Should I Settle My Personal Injury Claim if I’m Still in Pain?
If you are still in pain after an accident, you might be tempted to settle your personal injury claim with the insurance company now. This is what the insurance company wants you to do.
As a profit based business, their goal is always to resolve your case as cheaply as possible. This can often be done early on. Insurance companies prefer to settle injury claims before the injured person talks to a lawyer. Before speaking to a lawyer, most people do not know what they are allowed to ask for or what a fair settlement looks like. The insurance company wants you to trust them. Think of all of the money that insurance companies pour into their public image and marketing campaigns. They want to be seen as the good guy, always willing to help.
Insurance companies are also hopeful that people will settle their personal injury claims before they are completely healed. Most people like to think that their pain from an accident will go away by itself, with time. Sometimes it does. But often, it does not. Even when injuries do heal with time, it is impossible to know how much time it will take to feel better – until someone is actually better. Nor does anyone know what they will have to endure before they feel fine again.
Many people with sore necks and backs find relief from physical therapy. Sometimes patients quit physical therapy before they are completely back to normal, which can be risky if this goes against what the doctor recommends. The decision to quit physical therapy might be based on a personal decision like time or financial constraints. Injury victims might also be released from physical therapy before they are totally healed because their doctor or therapist does not think there is much room for improvement. Sometimes, people try to finish their therapy at home with a home exercise regimen which they learned from their physical therapist. Sometimes, it is just a matter of giving the body time to finish healing.
When should I settle my personal injury case?
There is a sweet spot in deciding when is the best time for you to settle your injury claim. Your timeline will not be the same as the insurance company’s timeline. Remember, they are your opponent, even if they want for you to believe that you are on the same page.
The Statute of Limitations in your case is critical. This is the date by which you are legally required to file a lawsuit, or else you will forever lose your legal rights. Once you have given up your legal rights to sue, the responsible party (for example, the driver who hit you) has zero incentive to compensate you even a dime. At that point, you will get nothing. A lawsuit in a personal injury claim is not always necessary. A lawsuit can be avoided if a settlement is reached before your time is up. Ideally, negotiations begin when there is still enough time to negotiate before a lawsuit becomes necessary.
If you are not offered a fair amount in settlement, then maybe you should not settle your personal injury case at all. You could take your case to a trial and let a jury decide what is fair. This happens all across America, every day. That is one of the reasons that our justice system exists.
If you do want to try to settle your injury claim, negotiations ideally begin after you are completely healed. This means that you know what your medical bills are, you know how bad the pain and inconvenience were, you know if you missed time from work or other activities that are important to you. In other words, you know the full extent of the damage that was caused by the accident. This allows for all aspects of your case to be fully considered. But settlement at this ideal time is not always possible or recommended. Some people take a lot longer than two years to heal. Sadly, some victims will have chronic injuries and will never be the same again. Every case is different and your personal injury attorney will help with the strategy behind timing decisions. There are many factors that will go into timing decisions in your injury case, including:
- Settlement offers on the table, if any
- Statute of Limitations
- Strengths and weaknesses of your case
- Prior conversations with the insurance adjuster, if any
- Medical Records
- Case value and Settlement Value (typically a range)
- Status of your Injuries
- Medical Prognosis
- Your own decisions as to case direction, after consultation with your lawyer
What if I need to return to the doctor after settling my injury case?
Many people are rightly concerned with the possibility of needing more medical treatment after settling their personal injury case. This concern should be built into your settlement. In other words, if you are not completely healed, the amount of money that you are receiving should be high enough to take this into consideration. The amount of money that you agree to accept should be enough to cover the fact that you might need to go back to the doctor, if this is a concern. Hopefully, you have health insurance to cover medical care but there is still the “pain and suffering” element if you have continued problems after an accident. It is helpful to have medical documentation from your doctor supporting the fact that you are not fully healed. Sometimes doctors are willing to say what they think the future holds for their patients. This is based on a combination of their experience and what they know about you, the patient.
The bottom line is that once you settle your personal injury case, you will not receive any more money for it. This is true even if you end up needing surgery, when at the time of settlement, you did not know that you would need surgery. No matter what happens to you from a medical standpoint, the one responsible for your injury (and their insurance company) are off the hook when your case is over. Future medical care and everything that comes with it, is then on you. This is why you want to make sure that you are either fully recovered or that potential future problems are taken into consideration before you agree to settle your case.
What if my medical condition flares up after settlement?
You cannot ask for more money after a personal injury settlement. This is true even if symptoms that you thought were gone end up resurfacing. The law sees you as being on your own once you have agreed to settle your injury claim.
If you are concerned about pain coming back after your accident (as sometimes happens with certain activities or temperature changes), discuss it with your doctor. Does your health care provider think that you will fully heal soon? Is your body telling you that you are back to normal? If you are not sure, are you willing to settle now, regardless? In addition to talking to your doctor, let your personal injury lawyer know your concerns. Discuss with your lawyer the timing of when you will start to negotiate. A good lawyer is going to have a clear understanding of your medical condition after having reviewed complete medical records from the accident. If you are worried about a flare up of symptoms, you might decide to just wait a few months to see how your body feels.
The decisions as to whether or not to settle your personal injury case, how much to accept, when to begin negotiating, when and how to stop, are all very important. Clear communication with your doctors and your attorney will ensure that you are receiving the best medical care and legal outcome given your own unique circumstances.
Should I hire a lawyer to help if I am still injured?
Whether or not you are still in pain after an accident that was not your fault, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer. Insurance adjusters are highly trained and are good at their jobs. This is likely your first time trying to negotiate with them. This means that you are starting with a clear disadvantage.
Talking to a lawyer does not mean that you need to hire one, but it is often a wise investment to do so after a serious injury. Do not make the mistake of thinking that just because your claim is not ready to be negotiated, that a lawyer cannot help you yet. Hiring a personal injury lawyer soon after an accident means that you will not have to deal with the insurance company directly. It also means that a plan will be put into place for you. Work is done behind the scenes as you continue to heal.
If you were seriously hurt in an accident, and think that someone else needs to be held responsible for your injuries, call us at 630 250-8813. Our accident and injury law firm is located in Elgin IL.