When you've been injured in a car accident, chances are the responsible party's car insurance company will be quick to contact you. While the insurance adjuster may express concern for your well-being, and that concern may well be sincere, her main reason for calling is to feel you out about a possible settlement of your case (which could include both injury and vehicle damage claims). Insurance companies know from experience that they are much more likely to obtain a lower settlement early on with an accident claimant who has not yet hired an attorney. (That's one reason to always watch what you say to the other driver's car insurance company.)
There is nothing necessarily wrong with settling a car accident claim directly with the insurance company; in fact it is a common occurrence that can save you time, aggravation and attorney fees. There are, however, a few potential pitfalls associated with a direct (and early) settlement that warrant your careful consideration.
Keep in mind that you probably won't know the full nature and extent of your car accident injuries for several weeks or months after the accident. Though it may appear at first that your forehead was simply bruised when it struck the steering wheel, you could have sustained a concussion or closed head injury. And that "stiff neck" might turn out to be a herniated disc requiring spinal surgery. Learn more about car accident injuries that aren't apparent right away.
For this reason, it may not be wise to enter into a quick settlement with the insurance company before you know the true nature and extent of your injuries, because any settlement will almost always include a release of all future claims. Even though the insurance company's offer may seem reasonable when it's made, it might turn out to be unacceptably low once you gain complete knowledge of the nature and extent of your injuries.
Chances are, unless you are an attorney or insurance professional, you probably have no idea what your car accident claim is worth. Is a broken leg worth $2,500, $25,000 or $250,000? The value of an injury claim depends on a multitude of factors, including the severity and permanency of the injuries; the victim's age and profession; the victim's pre-accident medical condition; and the associated medical expenses and wage loss incurred.
For example, the same type of leg fracture will have a vastly different settlement value for Victim A who has a sedentary desk job and Victim B who is a professional football player. As a general rule, the insurance company will try to get you to settle your claims for as little as possible, and if you don't know the reasonable settlement value of your claims, you may be in danger of accepting an offer that is too low. Especially with serious injuries, going it alone may not make financial sense, which leads us to our final question.
It may not be in your financial interest to settle directly with the insurance company, even though you may save money in attorney fees by doing so. The reason for this is that an attorney will be a zealous advocate for you, will be experienced enough to understand the realistic value of your claim, and will have the skill and expertise to get the most out of your position. Ultimately, even after you have paid your attorney, you are still likely to receive more money for your claim than if you had chosen to deal directly with the insurance company. Learn more about getting an attorney's help with a personal injury claim.