You approach a traffic light. It turns yellow, and you slow down. By the time you stop, it’s full-on red. The person behind you was texting. They slam into your car at 31 miles per hour.
At first it doesn’t look bad. Your head is swimming, the back of your car is wrecked, but you’re on your feet. At least no one was seriously hurt. You give your statement to the police and, hours later, you’re back at home feeling shaken but grateful to be alive.
The other driver carried insurance and two weeks later you get an offer from their insurance company, complete with a check you can take to the bank that day.
Do you cash it, or call a lawyer?
If you’ve never been through this yourself, you might wonder why anyone would threaten a lawsuit in these circumstances. Why not just take the insurance check and be happy? But the truth is that accident victims face a lot of costs that most of us never think of – and that most insurance companies don’t even begin to offer to pay for.
The most obvious cost is medical bills. That faint soreness you walked away with on the day of the accident can signal the onset of debilitating whiplash days or weeks later. When your car stops suddenly – or is struck – your neck moves in ways it’s never supposed to move. Tissues are strained or torn and it could be months before you can move without pain or even lie down. In some cases, you will have neck damage for life.
Then there are car damages. While insurance companies are usually bound to pay for these, they also have an incentive to lowball you on their offer. On top of medical bills, you now have to replace your car on a budget.
Finally, there are costs we never think of. What if your injuries prevent you from working for two weeks? What if you need surgery and it takes eight weeks to recover? How much sick time you do have? Did you know that paid disability leave only offers you a portion of your normal salary?
After a tragedy, we hear certain refrains over and over again: “Money can’t replace everything we lost.” It’s true. At the same time, many victims make the mistake of cashing an insurance check – only to find out it doesn’t cover half of their costs, and they’ve signed away their right to more.
If you’re injured in an accident, it may not be in your interest to take the quick money. You should always consult with a lawyer before agreeing to anything or signing any forms an insurance company offers you.