What options does the insurance company have if I file a civil suit?

The filing of a car accident lawsuit often magically prompts a boost in the insurance company’s settlement offer, but you might also be in for a long fight.

If you’re involved in an injury-related insurance claim after a car accident, you probably know that claimants don’t typically run to the courthouse right off the bat and file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver.

If you’re making a third-party car accident claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company -- seeking compensation for your injuries, medical bills, and other losses stemming from the accident -- the normal course of action is to let the insurance claim process play out. That means letting the claims adjuster investigate the claim, the circumstances of the accident, the extent of your injuries, and the course of your medical treatment. The insurance adjuster will eventually make an initial settlement offer, and settlement negotiations will proceed from there.  

But if the adjuster’s first offer is far too low to represent fair compensation, and settlement talks have stalled out because the two sides are too far apart, the option of filing a personal injury complaint in civil court is always on the table.

By taking the step of filing a car accident lawsuit, you’re letting the insurance company know that you mean business, that you believe in the validity of your claim, and that you’re willing to stand up for your legal rights. So sometimes, merely filing the lawsuit can serve as a wake-up call to the adjuster -- not least because the lawsuit will kick off the expensive and time-consuming litigation process, which most insurance companies are eager to avoid. For these reasons, the filing of a lawsuit often magically prompts a boost in the insurance company’s settlement offer.

But if the insurance company really does not believe your claim is a valid one, or if they feel that they are on firm ground when it comes to their valuation of your claim, you could be in for a long fight. And remember, the litigation process can get costly and time-consuming for you too (although most attorneys will work on a contingency fee basis). If you’ve got an attorney, discuss the right strategy with him or her, and come up with the best game plan for your car accident claim. 

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