Receiving an Unreasonable Settlement Offer
Personal injury claims consist of many different types. The most common include car accidents, product liability, premises liability, medical malpractice, intentional tort and wrongful death. Depending on the type of claim and the state where the accident occurred, the elements that a plaintiff or injured claimant need to prove, vary. In all of these claims, however, the one constant is that claimants receive unreasonable settlement offers.
There are numerous reasons why an unreasonable offer is extended just as there are many factors involved in evaluating a personal injury claim that both plaintiff lawyers and defendant insurers and defense attorneys use. These can include issues of:
- Nature and extent of injuries
- Alleged malingering by claimant
- Claimant’s history of bringing injury claims
- Lack of medical attention by the claimant
- Property damage and forces involved in the accident
- Credibility or competence of the health care provider
- Amount of medical expenses
- Claimant’s character
- Propensity of claimant’s attorney to settle
Liability and causation issues are two major considerations for why an unreasonably low offer may be made. There might be sufficient evidence to place blame for an accident on a defendant, but the defendant’s insurance adjuster may choose to accept its insured’s version regardless. If the property damage in a car accident is minor or the claimant alleges extensive soft tissue injuries that are not verifiable by standard diagnostic tests, then a low ball offer may also be made.
However, unreasonably low settlement offers may not be based on valid reasons. The race and ethnicity of the claimant may be factors, despite what insurers claim. An insurer may present unreasonably low offers on all soft tissue injury claims as a matter of policy, though they would be hard-pressed to admit it. Also, though you may have an entirely legitimate claim, if you have a felony conviction or have brought prior claims for injuries, your current claim will invite suspicion. Another reason may be because you do not have legal representation.
If you have a claim where liability is clear, and your injuries are extensive and verifiable and can be shown to be have been caused by the accident, then you should expect a reasonable offer. If none is made, then you may have a claim against the defendant’s insurance company for engaging in bad faith practices.
Bad Faith Claims
Most insurers do practice good faith in settling injury claims, however, there are instances where an adjuster does not. All states have laws regarding proper practices by insurers and list circumstances that can constitute bad faith. In the context of making an unreasonable settlement offer, bad faith in attempting to settle a claim can include:
- Not conducting a full and sufficient investigation regarding liability and damages
- Failing to evaluate a claim properly though liability and damages are clearly established
- Deliberately misinterpreting or misleading a claimant about claims information
- Deliberately misinforming a claimant about the law that applies to their claim
- Not informing a claimant of available benefits
- Willfully misinterpreting the law to mislead a claimant
If you feel that your settlement offer is unreasonable, discuss the possible reasons with your attorney or seek an attorney that has handled bad faith insurance claims. If the agent or adjuster is ambivalent or vague, ignores solid evidence or bases the low offer on evidence or testimony that is clearly inapplicable, biased or unreliable, then contact a bad faith insurance lawyer.
Your attorney will ask for a written explanation and the basis for why an offer was extended that is far less than what a reasonable person would consider appropriate under the circumstances. If no credible reason is given and no further offer that is reasonable is made, then you may have a cause of action against the insurer.
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