model. They have their little Progressive mobiles that come directly to the accident scene or to your home and offer you a settlement right there on the spot. This insurance approach is made in a friendly, “we care about you” manner, thus lowering your guard and gaining your trust.
It seems like a very nice gesture on their part, but beware as it is not to your benefit nor in your best interest to accept it at that time. If you do accept it, your potential injury case, if you had one, will be concluded because in return for the money, you will be required to sign a release, releasing the at-fault party, which is the insurance company’s insured, and the insurance company itself from any further injury claims as it relates to that accident. You will have entered into a contract with them. A very smart tactic on their part!
Now don’t get me wrong, the money they offer you might have been fair but that determination can only be made once you have the knowledge of the extent of your injuries and information on what treatment is going to be needed and whether those injuries are going to fully heal. Only the passing of time and the investigation and treatment of your injuries will give you the information needed to weigh that offer against your injury condition to determine the fairness of it. As we tell our clients, wait until you know the value of your case before agreeing to a settlement with the insurance company. You don’t have a crystal ball, and thus the majority of the time, the early settlement only benefits the insurance company and their insured, not you!
We have met with multiple people who we could not help because they had taken a minimal early offer of settlement from the insurance company and thus entered into a contract of settlement to later find out that their injuries were far more significant than they thought and now the money they received won’t even cover their medical bills. Some of these clients were even in need of surgery, and the minimal, initial offer clearly did not provide for that.
So, beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. If the money offered early by the insurance company is fair then it should still be there at the end of your course of treatment. Consult with an attorney before speaking to the insurance company. And remember we are always here for you.