After a car accident, you are likely going to hear from the insurance company. It may be your own insurer or the other party’s, but insurance companies make a point of contacting accident victims quickly – often before a victim has had a chance to consult with an attorney. These phone calls appear to be good news: the insurance company is prepared to offer you a check, on the spot, for several thousand dollars – maybe even more.
Don’t take it without speaking to a lawyer first.
These offers are tempting because they provide much-needed quick cash and you don’t have to put in any work to get them. To someone who has just been in a car accident, the prospect of a legal battle can sound exhausting. But the very fact that the insurance company is offering you quick money up front means that your case has merit – and you could stand to get a lot more.
Generally speaking, accident victims who speak to a lawyer end up getting more compensation than those who don’t. That extra money can make a crucial difference, especially if injuries that initially seemed very minor turn out to be serious, or if your condition worsens over time. The money that seemed very generous up front may end up covering only a fraction of your medical expenses. Unfortunately, by the time the true extent of the medical costs becomes apparent, many accident victims have already signed away their rights to more compensation.
To protect yourself, there are two “golden rules” to keep in mind:
- Do not sign anything. In order to get your check, you will be asked to sign insurance papers. These will almost always include a release of liability for the other party in the accident, and you give up your right to further compensation. Once you have signed this it is almost impossible to pursue a case and win. Don’t sign anything from an insurance company until you have spoken with an attorney.
- Don’t cash that check. Sometimes the insurance company will simply mail you a check. This may seem like a freebie if they don’t demand that you sign anything, but it isn’t. Almost certainly, somewhere on the check or the accompanying paperwork you will find that “by signing this check” you agree to give up further claims. It’s very difficult to pursue a case if you’ve already accepted compensation of any kind.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident it’s in your best interest to at least consult with a lawyer. Even if you end up deciding not to pursue legal action, you’ll rest better knowing that you checked out all of your options and that you are fully apprised of the potential for your case. The attorneys of Steinger, Greene & Feiner will provide you with a free consultation to help you decide whether your case should go forward.