Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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Negotiating a Settlement: Part 1

You were in an auto accident last week, you sustained some injuries, you’ve lost a couple nights of sleep due to physical pain, but you’re on the road to recovery. Your doctor says you should be healed soon, and the pain is lessening each day. The auto insurance company has agreed to pay for your car and the medical expenses, but they’re telling you that you have a “low impact accident claim” and they won’t pay you an actual cash settlement for suffering damages. Is that just how it works, or do you have more options than they’re telling you? Insurance settlements are not always fair.

Should a fair settlement cover all your losses?

Many drivers come away from an accident without knowing what they’re owed, how they should be compensated, or what their rights are. Unfortunately, many insurers take advantage of this lack of knowledge and downplay insurance claims, limit payments, or attempt to convince claimants to accept small settlements, or none at all. If the accident was your fault, you may have limited options depending on your insurance policy and what coverage you carry; but, if another driver caused the accident, you should be fully compensated for your damages, injuries, or other losses, and that may mean filing a personal injury claim. Consult a personal injury lawyer to learn about your options.

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What if you just have property damages?

If you’ve suffered no injuries from an accident, your settlement from insurance companies should be limited to payment for your vehicle’s repair costs, which will be a matter to handle between you, your chosen body shop, and the insurance adjuster. Just make sure you get a warranty on your repairs, and it should be a straightforward process. If your vehicle was a total loss, refer to this article on total loss settlements for some guidance.

What if you have personal injuries and monetary damage?

If you’ve suffered physical injuries, in addition to your property damage, you should get in contact with personal injury attorneys. You should also be awarded compensatory damages payouts, which includes fair compensation for pain and general damages and any non-economic damages you have suffered. Experienced attorneys will be able to advise you of all your options.
Monetary damages, sometimes called special damages, include lost earnings and hard costs such as pain medication, medical treatment, gas for your car when you had to drive an hour to a physical therapy appointment, etc.

What about pain and suffering and other general damages?

General damages cover the non-monetary aspects of your injuries such as pain and suffering, and loss or impairment to certain aspects of your life. This can include emotional distress, disfigurement, loss of physical or mental capacity, and loss of enjoyment of life. Also included are loss of companionship and loss of consortium, which refer to a friendship or a marriage becoming compromised or strained due to injury. If your injury has caused you stress every time you get behind the wheel of a car, or if you can no longer play in your summer softball league, or even if you only lost a couple nights of sleep, you should be entitled to a settlement for your general damages from the liable party.

Ask yourself: How much would someone have to pay you to miss a whole night of sleep? How much would someone have to pay you to lie in bed all day (in pain) and miss an important family event? Even if it’s something as small as having difficulty mowing the lawn or doing the dishes, you should be compensated for the way an auto accident affected your life. Consider how your quality of life has been affected by the accident.

The mistake many consumers make is feeling like they should “tough it out” or “suck it up” instead of pursuing compensation for their damages or injuries. This mentality inevitably leads consumers to neglect treatment or reimbursement early on in their claim, which makes it very difficult to follow up at a later time to seek recovery. In order to get the appropriate amount for your settlement, you must be diligent about documenting your financial losses and injuries, keeping track of expenses, and gathering evidence to support your claim. Whether you have to present such evidence to an adjuster, an arbitrator, or a judge and jury with your accident attorney, you’ll be glad that you kept track of everything from day one.

There’s no harm in seeking advice from a licensed attorney. You may be entitled to damages for pain and suffering and other economic losses and personal expenses, especially if you’ve suffered severe injuries. Talk to an accident injury attorney about your options.