Here’s a situation that we see many times every year. You were a passenger in a car that crashed three years ago. You had knee pain after the accident that never went away and, finally, three months after the accident you went to an orthopedic doctor to find out what was wrong. He did some tests, took some x-rays and then told you that surgery was necessary to correct the problem — you had a torn meniscus in the knee.
You’re not sure the medical bills will get paid because your employer sponsored health insurance company tells you that bills resulting from a car accident are not their responsibility. And, you’re now facing surgery and a lengthy recovery period so you seek legal advice.
We tell you that you must file a No-Fault Insurance claim against the owner of the vehicle you were sitting in when the accident happened and that you have the right to bring a lawsuit against the vehicle’s owner and driver, which you decide to do.
The insurance company for the car — Allstate, State Farm, GEICO or any other you can image — stalls the case as long as possible. But, the case has not reached the top of the judge’s list for trial. Finally, justice is close at hand. Of course, when the insurance company is faced with a trial they start to negotiate a settlement. In the meantime, the economy has changed, you have lost your job, your spouse has agreed to a pay cut to keep their job and the bills keep coming. Life happens and you really need money.
The insurance company offers $25,000 to settle your case. Your attorneys advise you to wait, that the facts of the case indicate a higher settlement should be paid. A month later the insurance company offers $50,000 and this sounds like a lot of money. Your attorneys tell you that if you really want to accept this amount it would not be a mistake but that in their opinion, the case is worth more and the insurance company “knows” this. You’re really desperate for the money because you can’t pay your mortgage and you’re not sure what to do. When do you say “yes” and when do you say “no.”
One of our clients recently faced this exact dilemma and the advice we gave is what I reported above. At $50,000, a settlement would not be a mistake, but that we thought we could get more because the facts indicated more was reasonable. That was based on our experience over many years of handling similar cases. Our client was understandably anxious to receive any money so she could pay her expenses and stay afloat while looking for a new job. She called us every day to discuss the issue and the decision she had to make about the settlement.
I am happy to report that while she was hesitating to make a decision we continued to work on her behalf and after several more weeks, we were able to obtain a settlement offer of $75,000, an amount that finally was fair and reasonable and which she gladly accepted.
So when should you accept a settlement? The answer is, “It all depends.” It depends on the experience of your lawyers, the open communication you have with your lawyers, and the advice that you can get from your lawyers.
At Reibman & Weiner, we pride ourselves on speaking directly with our clients about their case, the factors involved in settlement, the fair amount that we believe should be achieved, and how to decide when to say yes to a settlement proposal.
Call us today. Don’t Settle For Less!