- February 3, 2022
- Strong Law
- Personal Injury
How long do you have to accept a settlement offer? There’s no clear answer. What is clear is that patience is important.
When you’re waiting for a settlement offer, it can be a nerve-wracking, stressful time.
Take the time to understand the timing, process and your role in settlement offers. That work can help take some of the mystery out of the process.
When dealing with an insurance company it’s important to work with a skilled, experienced law firm. Look for lawyers who handle personal injury, car accident or workplace injury cases.
Why Settlements Matter
When you’ve been injured or were in an accident, you may be facing physical and emotional pain and injuries. In some cases, these traumas can endure for the rest of your life.
If you’ve been injured, it’s likely that the insurance company handling the case will come to you with a settlement offer. That could prompt you to ask, “Do I have to accept a settlement offer?”
The first thing to do is hit the pause button. You do not need to accept the first offer. You may be surprised at how much the offer is for. Frequently, those initial offers are much lower than you were expecting. The offer may not even cover the costs of your injuries or damages.
Insurance companies know you’ll start receiving medical bills soon after your accident. They’re counting on your worrying about the expenses. That worry, they believe, will prompt you to accept an early, low offer.
The Insurance Business Model
Please note that in some cases, insurance companies will put a deadline in their settlement offer. This move is usually a pressure tactic on the company’s part. It’s intended to force you to make a decision before you’re ready. But that’s not necessary.
Insurance companies are businesses. They want to pay as little as possible to maximize their profits. They will do whatever they can to avoid payouts or make them as small as possible.
The claims adjuster who comes out to look at your car? They do not work for you. The customer service rep you talk to on the phone? They do not work for you.
To get the most out of your settlement, you need someone who is working on your behalf.
The smart move is to work with experienced personal injury lawyers. These attorneys know how to negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf.
How Long Do You Have to Accept a Settlement Offer?
Now that you’ve decided not to accept the first offer, you need to work with your attorneys to calculate what it is you need. Again, patience is important.
It’s important to talk with your medical team about your diagnosis. They can help give you a clear understanding of how long you may be hurt and what the care plan is going forward. They can explain whether you’ll need rehabilitation or physical therapy.
You may also need to talk to a therapist or psychiatrist about the emotional damage due to the injuries. There’s also the expense of hospital stays and equipment you may need as you recover.
That’s a lot to take in. And that’s why you do not have to, and should not, accept that initial offer from an insurance company.
You need to consider the total cost of your expenses. That means finding out the costs of:
- Medical bills, past, present and future
- Lost wages from time out of work
- Pain and suffering
- Future medical needs.
The timeline will be different in each case, but here is a rough guideline for how it may proceed.
Initially, it can be weeks or months before an insurance firm contacts you about a settlement. That might be because you’ve been in the hospital or an accident needs to be investigated to determine who is liable.
The first formal communication you receive might be a “reservation of rights letter.” That letter lets you know that an accident is under investigation and that the insurance company is reserving the right to deny your claim if it does not fall under your insurance policy. It’s another way the insurance company is protecting its rights. It is NOT a denial of your claim or that they will not negotiate with you.
Do I Have to Accept a Settlement Offer?
When you receive an offer on your claim, you can refuse it. That’s when the negotiation process starts and the lawyers on your team will start drafting a response.
Your attorneys will likely send a demand letter to the insurance company. This letter spells out how much money you’re seeking. It may include details that you and your lawyers think the insurance company should know about the accident. These details could help convince an insurance company to accept your demands.
You then need to wait until an insurance adjuster can evaluate the claim.
After the claim is reviewed, you will receive a response, called a counteroffer. The counteroffer might question some of the facts about the accident or your claim. These questions are part of the ploy to lower the amount the insurance company will pay.
Insurance companies typically dispute the following facts:
- What medical treatments you received
- How long you will need medical treatment
- The injuries you received from the accident
- What the insurance policy covers due to the accident
- Whether you might be held partially at fault for the accident.
During this stage, there may be a lot of back and forth between your lawyers and the insurance company. You might be asked by your attorneys to answer questions or give more information or proof about your claims.
The insurance company might accept your counteroffer or propose a different amount. How long do you have to accept a settlement offer at this stage of the process? Again, you do not need to accept the company’s offer. You can reject it and make a different counteroffer.
The timeline at this point can vary. It could take an insurance company 1-2 weeks to respond to your demand letter and any further letters. The whole process could take months, depending on how many rounds of offers and counteroffers are involved.
Once you’ve accepted a settlement, it could take a few weeks to a month before your payment arrives. The timing should always be included in the negotiations your lawyers do on your behalf. Your attorneys may deposit the check in a special account, called a trust account, until it clears the bank. The attorneys then will deduct their fees and pay off any outstanding amounts, called liens, that you owe to medical providers.
At Strong Law, our attorneys help protect people injured in an accident and make sure they get what they deserve. We make sure to understand your needs and work hard to get the right settlement from insurance companies. If you’re looking for information about how to protect yourself after an accident, call Strong Law today at 206-741-1053 for a free consultation.