It’s not uncommon for an insurance company to offer a settlement that seems unreasonably low. These “low ball” offers might not even cover your medical bills, let alone lost wages and other expenses.
Though you can reject a settlement offer, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney first. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to advise you on how reasonable the offer is and help you take the next steps to request a fair settlement offer.
Why Insurance Companies Submit Low Settlement Offers
The insurance company might have purposefully submitted a low offer in hopes that you’re so desperate that you’ll take it and leave them alone. Remember, they’re a business, and the less they pay you, the more money they make.
Alternatively, they could have made an honest mistake or overlooked a calculation that would have made a significant difference in the amount.
This experience can be disheartening, and you might feel stuck, believing that you have to accept the offer that’s presented to you. By accepting an offer that you know is too low, you can hurt yourself and leave a large sum of money on the table.
You do have options, though, and an attorney will guide you through every step of the process.
Option 1: Reject Outright and Negotiate
When you reject a settlement offer from the insurance company, that offer is “dead,” meaning you can’t later change your mind and accept it. Instead, you’ll submit a counteroffer, which means that you are now the party submitting an offer, and it’s up to the insurance company to accept or reject it.
Keep in mind that you can’t simply say an offer is unacceptable and then scribble out the amount you want on a napkin or in an email. You’ll have to present evidence in a rejection letter, stating why the initial offer was too low and explaining why your counteroffer is more reasonable.
To present this evidence, you’ll need receipts for all your bills, expenses, and lost wages. If there are other relevant facts, such as continuing or permanent disabilities or losses due to pain and suffering, include those as well.
Assuming the other party’s insurance company is negotiating in good faith, they’ll evaluate this new information and likely return with a more reasonable settlement offer.
Option 2: Overcome a “Take It or Leave It” Offer
If the insurance company takes a heavy-handed approach and tells you to “take it or leave it,” the situation becomes more complicated.
Insurance companies often resort to this tactic to exert pressure and intimidate you into accepting something unreasonable. If you’re desperate for cash, hurting physically or emotionally, or you’re not aware of these unscrupulous tactics, you might feel pressured into accepting.
While this approach is understandable, you don’t have to be bullied into accepting less. The best way to win this battle is to keep scrupulous notes of all contact you have with anyone affiliated with the insurance company. If an adjuster or other representative acts inappropriately or in bad faith, it’s a serious violation.
No matter the circumstances, they are required to complete their investigation and negotiations in good faith. If they fail to uphold this duty in Oklahoma, they can be held liable in court and be subject to punitive damages. This would be a much more expensive outcome than merely paying you a fair settlement.
Option 3: File a Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up in court. Instead, this step becomes necessary when all negotiations fail, and the insurance company is not cooperating.
Once your attorney files the lawsuit, he or she will work to gather evidence in an effort to strengthen your claim. If your attorney can convince the insurance company that you’re likely to be triumphant if the case goes to trial, they’re more likely to return to negotiations.
If your case does go to trial, you could end up with a larger settlement, particularly if it can be shown that the insurance company was unwilling to act in a method that was fair or reasonable. Every situation is different, however, so you’ll want to speak with an attorney right away to determine your options. Keep in mind that the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years, and the insurance company might try to stall to prevent this scenario.
It costs you nothing to hire an attorney to represent you in settlement negotiations. Personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means we don’t get paid unless you do.
If you’ve been presented with a settlement offer that you think might not be adequate, call the law firm of Bryan Garrett today at (405) 839-8424 for a complimentary consultation.