It is pretty easy for me to pick out the person most likely to sell your case short: you.
The hard truth is that there is a lot that goes into evaluating a case for settlement. It takes understanding the legal framework, and of the medical issues. When you don’t know that, you pick a number when the adjuster asks you what it will take to settle the case.
Most often it doesn’t have anything to do with the actual fair settlement value of the case – it may be what you need to get out from under the bills that have piled up, it may be what someone else got after a similar kind of accident, it may just seem like a good number to you … but it won’t be anchored in the facts and the law.
And when the injuries are serious, what can seem like a high number may actually be a fraction of what you should be paid, and when that happens, you out yourself in a hole that is almost impossible to dig your way out of, even if you get a lawyer. Here’s the kicker – when you throw out that low number, the insurance company will almost never meet it; they are going to offer you something even lower.
So …. about this hole you won’t dig your way out of … let me give you an example of what happened with a client of mine.
He was driving down the road one day when a kid pulled out of a parking lot and hit him. The client went off the road and ended up with herniated discs in his neck. He was handling the case himself when he called my office shortly before the statute of limitations expired. He told me that he wanted $35,000 and wanted to know if that was fair. I gave him my opinion: it is hard to say without knowing what is in his medical records or more about the case, but it sounded low to me.
He told me that he wanted to hear what they were going to offer and would be in touch if they didn’t pay him the $35,000.
Right before the statute of limitations expired, he called me up. They had offered him $33,000. He was going to turn it down. He came into my office, signed up as a client, and the first thing that I did was fax a letter to the adjuster revoking the settlement demand he made.
Long story short: the case settled …. about two and half years later. Want to guess how much?
$205,000. Yes, $170,000 more than what he told the adjuster he wanted years earlier.
When we settled the case, the adjuster shook my hand with an expression that said she wanted to spit in my eye, and said “We had this case settled two years ago for $35,000.”
To which I replied, “Then you shouldn’t have offered him $33,000.”
How did I get so much more money? Lots of hard work, and the investment of about $11,000 in case file expenses developing the medical testimony needed to force them to pay that much money.
A couple of teaching points:
1. If you give them a number, even if that number is a short number, they won’t pay it – but they will always know that is your number … and once you hire a lawyer, any discussion about a number over your number will be something that just came from a greedy lawyer. I am okay with being called a greedy lawyer by an insurance company (and I am, for my clients), but it makes every move over your number that much harder. They know that at least once upon a time, your number was enough, and they never forget it.
2. When you tell the adjuster that you want a certain number, the insurance company will plan that that is the highest number they will have to pay. When the adjuster has to go back and tell his supervisor that they need to pay some higher number, even a slightly higher number, it puts them in a bad position. It is the kind of thing that costs people money at bonus time, and they are going to look for any way to avoid having that happen to them. The net result: they are going to dig and fight your case even harder.
Our advice to you: settlement negotiations are the one place where not knowing what are doing can cost you thousands of dollars … and you are the one most likely to mess it up. Get the help of a skilled worker’s compensation lawyer before trying to do it yourself.
We hope that this has been helpful, and if you know anyone who could use this information, please feel free to share it.
If you have a specific issue regarding a work accident you have been involved in, please call us at 312-263-1080 to discuss the issues in your case and the options you have. There is no charge for the call and no obligation to hire our firm to represent you.