An auto accident can happen in an instant. Yet the injuries, pain and emotional scars can last a lifetime. Right after the accident, an insurance company will come to you with a settlement offer. Sometimes, the amount will be lower than what you expected and may not cover your injury costs or damages. Yet the insurance company usually hopes that because your medical bills are piling up, you will accept the first offer that is presented to you.
You don’t have to accept the first settlement offer. Instead, you can negotiate a price that covers your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any additional medical treatments that you may need in the future. This negotiation process involves sending a demand letter to the insurance company on how much you are seeking, waiting for the insurance adjuster to evaluate your claim, and then receiving a response where they provide a counteroffer. Here is a general timeline of an auto accident settlement, although yours may be longer or shorter than the actual time frame due to the complexities of your personal injury claim.
Settlement Negotiation Process
It can take weeks to months for the insurance company to contact you about the settlement. There are a range of reasons why it can take longer than usual, such as the fact that your injuries may keep you in the hospital for long periods of time. Also, it might take some time for the auto accident to be investigated and to determine who is liable for your damages and injuries, especially if it is a multiple car accident pileup.
During this time, you may also receive a reservation of rights letter from the insurance company. You should not get too worried about this letter. It simply states that the insurance company is currently investigating the accident and your insurance policy as the company is reserving the right to deny your claim if it is determined that the accident is not covered by the insurance policy. The reservation of rights letter is used by the insurance company to safeguard their rights. It doesn’t mean that they have already denied your claim or that they won’t negotiate with you for a settlement amount. They are merely performing further investigation about the situation.
Once the insurance company offers you a claim, you can refuse the offer. This is the start of the settlement negotiation process. At this point in time, you can send them a demand letter with the amount you want from the accident. You should include in the demand letter any details that you believe the insurance adjuster should know about that will further help your claim. Then the insurance adjuster will give a response once they have received your demand letter.
When the insurance adjuster contacts you, they may make a counteroffer or dispute certain facts to try to lower the compensation amount. Common topics they will dispute about will include what medical treatments you obtained, how long you need medical treatment, what injuries you have from the accident, whether your insurance policy covers the accident, and whether you may be held partially at fault for the accident.
During this back-and-forth exchange, you can answer their questions and provide further proof about your claims. You may accept the counteroffer, or make another demand for a different amount. This process can go on for some time until they make an offer that you accept.
Auto Accident Settlement Timeline
The negotiation timeline will vary depending on how many offers and counteroffers occur before you accept a settlement amount. Typically, it can take anywhere from one to two weeks for the insurance company to respond to your demand letter. Then it can take anywhere from weeks to months until you reach a settlement that you will accept. Some people accept the first or second offer, while others may accept the third or fourth counteroffer.
Obtaining your settlement may take from two weeks up to a month. There should always be a predetermined time frame established during the negotiations regarding how long the insurance company has to pay you the full amount. Once they send out the check, your lawyer may deposit it into a trust account until the check clears the bank. Then the lawyer will take out their fees and pay off any outstanding liens you may have with medical providers.
Get Help with Your Negotiation Process
Some insurance adjusters will put off answering your demand letter, as your medical bills and lost wages can pile up. You may also need help documenting the settlement negotiations, or establishing a claim and fair settlement amount. In addition, the insurance company may deny your claim as you have to take legal action. The attorneys at Siler & Ingber, LLP can protect your rights by helping you with the negotiation process. Contact our office today for a free case review.