What happens if I turn down the first offer from my lawyer in my auto collision lawsuit?
A settlement offer in a car accident case is not actually coming from your lawyer. The driver who was at fault for the accident (assuming that's not you) is going to be responsible for paying your damages -- that means the cost of your medical treatment, lost income from time missed at work, your vehicle repairs, and any other losses tied to the accident. (It’s a different story in the dozen or so no-fault car insurance states.)
So, assuming the at-fault driver has insurance, the settlement offer is going to come from the insurance company, and if you have a lawyer, he or she will be the intermediary. But it’s the insurance company that is making the offer.
Now that we’ve got that part settled, what are your options once you’ve received a settlement offer?
The first thing to know is that after any car accident, the insurance company’s first settlement offer is just that -- the first of perhaps many. And it’s almost always going to be a low offer.
The second thing to know is that you are absolutely free to reject the offer -- and in most cases you probably should reject it, but your lawyer will have advice that’s tailored to your situation. Think of the insurance company’s first offer as the kick-off to settlement negotiations. The complexity and duration of car accident settlement negotiations will depend on a number of factors, including the seriousness of your injuries and whether or not fault for the accident is clearly established.
Third, if you and your lawyer have not done so already, now would be a good time to draft and send a detailed demand letter to the at-fault driver’s car insurance carrier (send it to the attention of the adjuster who made you the first settlement offer).
A demand letter in a car accident case is your chance to methodically present your side of the story -- how the accident happened, who was at fault, what medical treatment you’ve received so far, the prognosis for your recovery, and any other information that helps your case. The letter will include details on all of these aspects of the case, and will also include a dollar figure that you would be willing to accept in order to settle the case.