Should you settle a personal injury claim immediately after a car wreck?

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  • Post category:Car Wrecks

Hmm? Good question.   Nine of ten times I have to tell a client “No!”  Today, to my own surprise, I had to suggest to a client that she accept an early settlement of her personal injury claim.

I represented this lady for another car wreck about six months back and she was just involved in a second car wreck over this last weekend.  In short, I did some investigation and all indications were that the at-fault driver was not insured.  As a result, we opened an uninsured motorist claim with my client’s own insurance carrier and a no-fault claim.[1] The problem is that the uninsured motorist coverage would cover only her pain and suffering; it does not cover the damage to her vehicle. [2]

To my surprise, the Uninsured Motorist Carrier made an unsolicited offer on her personal injury claim during out first phone call with us.  Admittedly, it was a good offer. I was not going to charge this client an attorney’s fee on this second wreck because she had been responsible for several other people using my law office. Also, since she did not have collision coverage and the at-fault driver was uninsured, she was without the money to purchase a new vehicle.  Consequently, while it was my client’s decision, I had to admit that I thought she ought to accept the offer from the insurance carrier. However, there were some caveats she needed to be aware of.

First, when she accepted the settlement, her personal injury claim was over and done with. So if she found out that this car wreck injured her back in such a manner that she needed surgery two months from now, she would be unable to recover anything further.  Second, the settlement had to be exclusive of the no-fault benefits. In short, this allowed her to have her medical bills, paid by her own insurance company, up to the $10,000 limit.  Lastly, we made sure to add language to the release that made it clear she could still recover for the damage to her car should the at-fault driver prove to have insurance coverage after all.

Just to be clear, there is not a hard and fast line to knowing when to settle a personal injury claim. Just make sure you know all your legal rights first and that you are comfortable with the fact that it is a “Full and Final” settlement of your legal rights even if your arm falls off tomorrow because of the car wreck.

[1] If the wreck had occurred in Indiana, we would have opened a med-pay claim and an uninsured motorist claim.

[2] In Indiana, uninsured motorist coverage may cover the damage to the vehicle depending upon how the insurance policy is written.