If someone’s negligence caused your injury, you want to maximize the value of your case. There is no guarantee that you settle your case.
However, if your case has value, here are 5 huge mistakes that can lead to a smaller settlement in your personal injury case:
1. Believing What the Adjuster Says Your Case is Worth
An insurance adjuster may tell you that he thinks that your claim is worth a certain amount. Do not listen to him/her.
Insurance Company’s Duty is To Its Insured, Not You
If you’re dealing with an insurance company for the party that caused your accident, its duty to act in good faith is to its insured.
They don’t have a duty to act in good faith to you.
Example – Insurer Says Truck Crash Case is Worth $100,000; Case Settles for $445,000
A truck driver was driving in the opposite direction as a motorcyclist. The truck made a left hand turn in front of a motorcycle rider in Miami, Florida.
The truck and the motorcycle collided.
Motorcyclist Fractures Tibial Plateau and Has Surgery
The motorcycle rider suffered a tibial plateau fracture and had a plate put in his leg to stabilize the fracture.
He also fractured his finger, and had a plate put in his finger.
Adjuster Said Case is Worth $100,000
I asked the adjuster how much he reserved the case at. He said $100,000. If I (or an injured person without a lawyer) would’ve listened to him, I would have asked him to settle for $100,000.
The issue with that is that the case was worth $445,000. Several months later, through intense negotiation, we settled the case for $445,000.
2. Make a Low Demand
If you make too low of a demand, you have now set the ceiling on your settlement amount. This results in a lower settlement in your case.
In the above $445,000 settlement example, if I would’ve demanded to settle for $400,000, the case would’ve likely settled for less than $400,000, and much less than $445,000.
Always make a demand that gives you room to negotiate down. The one exception is if you are demanded the insurance policy limits, and your case is worth more than the limits.
In that scenario, you may demand the insurance policy limits, and not accept anything less than the limits to settlement.
3. Giving Up on Your Case Because Adjuster Denies Liability
Don’t give up on your personal injury case just because an adjuster denies liability, and offers nothing. Adjusters often deny your claim, but the insurance company may later pay after you sue them.
Example – Shopper Gets Claim Denied; Sues and Gets $300,000
A shopper slipped and fell at a supermarket in Miami. He claimed that a substance on the floor caused his fall.
He claimed that the fall aggravated his prior Achilles tendon injury. He had 2 skin grafts on his leg after the fall, which he claimed were needed due to the fall.
The supermarket’s adjuster argued that the supermarket did nothing wrong. They denied liability. We sued and later settled for $300,000.
Bottom Line: If you assume that the insurance company is correct just because they deny liability, you may be killing your case and leaving money on the table.
4. Not Looking for All Insurance Coverage
Many people who are hurt in accidents miss out on settlement money by not looking for all available insurance coverage.
Example – Car Renter Doesn’t Know He Has $100,000 in Uninsured Motorist Insurance
A foreigner rented a car in Miami, Florida. Another car hit him while he was a pedestrian. The photo above is where the crash happened.
He fractured his lower leg bone (tibia) The other car’s bodily injury liability insurance was limited to $100,000. The pedestrian had no idea that he was entitled to an additional $100,000 from his rental car underinsured motorist (“UIM”) insurance.
We made a claim against the UIM insurer, Ace Insurance Company. They eventually paid us the $100,000 limits.
5. Not Getting an Expert Quickly After the Accident
In some cases, you need an expert to get your case to trial. In these cases, without an expert, your case will get dismissed before trial.
It’s usually best to get your expert to the incident scene as soon as possible. If your expert doesn’t inspect the accident scene quickly, the accident scene could change.
Your case could slip away (pun intended). You could be left with no case.
Example – Guest Needed Expert to Get $195,000 Settlement for Slip and Fall on Stairs
A guest at a condo slipped on stairs that he claimed were slippery. We hired an expert to inspect the stairs.
He agreed that the steps had multiple defects. We settled for $195,000. We were co-counsel on this case.
Had we not had an expert, the condo complex may have painted the steps and made the stairs code compliant.
Our expert would’ve then been unable to test the slip resistance of the stairs. The case may have been dismissed before trial, thus killing the value of the case. So not getting an expert can kill your case.
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