Should You Accept a Car Wreck Settlement or Go to Court?
If you’ve done your due diligence—hiring the right lawyer, getting injuries treated, refusing to be rushed—the decision whether to accept a car wreck settlement should be relatively easy.
Evaluating When to Take the Settlement
While it’s possible to get a fair deal in a car wreck settlement, you should know what you’re doing—and what to ask for. Make sure to do the following:
- Read your insurance policy to see what’s covered. If you have any questions, be sure to ask your lawyer.
- Keep track of your medical bills so you have an exact dollar amount to bring to the table.
- Document and quantify, if possible, the hours of lost work and amount of lost wages.
- Ask for enough money to repair your car to its pre-accident condition.
- Don’t take the blame if you’re not at fault. Insurance companies may try to assign a disproportionate amount of fault on you.
- Consider future costs of your injuries and make sure the settlement accounts for them.
- Never take the first settlement the insurance company offers, but don’t overstate your claims, either.
When to Go to Trial
If your car wreck settlement isn’t everything you hoped it would be, it’s tempting to want to file a lawsuit and go to trial. Don’t let your emotions rule your head, though.
- Be ready for the paperwork. The defending insurance company will inundate you with requests for information, hoping you’ll throw up your hands and go away.
- Be ready to take the witness stand. Can you handle the pressure of being called to the witness stand to defend yourself, and endure the probing, embarrassing, and often convoluted questions designed to trip you up?
- Be patient. The court process can take a year or more. Can you last that long, emotionally and financially?
- Be prepared to settle for less. There’s no way around it: going to trial is expensive. Even if you win, you’ll likely take home less than if you’d settled out of court. And if you lose, you get nothing.
Your attorney can best advise you of the pros and cons of going to trial vs. taking a settlement. If you’ve picked a good lawyer, listen carefully before you decide.
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