How to Negotiate the Best Settlement for Your Auto Injury

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How to Negotiate the Best Settlement for Your Auto Injury

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After experiencing an automobile collision, your immediate priority should always be your health. Even with the smallest of collisions, it is important to seek medical evaluation for injuries that might not be obvious or manifest straight away.  Next, your attention will undoubtedly switch to the settlement process and securing fair and just compensation for your injuries and damages.

If you are not at fault for the collision, under Arizona law, you are likely entitled to compensation for the following:

  1.   The nature, extent, and duration of your injury;
  2.   The pain, discomfort, suffering, disability, disfigurement, and anxiety already experienced and reasonably probable to be experienced in the future as a result of your injury;
  3.   Reasonable expenses of necessary medical care, treatment, and services rendered, and reasonably probable to be incurred in the future;
  4.   Lost earnings to date, and any decrease in earning power or capacity in the future;
  5.   Loss of consortium, that is, loss of love, care, affection, companionship, and other pleasures of the [marital and parent-child] relationships; and
  6.   Loss of enjoyment of life, that is, the participation in life’s activities to the quality and extent normally enjoyed before your injury.

There may be additional paths to further compensation, as well.  However, how do you know you are getting the best settlement possible?

Step 1 – Get Help

The best way to secure fair and just compensation for your injuries and damages is to contact a qualified personal injury attorney.  The managing attorney and staff at Lebovitz Law Group have years of experience in personal injury, and are not only aggressive, but have a reputation known by the insurance companies, their adjusters and defense attorneys.  Retaining a qualified lawyer will make the process easier, allowing you to focus on your recovery and get back to family, school or work, while your attorney gathers the evidence, communicates with the insurance companies, and ensures the common pitfalls are avoided.

Step 2 – Gather Evidence

Gathering evidence is pivotal after a collision.  Remember, when submitting a personal injury claim, the burden of proof is on you.  Although it may be too late for some reading this, you should always call law enforcement to the scene, and secure a copy of the crash report right away.  We recommend taking pictures of the damage to your vehicle and the other vehicle(s) involved.  Keep track of your medical billing and records to substantiate the injuries sustained and treatment sought.  Also, be very careful posting anything on social media that could be used against you.

Be Careful with the Insurance Company

Next, too many people place their trust in insurance companies when they actually have one goal in mind; to pay as little in compensation as possible.  If an insurance adjuster calls and asks for a statement, you should contact a qualified attorney before agreeing to a recorded statement or answering questions about the collision.  This is another scenario where anything you say can (and likely will) be used against you when it comes time for the insurance adjuster to evaluate your claim.  In addition, insurance companies are notorious for delayed claims handling, which can cause you further, undue harm in both the property damage and personal injury context.  At Lebovitz Law Group, we often hear from new clients that they were never provided a rental or compensated for loss of use of their vehicle, that the vehicle was towed to a storage lot and has not been removed, or that they still do not know if the vehicle will be repaired or totaled out.  If you are experiencing any of these issues, you definitely want to speak with an attorney.

Step 3 – Calculate All Damages

To negotiate the best settlement, you need to understand the full extent of your losses.  On the one hand, medical expenses and lost wages are easy to calculate because you can look at bills and paystubs to point at specific dollar amounts.  We call those special damages. On the other, non-economic losses (or general damages) are normally subjective and difficult to value. Rather than giving up on your general damages entirely, a qualified attorney can assist using his/her knowledge, skill and experience to assign appropriate dollar amounts for those losses.

Step 4- Assess and Address Weaknesses

Arizona operates under “pure comparative negligence” which is a legal theory that generally states fault for a collision may rest with more than one person.  Any person that breaches a duty of care to act as a reasonable person would act under the circumstances will be assigned fault.  Sometimes, this means even you, the injured person, may be found partially at fault for the collision and/or your injuries. Therefore, if you are found 20% at-fault, the compensation you are entitled to will be reduced by 20%.

Some additional ways your own actions can affect your case value include:

  •   Delayed treatment—not seeking treatment as soon as possible after a collision,
  •   Gaps in care—missing appointments with your physicians, and
  •   Not following your physicians’ orders.

These are only a handful of examples insurance adjusters like to point out to suggest that an injury was not all that serious or that compensation should be reduced because of non-compliance.

Never Accept the First Offer

Or the second, for that matter.  It may seem like it goes without saying, but often times injured persons rush to accept the first (or second) offer an insurance adjuster makes.  Insurance adjusters do try to get in contact very early (before you’ve had a chance to consider your position or seek legal representation) in order to make a low settlement offer.  At Lebovitz Law Group, we advise our clients not to entertain settlement negotiations until appropriate diagnostics and medical treatment are completed. Only after discharge from all medical providers involved in your care should you make a demand or entertain an offer of settlement.  Even then, it is important to understand your injuries and damages well, so you have a realistic expectation of what a fair and reasonable settlement looks like. With a qualified attorney like Brandon Lebovitz, it is his legal knowledge, skill and experience that will drive the negotiations to the settlement value appropriate in your case, and not an insurance adjuster’s computer software or discriminatory evaluation.

Note: Reading this article does not create an attorney-client relationship with Brandon or Lebovitz Law Group.

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