Car accidents are never pleasant, but, if you are fortunate, all of the cars involved go home with no more than a dent or scratch and everyone drives away unscathed.
Unfortunately, not all car accidents have such benign results. When injuries are involved, there is always the potential for serious medical claims that may or may not be covered by your insurance.
Depending on the state you live in, you may be able to sue for more than what is covered by the insurance. Oftentimes, settlements are offered in lieu of going to trial.
Sometimes accepting the settlement makes sense while other times it is not justified and should be rejected.
The seriousness of car accidents and other damages resulting from automobile use makes it all the more important to make sure that you have the best car insurance possible for the cheapest price.
When Suing Makes Sense
Lawsuits are never friendly and are many times not practical. If you are in a car accident and your damages are covered by insurance, whether it’s your own or the other driver’s, there is very little reason to initiate a lawsuit.
If the insurance is not enough to cover liability, property, and or medical damages, a lawsuit may help you recuperate some of your costs if you were not at fault for the accident.
Every state has a different set of rules regarding whether you can sue and the amount for which you can sue. There is also a time restriction for when you can bring forth a lawsuit.
Typically, you need to make your insurance claim and police report promptly, but you can usually decide to sue the other party anywhere from one to three years, depending, once again, on the state.
If you decide to sue, you will need an attorney. Many times you will end up suing the insurance company, the driver, and sometimes the owner of the car even if he wasn’t the driver.
There may also be additional lawsuits if multiple cars were involved in the accident.
The attorney you choose should be well-versed in medical malpractice and personal injury trials. She should be able to demonstrate a strong number of client wins whether it is through settlement or through court.
Your attorney needs to be able to represent you completely and guide you to make the soundest decisions based on your case and personal circumstances. A good attorney will usually be able to tell you if the settlement offer is fair and acceptable or if it isn’t worth considering at all.
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Accepting a Settlement Offer
Since lawsuits are expensive, timely, and emotionally draining, there are times when accepting a settlement makes sense. The reason for your lawsuit should always be your focus when determining the progress of your case.
If the lawsuit becomes extra bitter and hostile, you could find yourself losing focus of the initial goal and not be clear-minded in your decision making.
For example, you sue an insurance company for $100,000 split evenly between medical expenses and pain and suffering. During the very long, tedious, and painful process of the lawsuit, you become so angry that you lose focus of your $100,000 claim.
By the time you are offered $75,000 to settle out of court, you instead want to go to trial and sue them for $200,000. This is a case of emotions causing you to lose focus of your objective. If you are already feeling so embittered, going to court will most likely not lessen or ease your pain.
However, a $75,000 or $80,000 settlement pays your medical bills and leaves you with up to $30,000 for pain and suffering, which may make it worth taking the offer and closing the door on the lawsuit.
Of course, if a settlement offer is made that does not come close to meeting your objective you may need to reject the offer.
Usually, once a settlement offer is made, the tables to negotiation are now open and there is a good chance that a mutually satisfying settlement can be reached without actually having to go to trial.
If you are ready to settle and move forward, then make a counter offer that you are prepared to accept should they agree. Once a settlement is made, the court will close the case and further settlements will not be allowed.
Rejecting a Settlement Offer
Keeping the focus on the objective of your lawsuit will tell you, if you are not content or comfortable with a settlement offer, that you should consider rejecting it.
If you have a sound lawsuit then there is no reason to accept a settlement offer that is mediocre at best. Sometimes people will settle because they are afraid that they will not get as much ultimately once it goes to court.
Other times people will settle because they just want the legal nightmare to go away. Whatever you decide, you are the one that will live with that decision, so you should be at ease with any offer you accept.
This is why keeping focused on your original goal of the lawsuit can help you make a clear decision. Take into consideration:
- the time you are investing
- the legal fees
- the emotional drainage
- the net difference between the settlement offer and the possible outcome at a trial
Whichever way you go, you should make your decision with good legal counsel so that you are fully aware of all of the pros and cons either way.
Lawsuits are not always necessary, but when they are, securing proper legal counsel is your first step. They can help you determine if accepting a settlement offer is the right decision for your situation.
In order to minimize the possibility of vehicular accident lawsuits, be sure to carry appropriate car insurance for yourself, as well as for uninsured and underinsured motorists.
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