Sometimes, the best thing to do after a car accident is to settle out of court. It usually resolves your case faster, and it avoids the expense of a trial. However, while settling may be an option, is it always the best choice? How do car accident settlements work? If you have asked yourself these questions, then it is time to learn the basics of car accident settlements and to get help immediately from “The Law Guys” at Kelly & Associates, Injury Lawyers.
If you have been injured in an auto accident, you want an aggressive trial lawyer who will go the extra mile for you. Attorney Michael D. Kelly ranks among the “Top 40 Under 40” by the National Trial Lawyers Association. He has what it takes to effectively handle your insurance claim.
From our Boston office, we help clients throughout Massachusetts. We promise to give you and your case our full attention, from start to finish. We even offer a 30-day, risk-free guarantee. If you are unhappy for any reason within the first 30 days of our representation, we will return your file free of charge. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Basic Steps of a Car Accident Settlement
When you hire Kelly & Associates, we will immediately get to work on your car accident case. We will take a wide range of aggressive steps on your behalf through every stage of the settlement process. Those stages include:
• Notification letter. First, our office will send the other party’s insurance company a letter. The letter puts the insurer on notice that you were injured and are now represented by an attorney. This initiates the process and starts a dialogue between your attorney and the insurance company.
• Reservation of rights. The insurance company will respond to your attorney’s notification letter by writing a letter known as a “reservation of rights.” In this letter, the insurer will acknowledge your claim but reserve the right to investigate it. This is neither an offer to settle nor an admission that its insured driver was to blame for the crash.
• Demand letter. Once you and your attorney are prepared to make an initial demand, your attorney will submit it to the insurance company. The demand should reflect a thorough investigation of your case. It should explain your injuries, set the grounds for your compensation and outline all of your potential damages, including lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering and any other losses you have incurred. The demand should show the insurance company that you mean business.
• Adjuster’s response. No matter what you demand, the adjuster will almost certainly say it is too high. An adjuster’s job is to make your claim sound worthless and try to convince you to accept whatever they say it is worth. Although insurance adjusters often act like making an offer is charity, what they won’t tell you is that you actually have a lot of leverage. You see, if they don’t pay, you and your attorney can sue their driver and let a jury decide what your claim is worth. Adjusters don’t like the uncertainty – or the expense – of going to a trial.
• Negotiation process. How you respond to the insurer’s offer says a lot about you and your willingness to push for more compensation. An experienced attorney can often use the pressure of litigation to leverage better offers. This process can go on for a while, with each side trying to convince the other side of their positions.
• Final negotiations. Eventually, the insurance company will reach a point where they will offer no more. This is called the top offer. At this time, you must decide whether you are going to accept the offer or take your case to trial. Our firm will always give you open, honest consultation about the insurance company’s offer and follow your wishes.
• Acceptance and signing. If you decide to accept the settlement offer, you will need to sign something called a “release” or “settlement agreement.” An experienced auto accident lawyer can help you decide when to accept car accident settlement offers. In general, the release agreement is an agreement in which you will accept money in exchange for not taking any additional action against the insured driver.
How Long Until You Get Paid?
You may wonder how long a car accident settlement takes? In general, once you’ve signed the agreement, it should only take a couple weeks for the check to arrive. There can be valid reasons for a delay, but once you’ve reached an agreement, you have a contract. The insurance company must meet their end of the deal.
Watch for Liens
Medical providers, state child support collectors, Medicare, Medicaid, workers’ compensation policies, your own auto insurance and private health insurance companies are all examples of parties that may have a right to assert liens against your settlement in order to recover funds they have spent on you. You need to make sure that you know about these liens early on so they can be considered during settlement negotiations.
Are Car Accident Settlements Taxable?
Personal injury settlements are generally not taxable income. But beware! If any portion of your settlement is for lost income, those funds are taxable earnings. Likewise, if for any reason you have a confidentiality agreement, it is typically considered a taxable benefit. It is best to consult a CPA or tax advisor before you spend your money.
Are Car Accident Settlements Public Record?
If you filed a lawsuit, and then you settle it, your lawsuit will be public record. The terms of a settlement may become public record as well if they appear in court documents. If the case settles without litigation, it is not a matter of public record. However, the insurance industry has powerful computer databases that connect claims across multiple platforms, allowing insurance companies to communicate information about you. If you have been compensated for an injury any time in your life, you should assume that information is available to the insurance industry somewhere.
Let an Experienced Boston Car Accident Lawyer Negotiate Your Settlement
When you have been hurt in a car accident, the last thing you want to do is negotiate and spend time fighting with insurance adjusters. You should be able to focus on your physical health and recovery. Let Kelly & Associates, Injury Lawyers, help you to recover compensation for your injuries. We’re “The Law Guys.” We are here to help when you need us. Contact us today 617-807-0855 to schedule a free consultation.