If you’ve been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, never accept the insurance company’s initial offer right away. Ideally, you should always consult a lawyer before accepting any settlement offer.
Why? Because insurance companies try to save money by denying claims, and when they can’t, by paying as little as possible on those claims. That means the initial offer you’ll receive after an injury that wasn’t your fault is almost always way less than what your claim is actually worth. And once you accept an offer, you cannot go back and ask for more money, even if the settlement you received runs out before your medical bills do.
The insurance company may even tell you that if you don’t accept right away, they will retract the offer and you will get nothing, but this is untrue. They are held to the terms of the contract, same as you, and if they refuse to pay, they may even be guilty of bad faith.
How a Lawyer Can Help Calculate How Much You’re Owed
After being injured in an accident caused by someone else, you are usually eligible for three types of compensation:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
The first two can be easier to calculate. Simply add up the total cost of your medical bills and then add the wages you would have earned but couldn’t while unable to work due to your injuries.
But when you suffer a severe or disabling injury, knowing how much you are owed becomes far more complicated. This is because you are entitled to compensation not only for the medical expenses you’ve already incurred, but also for any ongoing medical treatment you’ll need in the future for this same injury. Since you can’t get more money later, you will need to calculate how much you think you might need in the future now.
And what if the injury leaves you unable to work ever again? You should and can fight for compensation for all the wages you would have received throughout the rest of your working career, including anticipated raises and bonuses.
If you are injured but still able to work, only unable to do the same work you did before, you can also get compensation for the fact that your new job may not pay as much as the work you did before being injured. An experienced lawyer can help you determine how much these lost future wages might be.
Then there’s pain and suffering. These are also called non-economic damages because they are harder to place an exact value on. How much is the physical pain and emotional suffering you underwent worth? What dollar amount can make better the fact you may never be able to enjoy some of your favorite hobbies or activities ever again? An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you determine a fair amount.
What If My Medical Bills Exceed the Policy Limits?
Say you were injured in a car accident. The minimum amount of liability coverage for auto insurance required by law in Georgia and Alabama is $25,000, so it’s possible and even likely that the person who hit you has only purchased that amount of coverage.
Does that mean if you have $30,000 in medical bills, you are on the hook for the remaining $5,000, even if the accident wasn’t your fault?
Possibly, but you still have a few options to get your bills covered:
- If more than one person is responsible for your injuries, you can collect compensation from the other at-fault party or parties.
- You may be able to get your own insurance to cover the remainder, if you purchased underinsured motorist coverage.
- If the at-fault party purchased an umbrella policy, you can get compensation from that policy when your damages exceed their auto insurance limits.
- You may be able to sue the at-fault party and collect the remainder from them directly, rather than from their insurance company (however, this can be unsuccessful if the at-fault party does not have enough money to cover your damages).
If all else fails, your lawyer may be able to negotiate with your healthcare provider to reduce the amount you personally owe them, in light of the policy limits.
These same options apply if the other driver does not have any insurance. But for this reason, we recommend that all drivers in Georgia and Alabama purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to protect them in an accident caused by someone with no or not enough liability insurance.
Been in a Collision? Contact the Law Offices of Gary Bruce Today
Before you speak with the insurance company, make sure you have someone on your side ready to tell you whether you’re being offered a fair deal. Our firm has years of experience working with injury victims against insurance companies, and we know what is an acceptable settlement, and what is an attempt to get away with denying you what you’re owed. Contact us today to discuss your potential claim.