Receiving an Unreasonable Settlement Offer After a Motorcycle Accident
If you were in a motorcycle accident, you have probably become well acquainted with insurance companies – both your own and the insurance company of the party that you crashed with. Assuming that the accident was not your fault, it is likely that the insurance company of the other party owes you compensation for the medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of wages (if you had to miss work) and property damage that you sustained in the accident.
So, you have likely sent your demand letter to the insurance company, accompanied with the documentation of all of your expenses as well as the inconvenience and pain and suffering to you and your family that the accident caused. You expected to get a fair settlement in return. However, the offer that you receive from the insurance company is far below the amount that you believe to be fair. What are your options?
First, know that the first settlement offer is simply a negotiating tactic. The other party wants to know how much you are willing to accept and hoping a lower initial offer will lower your expectations on what you finally receive as a settlement. You should respond that the offer is too low in light of all of the expenses, pain, and inconvenience that the accident has caused for you and your family, and provide any additional evidence to prove this. You can also emphasize the impact that the accident had on your life beyond just the financial: interference with your family life and duties, being unable to pick your children up, etc. In addition, you should ask for a response from the insurance company’s claim adjuster that is responsible for your case justifying their reasoning for the low offer. You will likely go back and forth a few times with the adjuster before you start approaching the number in your initial demand letter.
If the claims adjuster continues to be unreasonable, it is possible that they are counting on the fact that, in the event, you cannot come to a resolution on a settlement amount and the case goes to trial, the jury will be biased against you because you rode a motorcycle. Unfortunately, bias against motorcyclists can be a concern at trial because a sizable portion of the population (including potential members of the jury) still views motorcyclists as reckless and dangerous. You can overcome this bias at trial, however, by, for example, showing a clean driving track record, emphasizing that you are a responsible citizen in all aspects of your life, and by making a strong case that the defendant was at fault. Further, as long as you have a solid case for the defendant’s liability, it would be hard for a jury to decide that you are not at least entitled to compensation for the tangible expenses you incurred as a result of the accident (medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, etc.) because you will have documentation for those expenses. Where there may be some wiggle-room and where bias might emerge is in calculating more subjective damages: the pain and suffering that the motorcycle accident caused you. Overcoming this bias is something that a qualified and experienced lawyer should help you with at trial by persuasively arguing your case and painting you as a sympathetic plaintiff, and also by showing precedent for other damages amounts juries have awarded to motorcyclists.
As such, do not be afraid to negotiate when you receive an unfair settlement offer. Note, however, that settlement amounts are generally lower than the full amount that you could expect to receive at trial. This is the payoff for accepting a settlement: you receive a slightly lesser amount than you could at trial, but without the uncertainty involved with not knowing what a jury might decide, and without the delay and attorney costs that a trial involves. Again, talking to an experienced lawyer who has researched similar cases in the past will help you understand what is a fair vs. unfair settlement amount for your case.